Swiss army knife on wheels
The Unimog might just be the greatest land-based vehicle humanity has ever produced.
Think of the Unimog as the Swiss army knife of wheeled vehicles. Its name comes from the German 'UNIversal-MOtor-Gerät' (Gerät means device). Short of flying, the Unimog can do anything. Albert Freidrich built his first prototype in 1946 and it was so perfect for its many jobs that the basic concept remains unchanged to this day. Freidrich designed his Unimog primarily for farm work, but gave it four equally sized wheels so that it could also be operated safely at highway speeds unlike other tractors. Daimler-Benz took over production in 1951, and by 1966 100,000 units had been produced.
The Unimog, being the perfect all-terrain farm vehicle, was designed to go places that others couldn't. It has extremely high ground clearance thanks to portal gears in its wheel hubs. This setup allows its transmission, differentials, and axles to be situated well above the centre point of each wheel. It also boasts very little body overhang so it can climb and descend extremely steep grades with ease. It has four (or six) wheel drive, a range of torquey diesel engines, and can be optioned with take-offs at the front and rear to power saws, grain elevators, snow blowers, and just about anything else requiring power and lacking infrastructure. It also comes with mounting points and hydraulic connectors front and rear for attaching crane arms and scoops.
As you might expect with a vehicle as brilliantly versatile as the Unimog, it’s used by militaries and private enterprises all over the world. Unimogs can be found fighting fires, plowing fields, and working on construction sites. They’re used as snowplows/blowers and emergency response vehicles in places where there aren’t any roads. They pull railway cars, airliners, and just about anything else heavy that needs to get from A to B. The world’s militaries use them as transport, ambulances, and mobile command centers. They’re also mobile generators for powered equipment where there isn’t any power. On top of all that they race in the Dakar rally. The Unimog might just be the greatest land-based vehicle humanity has ever produced.