A brief history of Mercedes' toughest model: The G-Class
November 27, 2017 at 9:25 AM
With a production spanning over 40 years, the Mercedes G-Class - also known as the G-Wagon until 1998, has stood the test of time. The torquey turbodiesel V6 off-roader has even survived the introduction of it's intended replacement model, the GL-Class. It owes much of this longevity to its rugged design (both mechanically and aesthetically), but its storied history is not without considerable merit. Below are just three out of many notable points from G-Wagon's rich history to remind us why this low-volume Geländewagen (cross country vehicle) remains on our roads today.
The inception of the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon can be traced back to a suggestion for a four-wheel drive vehicle for military service in the 1970s, by the Shah of Iran - who owned a significant number of Mercedes shares at the time. And though he never got full use of them, after getting deposed by the Islamic Revolution in 1978, the G-Wagon would later go into military service for 63 armies internationally, including the German Armed Forces and US Marine Corps. However, it was never meant for military service alone - with simultaneous production as a luxury vehicle of pre-SUV distinction.
Like most Mercedes-Benz models, the G-Wagon underwent extensive testing in its prototype stage including visits to the Sahara Desert, the German Coalfields, and the Arctic Circle. However, it was even earlier during the design process, back in 1973, that the concept of the G-Wagon was presented to the Daimler-Benz management as - not stone or clay - but a wood model. Mercedes specialists have kept alive an entire class of vehicle that engineers imagined, first, in wood. The intention was to give the vehicle a rugged aesthetic impossible in the soft roundness of clay, which continues to be seen in the unchanged boxy exterior of today's G-Class.
One of the most notable special orders in the G-Wagon's history would be that made of Mercedes in service to the Vatican. One of many notable vehicles to serve as the Popemobile over the last 50 years, the G-Class outfitted by Mercedes specialists for the pope was nicknamed the 'Papa G', and served as Pope John Paul II transportation during his 1980 visit to Germany. The windowed enclosure utilized to keep the pope safe while on parade was a surprisingly good fit for the G-Wagon's already tough, angular design. The pope's G-Wagon can be found at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany today.
While this is not a comprehensive list of events in the G-Class' 40+ year past, it does serve as a highlight as to how varied and interesting the history of one Mercedes model can be - and how worthy preserving that might be. Today, the G-Wagon continues to prove as desirable as ever to civilians as the heavily revised G-Class, which still totes the Wagon's sharp, intimidating boxy body and military-grade chassis. Whilst the G-Class can, in theory, conquer any terrain, most G-Class customers opt for the overpowered AMG version - the G63, which offers 571 hp from its AMG bi-turbo petrol V8.
For G-Wagen enthusiasts, there is good news for the future of the G-Class. A more contemporary 2019 G-Class model range arrives in just a matter of months, featuring an all-aluminium body, wider tracks, interior changes - whilst making significant reductions in the weight. The 2019 Mercedes G-Class is expected to make its debut at the 2018 Detroit motor show.