MB Truck vs Unimog

joeblack5

Active member
Sorry diplostrat, not sure where my glitch came from,

Thank you Charlie, a limited search under atlas and temp sensor did not show information.. I will do some more searching?

Johan
 

Victorian

Approved Vendor : Total Composites
Hi Bean

I also love Unimogs to drive, great fun, but something no-one has mentioned here is that they are very tall, which makes climbing in and out of the cab and the habitation a chore, travelling in the bush a pain and driving across inclines scary.

I have an 814 DA which is a bit too slow, but does what I need.

I think a truck is better suited to what you want. But whatever you get, being on the road is the thing!

Bruce
I'm 100% with you on the height. Once at camp it started to get old very fast to climb the stairs to get into the camper. Several times I was wondering how painful it would be to loose balance with my hands full going down...
 
The first time my wife got out of the U500 in Germany she went the wrong way (facing out) and fell. Fortunately no fractures. My fault for not instructing her.
Now at age 72 with bad rotator cuffs I grunt a bit climbing up. But always hanging on correctly. If I want to move stuff in or out I always put it on the floor or seat, climb in or out and then recover it.
 

Sitec

Adventurer
Our problem is the cab... I have made self supporting steps for entering the hab box which has a floor level approx 1.2m above ground level. Having 1 step well inside the hab box has helped no end. It was something we had to work out early in our build as my wife is short in the legs... I can't do this in the cab!! The Unimog is actually a better bet in this respect as the door base is behind the front wheel. I'm looking at how I can extend the hanging steps without them getting in the way when on rough terrain. The truck looks better with the front height now matching the rear ride height, but the 40+mm lift on the front springs, the slightly larger tyres, the 75mm lift under the cab using parts from the donor truck and the 50+mm lift gained due to there being less weight on the front axle than there was with the crane has cost me with cab accesibility! :unsure:
 

zackchien

New member
Hi all,

My wife and I have decided to sell everything and live on the road permanently and we are at the point of deciding on a vehicle. We are pretty much set on a Mercedes Truck or Unimog as we plan on being outside the US for the majority of the time (we are planning 2-3 years to visit the US and Canada then heading south). We are about six months away from seriously shopping for a vehicle and I'm attempting to narrow it down between these two choices.

My main question is "Why do many people pick a truck over the Unimog?" The way I understand it, both the MB truck (NG/SK I haven't been able to keep them straight) and the Unimog (435 series) have very similar disadvantages (55mph max speed, not sold in NA, loud, poor fuel mileage), but the Unimog has a significant off road advantage. So, what is the advantage in choosing the NG/SK truck.

Secondly, where can I find more information about the trucks? There is so much more Unimog info out there than there is for the trucks. Like the transmission in the truck, I've read in a thread here that there are 2 options, a 5 and 6 speed, neither have OD, BUT I've seen a picture of an 8 speed, a video of a 6 speed with an air shifted auxiliary, and another video of some electronic thing (EPS?).

Finally, we will be at Overland Expo East this coming weekend and would love to be able to look through someone's build and/or get some guidance. I can tell you exactly what I would want in terms of North American manufacturers, but I haven't a clue when it comes to these Germans machines.

Thanks a million
I just ordered a new 2022 Mercedes Arocs, delivery expected in late April. Believe it's such a huge advantage than a new Unimog. If you want to do serious off-road why not tow a jeep wrangler behind.
 

laproscopic

New member
I just couldn't help commenting here. I tried to stop myself.

I also have fantasies of expedition travel after retirement in the next few years . I have looked at the newer (2005 +) unimogs and I also want one of these newer mogs. I dont think i would overland one.
I currently have a heavily modded 419 mog and take it to the moutains often. I used it to travel the rubicon trail a couple years ago. this is my favorite off road machine and I have had a lot of off road machines. I daily drive a dodge megacab 6.7 with 37s and dual ARB's. I take this truck everywhere. I have an ultra 4 race car. I have had modified humvees, jeeps, and the like. I have broken most of these machines in pursuits for which they were not designed.

The problem I have with using a mog as an overlander is that it seems like the design of a mog is not optimized for the job of overlanding. Or at lease other rigs seen to be better designed for the job. When I read the trip reports out there I have come to a few conclusions based on my observations. foremost is that overlanding is 95 plus percent OVER LAND and the truck should focus on that fact.. Lets say that last 5% of the trip needs 4wd. That 5% is important because those places that need the offRoad capability are the funnest. The problem is that the Mog sacrifices the 95% in chasing the 5%. The special thing with a mog is that it has a few skills that make it the most capable trashed road/rockcrawling heavy truck in the world. Specifically it has 3 attributes that nothing else of its size can match: Portal axles, CTIS (not just mog), and a 4 coil suspension. (vs leaf springs) Those 3 attributes are cool and I want the truck. But how mucharethose things helping the mog as an overlander?

If one needs an off road machine capable of carrying lots of weight over distance on poor roads while offering a comfortable ride (off road heavy camper) it needs the following:

Adequate ground clearance (and what good is it to have a mog with portals when the truck has tool boxes on the sides that are hanging lower than the portals)
larger tires with good traction. (40" plus would be great). holes, mud, sand, obstacles, and rocks all get smaller with big tires.
CTIS. I my mind this is the most overlooked benifit. The ability to air down and up painlessly off road makes up for so much.
gearing optimized for BOTH low speed as well as high speed traversing. (must have low gearing)
4 wheel drive with lockers. MUST HAVE lockers. not so much to get there but to get OUT if you get stuck
big powerfull winch
A strong reliable drivetrain that is as easy to service as possible. Ideally it has readily available parts and is recognized so available mechanics are familiar with its problems.
as low a center of gravity as possible while maximizing ground clearance. You dont need "flexy suspension" or high uptravel in this application because the wheelbase will flex.

so there i said it
couple pics of me toys
 

Attachments

I just couldn't help commenting here. I tried to stop myself.

I also have fantasies of expedition travel after retirement in the next few years . I have looked at the newer (2005 +) unimogs and I also want one of these newer mogs. I dont think i would overland one.
I currently have a heavily modded 419 mog and take it to the moutains often. I used it to travel the rubicon trail a couple years ago. this is my favorite off road machine and I have had a lot of off road machines. I daily drive a dodge megacab 6.7 with 37s and dual ARB's. I take this truck everywhere. I have an ultra 4 race car. I have had modified humvees, jeeps, and the like. I have broken most of these machines in pursuits for which they were not designed.

The problem I have with using a mog as an overlander is that it seems like the design of a mog is not optimized for the job of overlanding. Or at lease other rigs seen to be better designed for the job. When I read the trip reports out there I have come to a few conclusions based on my observations. foremost is that overlanding is 95 plus percent OVER LAND and the truck should focus on that fact.. Lets say that last 5% of the trip needs 4wd. That 5% is important because those places that need the offRoad capability are the funnest. The problem is that the Mog sacrifices the 95% in chasing the 5%. The special thing with a mog is that it has a few skills that make it the most capable trashed road/rockcrawling heavy truck in the world. Specifically it has 3 attributes that nothing else of its size can match: Portal axles, CTIS (not just mog), and a 4 coil suspension. (vs leaf springs) Those 3 attributes are cool and I want the truck. But how mucharethose things helping the mog as an overlander?

If one needs an off road machine capable of carrying lots of weight over distance on poor roads while offering a comfortable ride (off road heavy camper) it needs the following:

Adequate ground clearance (and what good is it to have a mog with portals when the truck has tool boxes on the sides that are hanging lower than the portals)
larger tires with good traction. (40" plus would be great). holes, mud, sand, obstacles, and rocks all get smaller with big tires.
CTIS. I my mind this is the most overlooked benifit. The ability to air down and up painlessly off road makes up for so much.
gearing optimized for BOTH low speed as well as high speed traversing. (must have low gearing)
4 wheel drive with lockers. MUST HAVE lockers. not so much to get there but to get OUT if you get stuck
big powerfull winch
A strong reliable drivetrain that is as easy to service as possible. Ideally it has readily available parts and is recognized so available mechanics are familiar with its problems.
as low a center of gravity as possible while maximizing ground clearance. You dont need "flexy suspension" or high uptravel in this application because the wheelbase will flex.

so there i said it
couple pics of me toys
Great observations and points. So if not the Mog, what would you say is the ideal overland vehicle for travelling the world?
 

Neil

Observer
My main question is "Why do many people pick a truck over the Unimog?" The way I understand it, both the MB truck (NG/SK I haven't been able to keep them straight) and the Unimog (435 series) have very similar disadvantages (55mph max speed, not sold in NA, loud, poor fuel mileage), but the Unimog has a significant off road advantage. So, what is the advantage in choosing the NG/SK truck
You need to ask yourself, what and where you will be travelling.
99.9% of overlanding is Not off-road. However, you will travell some of the time on Bad Roads . Both the SK and NG are equally capable of this and there will be very little difference in ability when compared to the unimog . For that 0.1% of offloading, the Unimog is far more capable for all the reasons listed in previous posts.

However, to achieve this gain the inimog is far more technical , with portal axles etc.

You need to ask yourself realistically, what is it you will be doing with this vehicle, when you have spent your life savings on the cabin on the back.

There isn't a bad choice here

Neil
 

Iain_U1250

Explorer
Deciding on the base truck is always a compromise, you need to decide what you want to do. Getting the biggest 6x6 truck so you have a mobile palace might be what you want, but that means getting to a lot of places will just not be possible, getting a small truck means you have a lot less living space but it can get to the same places as the Land Cruisers and Jeeps.

Consider that for small vehicles, the truck will be close to GVM all the time, so you will be stressing the truck all the time, even on "bad roads" let alone off-road. The Fusos and Canters have pretty lightweight chassis, and as same with the normal 4x4s, like the modified Land Cruisers and Land Rovers with big campers on the back, they are just not designed to work at GVM on bad roads all the time.

If you get a big truck, you will probably not be close to GVM at all, so you can carry lots of toys. The truck will not be stressed at all, so should last a long time. Problem is getting it to fit into tighter tracks where only cars normally go. That often means that part of the truck get stressed doing thing it was not designed to do. I know a lot of people who bought big trucks, only to find they could not take them to the places they wanted to go to, so swapped back to a Land Cruiser and roof top tent.

I am of course very biased to Unimogs, especially the U1250s which are by far the best model of Unimog :) That saying, I have modified mine extensively, probably more than most people would be willing or able to do, right now there are not many part of it are actually still from the U1250, come to think about it, very few are from the original U1250 I bought back in 2008. The chassis, RHD steering gear, the side windows, some of the gauges and and probably 3/4 of the cab and that's that's about all that is from the original truck I bought, but that is what I enjoy doing. We always get asked what would we change if we had to do it again, and like most owners, we always say we would not change anything lol, except I have changed nearly everything already. I always have some form of modification in mind, even if it just a little ones like an extra USB power socket, or figuring out a bracket for a 36" monitor. It is what I like doing when I have to work to get money to be able to afford to travel.

As far as the perfect best overlander, that different for eveyone, and is very dependent on your budget. MB seems are design the Unimogs for full GVM in bad or off road. That's the main reason I got mine, it is over designed for most normal use. I like going to the more remote places, and feel comfortable that my truck can handle a lot more than we would want to put it through, considering we have our home behind us. All trucks will break down, the more points of potential failure, the more likely it will happen. If a single faulty reading from a sensor stops your truck, and you have no way of finding out which sensor it is, or cant bypass something to get it going, then make sure you have the communications to get rescued. My own opinion is that if you can't fix your truck yourself, then don't stray any further from civilisation than your bank balance will enable you to get rescued from.

Everything is a compromise, but finding the right information before you buy the base truck is not that easy, everyone had opinions, based on their own experience or just what they have read or heard. I listened to the people who actually have trucks, and have traveled, rather than the internet gunna dos and wanabees that don't even go by their own name. Those people gave me their honest opinions based on their experience and I even listened to some of them :)
 

Fred Skywalker

New member
@Iain_U1250 is correct, when building an overlander everything is about compromise and trade-offs. I was very lucky when I started my design thinking 18 months ago in that I struck up a very valuable back and forth with Thomas Ritter the head of Unicat. He answered a lot of my rookie questions. When our discussions came to box size Thomas' advice was this: first think about where you want to go and what you want to do; then are you full time or part time; follow the sun or 4 full seasons; then consider your capacity needs (not wants) for tanks and storage; and then design the smallest box to accomplish those goals. Final box step is to make it slightly larger than that because you won't think of everything. Then you have to match a truck to that box shape and weight and then add your driving requirements to come to a final truck/box combo.

One of the best pieces of advice that Thomas gave me was this: no matter what size truck you build there will always be places where someone with a smaller rig can go that you can't. So what? Get to a comfortable spot and lower the motorcycle or e-bikes. The trail is too small for an e-bike? Then it's backpacking time. He said to make it the smallest design that you can and still be comfortable.

So yes each decision is met with compromises but don't let that freeze you from moving forward. Start with your box requirements and finish with a chassis selection.

I also agree strongly with Iain regarding selecting a truck that is over-engineered for your box needs.
 
I’ve been at Unicat at least 3 times. Once when picking up my U500 camper in 06, in 2016 getting a couple of upgrades and in 17 with more upgrades over the winter. I mentioned to Thomas all the exotic things that some Unicats have “should I have gotten those?”, he said “be glad you didn’t “. I just dropped it off a good local RV place (technician and owner are patients/friends) to get KCT truly bug proof screens installed, ordered via Unicat. The only remaining upgrade (already upgraded solar and switched propane for induction and got rid of AC and generator for lots of fans and vents) is a secondary maybe 80L black water tank (original only 50L) which will be a true Unicat job. Don’t want leaks obviously. Hopefully on the way to Southern Africa after hiatus of 30 years.
Bottom line: KISS
 
I’ve been at Unicat at least 3 times. Once when picking up my U500 camper in 06, in 2016 getting a couple of upgrades and in 17 with more upgrades over the winter. I mentioned to Thomas all the exotic things that some Unicats have “should I have gotten those?”, he said “be glad you didn’t “. I just dropped it off a good local RV place (technician and owner are patients/friends) to get KCT truly bug proof screens installed, ordered via Unicat. The only remaining upgrade (already upgraded solar and switched propane for induction and got rid of AC and generator for lots of fans and vents) is a secondary maybe 80L black water tank (original only 50L) which will be a true Unicat job. Don’t want leaks obviously. Hopefully on the way to Southern Africa after hiatus of 30 years.
Bottom line: KISS
Any particular reason you prefer more fans and vents over an AC you already had installed?
 
Yeah. It kept breaking down and who wants to listen to a diesel genset till 11-12pm? And replacing the generator with a 260L fuel tank allows rear behind axle tanks to run empty. Improving weight and balance. And 4 small quiet interior fans plus 3 reversible vent-fans work great. Quietly.
Unfortunately, since MB went with a 12v alternator for North America U500s, the camper is 12/110v, forcing Unicat to use a POS American RV AC. Its 200% failure rate confirmed my already low opinion of accessories and parts for typical US RVs. As of 2006 European made 12v ACs were unavailable.
 
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DiploStrat

Expedition Leader
Probably merits a new thread, but after a year or two with a 12v camper A/C in 100F+ temperatures, I will be happy to tell you why I will probably be buying a Houghton rooftop unit and why building anew, I might well go back to a window unit like I had on the Tiger.
 

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