Meet the Trot'n Turtle - Unimog U1300L Build


First off would Like to say high to the group, looking forward to sharing my build and picking up tips and member knowledge/help as I go.

About 18 years ago I owned a Unimog 404 and had a lot of fun with it. A couple months back while in the shop working on my wifes car my dad and I started talking about building up a Mog with a camper to use for remote desert travel, within an hr that plan had been set in motion!

My wife on my old 404.

First up sell some toys to fund the project. I listed up for sale my dirt and street bikes, a couple minibikes and a few other misc items. Once things were sold we started looking for our perfect Mog to start the build with. I've always wanted a newer diesel mog and I quickly settled on a U1300L model as the unit we were looking for. I wanted a super clean/low mile troop carrier with a turbo but after quite a bit of searching all the troop carrier models I was finding were rougher than I really wanted. I came close to purchasing a 1300 from Scott at Expedition Imports, while Scott was great to work with I decided I wanted a Turbo and the truck that Scott had has lacking the turbo and fast axles. I ended up finding a super clean RW1 from VK Cars in Belgium and after talking to Andy (the owner) numerous times decided to close the deal and buy his 1988 RW1's. Andy was great to deal with and about 1.5 months later the Mog was on US soil!

The RW1:

The RW1 is a fire truck that is used in rescue service, this truck carries gear such as the jaws of life, rescue tools, etc. The box on the RW1 is very cool, the sides fold down and become steps and the inside of the box is filled with slide out racks and drawers that the rescue tools once lived in. The RW1 offers a few advantages over the troop truck models which are usually bare bones basic models. The RW1 comes with an exhaust brake (very effective and reduces brake wear, keeps the portal temps down, and helps in steep decent in low range), has the newer 366A Turbo engine with fast axles, Hydraulic Werner winch (Located under the back of the truck for better winching effect to utilize the trucks weight, the cable spools out through guides to the front of the truck, you can also leave the front cable pinned and use the snatch block to pull backwards), diesel fired aux cab heater, Front and Rear sway bars, Hydraulic suspension drivers seat, Undercoating, has 4 calipers on the front rotors (two of the calipers can be locked down by pressing a button for winching duties), square vent hatch on roof, electric air dryer system on brakes. The U1300 trucks use a 8 speed gear box and have air actuated 4x4 and diff lockers. The articulation is amazing on these trucks, one of the most capable factory 4x4's you can buy.

Being a fire truck that was just recently taken out of service the maint is current and the truck is ready to roll. Since these are emergency vehicles they are maintained and treated very well compared to the military versions, in the end I decided this would be my best bet for finding a super clean unit to start my build. The truck has only 26,000 KM on it (16,100 miles).

My plan as of now is to install a troop bed, repaint the truck a silver/grey color, build a custom safari rack and brush guard, install larger tires and make/buy a removable camper unit for desert travel. I was thinking about making a dedicated camper to leave on the truck full time but really want the double duty offered by having a removable camper and troop bed.

The Truck: After going through all the necessary paperwork the day finally arrived to pick the truck up from the port of Tacoma WA. My father and I arrived at the port at 7:30 am eager to see what our money had bought. After a few more forms we were taken to the holding area to get the first peak at the truck.

My first peak at the truck....see it?

Yep that's it...I recognize that yellow stripe.

A few min later one of the dock workers brought the Mog over to me.

I was very impressed with the cond of the truck, it looked way better in person than it did in the pictures! The underside of the truck is super clean, no rust anywhere! It was advertised as being "like new", very accurate description. Thanks Andy! Had to pose with a shot of the new truck :) These trucks are BIG but at the same time they have a very tight turning radius.

We drove a few miles down the road and stopped for breakfast, I wanted to give the truck a good once over and check engine oil before hitting the highway for the 230 mile drive home. Andy had changed the engine and trans oil, oil and fuel filters and air filter before the truck left Belgium...everything looked good!

Portal Axles: Unimogs use portal axles for increased ground clearance and each portal box has it's own oil reservoir. It's a known issue on the U1300's that at high speeds the gear boxes will pump their oil out through the vent and into the main axle, if you run the boxes dry you can burn up a lot of expensive parts. Knowing this I brought a IR temp gun with me and pulled over fairly often to check temps on the gear boxes and axles till I was comfortable that all was well. The drivers side front gear box was running higher temps than the rest so we stopped at an auto parts store to make sure all the gear boxes were topped off. Turns out both front boxes were a little low and once topped off all the temps were running low and close together....glad we didn't just roll on!

Getting ready to top off the portal hubs, once home I will change out all the gear oils to synthetic.

Checking the back portal units, both were full.

Nice shot of the winch.

Top of the pass crossing the Cascade Mountains. Cruising at 53-55mph and enjoying the scenery.

Dad checking out the dash, he hadn't driven it yet :)

Rest Stop

My Dad trying out the truck, we swapped drivers at this point so he could see what I was grinning ear to ear about :)

Fuel Baby!

Rollin down the hwy

Pulled in the driveway at home and my son came running out to the truck, instant jungle gym!

"Yeah dad, this is going to be sweet!" You can see the side folded down and the interior of the box, more pics to come.

Stock size tires arn't small by any means...they will be replaced soon by larger units though :)

Lots more to come!



Spent the last couple days driving the Mog quite a bit, still haven't got the grin off my face :). The truck is running great, only a couple minor issues so far....the dash lights are out, right rear tail light is out.

Stopped right at sundown to snap a few pictures of the truck.

Parked next to the Tundra, the Tundra looks small in comparison.

Good amount of ground clearance with the portal axles.

Taken at Sunset. You can see the roof vent popped in this picture.

RW1 box opened up with all boxes deployed. This box is really amazing, a work of art!

A few underside pics.

This is the cab tilt bracket, the entire cab can tilt forward for maint.

It's a good climb up into the cab. The suspension seat works great and really helps to smooth out the bumps. The white button on the floor in front of the seat is the exhaust brake, you actuate it with your left heel.

Still learning what all the knobs and buttons do :) There is a large bundle of wiring handing down by the ashtray that used to belong to the emergency radio equipment, I'll have to sort that wiring out and clean it up in the near future.

Don't forget to fill your Diesel Tanken.

Here we have the 8 speed shifter, right behind that is the forward/reverse lever, the red handle is the battery disconnect and in front of that is the parking brake. The tall lever with the safety catch is the winch controls.

A feature I really like of the 1300, you can fit 3 people in the cab! This is great and allows my father, son and I to all head out camping together :)

Couple shots taken with the fish eye lens.

I'll take some engine shots soon.

More to come.



Changed the engine coolant yesterday and adjusted the steering box slightly.

Looking at the coolant It looked like plain water so I figured I'd drain it and install fresh coolant. We'll once it was drained it did look like coolant, just a weak coolant. After some research on the web I picked up some Zerex G-05 Coolant (approved by MB) and refilled the system. Looks like that was what was originally installed as the G-05 looked exactly like what came out...oh well know I know it has fresh coolant :)

Next was the steering box. There is a slight amount of play in the steering box that allows the truck to wander just a bit. Again after a little research on the Web (I haven't obtained a shop manual yet) I verified the correct adjustment proceedure and adjusted the play on the box. Afterwards took the truck out for an hr or so and it made a huge difference, no more chasing the steering :)

I wasn't very good at snapping pics during this project, only getting one crappy cell phone pic.
I really like how MB designed the hood and grill on the 1300, I wish all cars were built like this. To open the hood you use a small tool that's kept in the cab, you release the two 90 deg fasteners on the corners of the hood and then pop the hood as you would normally. If you want to completely remove the hood just use the same tool and turn 3 more fasteners on the back side of the hood, then just lift the hood off the truck! The grill has two quick release fasteners and it comes completely off as well. In under a minute you can have the hood and grill off the truck for easy engine access! I'll post more pics of this later.



Put a couple hundred miles on the truck in the last few days, running and driving great so far. Checked the trans fluids and portals again, Trans was nice and full (Andy changed oil and installed fresh Syntrans before it shipped) the front portals took a small amount to top them up.

Decided to remove the radio wiring that was left after they decommissioned the truck, the wiring has been laying on the ash tray.

(Excuse the crappy pics, I think I had grease on my phone lens).

Here's the wire bundle that needs to go. Removed the dash face and started tracing out wires.

Getting closer. Lots of little bits removed here and there to gain access.

And out. The cab looks a lot cleaner with the bundle removed.

Next up I wanted to check the air cleaner and make sure no dirt is bypassing the filter. As I mentioned earlier in the thread the hood and grill remove in a minutes time, very handy!

Insert the key and turn to unlock the hood. If you unlock just the front two the hood opens as any other hood would, if you unlock the back three as well then the entire hood just lifts right off.

Here's a pic showing the latch mechanism on the rear hinge point.

And the latch unit itself

Now to check out the air filter.

View of the OM366A Engine.

The filter is HUGE, should go a long time before plugging off. I'll be installing a snorkel assy on the truck with a cyclone separator to further enhance it's ability to deal with fine NV dust.

Installed a film of Bel-Ray grease on the sealing surfaces to make sure no fine dust makes it past the seals. Filter element looks like new.

More to come as time permits.



Today's small progress. Woke up early to work on the shop....Must get shop finished! Soooooo....decided to start the day off with a quick project on the Mog lol :) The font portal boxes are still pumping their oil out through the vent and into the axle housing, I've been topping them off once a week to keep them full. A few weeks ago I ordered a set of Von's axle fixes, these are modified portal vent assemblies that keep the oil in the portal boxes and eliminate the pumping affect. The vents showed up this Sat so I decided to take a few minutes this morning and get them installed.

Von's vents. These break the vacuum and allow the oil to settle back into the portal boxes.

Disconnecting the stock portal vent line.

Side by side...old vs new.

And installed. The vent assemblies tuck up nicely out of the way.

Over the next couple weeks I should know if the issue is fixed, but based on others experiences I'm pretty sure it will be. :)

Now back to working on the shop...I need to get the mog inside.



So there is a 6"x4" sticker on the dash in German listing the radio codes for the original radio equipment. I think I'll replace it with a 6"x4" sticker of that "German" saying.....slightly modified for the Mog :)



Today's Update. A couple weeks ago I ordered a couple 5 gallon pails of Redline synthetic oil to change transmission oil, axles oil and portal oils. I hate driving the truck around not knowing what oil is in the truck or how old it is. The oil showed up yesterday so it's time to get it installed :)

I woke up early and cleared out one bay of the shop, this is the first time a vehicle has been in the shop for almost a year! The shop was built when we moved in but wasn't finished on the inside. I've been working on installing studs, wiring, insulation and walls so everything in the shop has been living in the middle of the bay while I work on the walls, now that the walls are getting close to done I'm starting to get room back!

After a trip to town to warm all the oils up I returned home and pulled the Mog into the shop, I did not want to do this job laying in the gravel! Nice that the doors are tall enough to clear the truck!, at my last house I had to raise the garage door to get my Syncro inside.

The Oil. I decided to go with Redline Synthetic, the transmission on the U1300 is know for it's notchy shifting and quite a few people rave about improved shifting when using the Redline or Amsoil lubricants in the U1300's. I ordered some MT-85 75W-85 (GL-4) oil for the trans and 75W-90 (GL-5) for the axles and portals.

Started with the transmission while it was nice a hot, out with the old and in with the new. I ran a bit of the new oil through the trans as a little flush then installed the drain plug and filled it back up. The magnet on the drain plug had very little on it and no chips/chunks.

Next up the axles and portals. Slide a 5 gallon bucket of oil in under the problem :) After draining all the fluids I refilled everything with a cheap 80W-90 GL-5 to use as a flush. I took the truck back out for a good drive to get all the fluids nice and warm again then returned home to dump them once more. After that I installed the Redline GL-5 and wrapped the oil project up for the day. All the drain plug magnets were pretty clean with no chips/chunks :)

While I was already covered in smelly gear oil I figured I should grease the king pins while I was at it. I lifted the front tires off the ground to take the load off the king pins and proceeded to grease them while my dad turned the wheels back and forth. I can see different floor jacks with a higher reach is going to be needed in the future!

Still some work to be done in the shop but at least the Mog can be brought in now when needed :)

More to come



Finally unloaded the 4 bags of tire chains from the truck, that's a LOT of dead weight to be carrying around when the temps outside hit 100 Deg yesterday LOL.

Always wear safety shoes when unloading heavy items like chains lol



What a great find! That truck is immaculate! Looks like you had a good run home too!! Following with interest!
Yeah I was very impressed with the cond of the truck, it looked cleaner in person than the pictures that Andy sent me, always a good surprise!



Well the Mogs new shoes arrived from Expedition Imports (Thanks Scott!) We really wanted the larger tires on the Mog, to gain a few more MPH and I think the larger tires look more proportional on the 1300. Our 335 tires currently on the truck are almost brand new so if we are going to do the swap now is the time so we can sell the 335 units.

The new tires arrived this week and I've been waiting to get them installed. Yesterday I Loaded up the set of 5 new 365/80-R20 tires and headed down to a local tire shop that said they had Dynabeads (Tire balance beads) in stock, well once I got there they said they weren't actually Dynabeads but a off brand of the same thing. After doing some quick web research I decided that I didn't want to try their brand of balance beads so I started calling around looking for other options. In the end no one locally carried the Dynabeads so I decided to go with a spin balance for now and use lead stick on tape weights on the inside of the wheel (The clamp on weights won't stay on these wheels with the way the tire seat). Discount Tire said they could spin balance the wheels so I headed to the shop.

My Father and 5 new Mog tires.

In the shop.

First tire removed.

Brakes on the front looked great, pads have some life left in them but I'll have to keep an eye on them.

Good size comparison between the 335 and 365 tires. Would love to run the 395 tires but with the fast axles on the truck I wouldn't have the HP or a low enough 1st gear, 365's will have to do :) After installing the new tire on the wheel the tech found that the tire is about an inch to big for his tire machine. At this point he could mount them all but won't be able to do the balance. I told him to go ahead and get them all mounted up and I'll have the balance checked at a later time. A lot of people never balance big tires so I'll see how they feel on the ride home.

One side down...on to the passenger side. Brakes looked the same on this side. Rotors are in good cond. The first tire took a while as he had to reset the machine up for this wheel/tire combo. The pads on the rear of the truck are getting pretty thin, I'll order a set of pads soon and get them all changed out, I like being able to stop this beast! :)

The 22 Ton air over hydraulic jack needed an improvised lift kit to reach the axles :)

This guy earned his money today!

Now down to the spare. With the spare removed there is a lot of access to the transmission area. In these pictures you can see the winch cable guides, shift linkage, bed/cab mounts, etc. A lot of the hoses look brand new under there and some still have the plastic on them.

Heavy factory undercoating on the cab.

I had read on the net that the 365 tire will go back into the stock spare location but only if you lower the air pressure way down. After setting the spare at 15psi we managed to cram the spare back into its home but the side walls were tight up against the underside the of the bed and the edge of the cab. I can see a ruined tire in the future leaving it this way as the cab and bed flex/wear on the side wall so we pulled the spare again and threw it in the trailer for the ride home. After looking at the mount a little closer I'll modify the stock spare bracket and drop the whole assembly down a bit to give clearance for the new tire. More to come on the bracket.

Oh yeah, that looks a lot better! My Co-Driver gave his approval :)

The tires drove amazingly smooth for no weights, steering wheel was vibration free and cruised smoothly at 57mph (Engine has more left but will do 57mph at 2400 rpm and seems nice and happy there) at 35psi on all 4 tires. I still may try balancing with stick on weights to see how much improvement I gain. I'll head to a parking lot soon to chalk the tires and figure out the exact pressure I need to run to get full tread contact and maximum tire life. I don't want to be buying more tires any time soon so they will be babied when it comes to air pressure and rotations!

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