1978 Mercedes-Benz Type U416 UNIMOG

owner: Karl Schultz / mwksf@mweb.co.za / Pretoria, South Africa

Editor's note: Even though this 1978 UNIMOG Type U416 falls outside the range of the 1953-1962 Ponton era, its unique South African history, subsequent modifications and restoration warrant including it as an adjunct to the main UNIMOG Historical Overview (1953-1962) page.

I purchased this UNIMOG, a Type U416 in 1998, which, on the army plate stating the details, was manufactured in 1978.  I think that they may have actually received it earlier, but nonetheless, it rolled out at UCDD (United Car & Diesel Distributors) in 1978 with the new South African cabin as you see in the photos. Click here to view the standard Type U416 UNIMOG cabin.

Photo 1. 1978 Mercedes-Benz UNIMOG Type U416 with South African cabin
Pretoria, South Africa / August 1, 2004

It had its original engine out of Germany a OM352 straight six diesel, with a litreage of 4.5 as I understand it.  It arrived at the port city of East London, Cape Province, South Africa with its original bubble / bulldog nose civilian cab. My friend, Gary Bowes and I remember when we were at school a mere 140 km from East London at a the small town of Cathcart in 1976 when literally "hundreds" of these machines were driven up on the main highway to the main transport depot at military headquarters in Pretoria, before being sent to the "Reumach Works" for a variety of reconfigurations.

Photo 2. 1978 Mercedes-Benz UNIMOG Type U416 and Type W180 220S Ponton sedan
Pretoria, South Africa / August 1, 2004

Mr. Edwin Pelcher who works for Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles and is an absolute expert on UNIMOG reconfigurations said that about 12,000 UNIMOGs were sold to the defense force via third party over a period of time especially in the late 1970s and 1980s when the SA Defense Force was giving the insurgents and terrorists at Namibia's border a thrashing.

Ask any soldier who did his beat in Namibia and Angola what they thought of the UNIMOG and you will get some fantastic stories.  The UNIMOG was to the South African soldier as what the Huey Helicopter was to the Yanks in Korea.

My UNIMOG was reconfigured with its new cab and as an ambulance at UCDD (the official Mercedes-Benz agents then).  Well, that is what it seems.  I believe it was a corpse carrier as the box behind the driver's cab had a fancy refrigeration device and the insides were well padded against heat or the loss of refrigeration.  It had 8 bunk style stretcher beds.  You could not really sleep on these (there was not enough room to turn onto one's side) so it seemed to bolster my conclusion.

The mileage on the odometer was a mere 26,000 km. On the steering wheel (I still have it) is an inscription scratched by, I suppose, the frustrated soldier driver which says in Afrikaans "Min Dae Oor" = Few Days Left.

I had the brown army camouflage paint removed and had it sprayed green with a white roof.  I removed as much of the army junk that was fitted as I could. Its first civilian trip was to East Africa, still with the lower ambulance box (not as you see it now) before I upgraded the entire vehicle.

The UNIMOG acted as our motherload for our East African Great Lakes Expedition. It carried over 4 tons of food, all of my film and video equipment and about 3,500 liters of diesel on top of the roof rack and inside the ambulance box.  We could, with extreme comfort, maintain a speed of around 85 km/h on good roads and with the original 200 liter diesel tank averaged around 650 kilometers per tank.

Note: My East African Expedition has been on National Geographic Channels.

My only gripe was that of the very poor service I got from the authorized dealer in South Africa.  Their shortcomings became apparent over the course of the trip.  I had a brand new power take off gear box with shaft and winch fitted, had the entire drive train, engine, gearbox, axles, reduction hubs and air locker system serviced only to find that the gearbox and engine were separating because the bolts were not torqued to specification and the front differential lock was not working because of a leaking air hose.

However, in my calls to the dealer in East Africa, his assurance and advice on what to do and how to do it helped us a lot and we returned to South Africa 15 weeks later. UNIMOG says we don't give up.  In Zambia I met up with an Italian who had a 4x4 Mercedes-Benz 1715 truck.  He was kind enough to invite us to his home and en - route through Lusaka in the pitch black of night a Chinese coal truck was directly in his path.  He hit this vehicle with such force that the coal truck with all its weight went tumbling down the embankment.

The UNIMOG showed its enormous strength and versatility as I hauled his vehicle (the Type 1715 4x4) back onto the road and used the winch to relieve the left wheel arch which had crumpled around the tire.

On my return I felt that the original motor was not up to scratch (especially as the UNIMOG had come from the army) and not up to my liking and I felt it safer and wiser to have it replaced. (November 16, 1998)

So a new high output 130 kilowatt Mercedes-Benz Type OM 352 (South African spec.) was fitted, gearbox inspected and reconditioned, front and rear propeller shafts overhauled, torque tubes and boots replaced, all air hoses replaced, brakes, drums, linings replaced, all reduction hub seals and all oils replaced, front and rear differentials underwent a major service.

I then had the drivers cab totally cleaned of all paint and started again (May 12, 1999), with fresh undercoats, of anti rust primer and final coats of green. The ambulance box was upgraded so that I could now stand in it upright (I am 6' 3" tall).  It too underwent a face lift of new primer, undercoats, and a final top coat of green.  The chassis has been totally cleaned with 3 coats of red anti rust primer applied.

The flute over the driver's cab is removable and is bolted in place with a waterproof rubber seal.  From inside, one can access the flute and use it to pack soft bedding and the like, another huge storage area. 

I had the now, upgraded camper box beautifully fitted out (August 22, 2002) on the inside with paneling, a fridge, a freezer, toilet, washing machine, microwave, gas stove, bed, cupboards, dining table, TV, side awning, and a wonderful outside shower and canvass canopy with a geyser for hot water.

Two extra long range fuel tanks add to the capacity of about 1,100 liters of diesel which use electric fuel pumps to pump over to the main fuel tank.  All internal cab switches and instruments are back to Mercedes-Benz original civilian specification.

We have a landmine proof version of the UNIMOG here in South Africa known as the "MAMBA."  Because it is made so indestructible with very thick metal, upgraded coils and shocks were fitted.  I had these fitted to my 'Mog, so that it would not give me that "top heavy Land Rover roll", and it works very well indeed.

All in all, my UNIMOG is one of a kind, and I deem it "An Extreme Machine."  I have only done 14,000 kilometers since the new engine and upgrade, it truly is a magnificent vehicle.

Registration Number (South Africa): CMR 661 GP (number plate)
Chassis number: 416 162 1002 4825
Engine Unit Number: MB 01095 A003155J 

I would like any readers of this page to supply me, if at all possible, with a website or e-mail address, that offers the opportunity to individuals to advertise UNIMOGs for sale.  I would be curious to see just what these machines retail for these days.  I am aware that a new UNIMOG costs plenty of thousands of dollars.

I am currently restoring a forestry version Type U406 UNIMOG For our National Parks & Wildlife: The ADDO Elephant Park in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Created: August 3, 2004 / Jeff Miller
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