This Mercedes Unimog Car Hauler is the weird yoga-loader you didn’t know you needed
Car enthusiasts have a penchant for finding—and then freaking out about—the oddest vehicles every time a major auction approaches. Case in point: This 1966 Mercedes-Benz Unimog Car Hauler, slated to go under the gavel at Bonhams’ 2020 Amelia Island sale in a few weeks.
If you’re familiar with the Unimog, you already know why we love it. If you’re new to this model, know that we love a vehicle with singularity of purpose. Naturally, we’re drawn to military vehicles—converted, rebranded, or the same as the day they were born. The Unimog was designed after WWII to serve the needs of the agricultural community but has since expanded its skillset into other areas. Folks have transformed these plodding, portal-axle, go-anywhere beasts into fire trucks, camping rigs, and even car haulers, as is the case here.
This is a 406-series Unimog, meaning it is a short-wheelbase variant (the 416 was its long wheelbase counterpart), and this example is configured with the “low floor elevating truck” layout, or “Niederflurhubwagen” (bless you) in German. It’s an unconventional piece of ’60s engineering, but that’s precisely why we love it.
Take a look at the lead image. When the floor is lowered to load a car, the truck looks like a cat pinned to the ground, legs cocked out to the side. How does it perform this variant of hauler yoga? The truck deploys a hydraulic jack stowed under the rear of the frame to lift the back wheels off the ground, then slides each wheel—and the portal axle assembly connected to it—to the side and beyond the width of the loading bed (think outriggers on a large crane, but with tires).
The hydraulic jack then lowers the entire rear frame between the spread-out wheels, and since there is no assembly propping up the rear, the rear frame drops down, almost to touch the ground. A tailgate closes the remaining gap and allows a vehicle to smoothly drive onto the transport. Clear as mud? Check out this video if you’d prefer a visual.
Bonhams’ presale estimate is $25,000–$35,000. Feeling skeptical? According to Hagerty valuation expert James Hewitt, a few things work in the Unimog’s favor. “People are always willing to buy the unique and quirky at auctions, even when they never knew it existed,” Hewitt explains.
Especially when the weird thing is based on a similarly weird vehicle to start with, as is the case with this Unimog. “It’s a vehicle with very little practical use and a whole lot of emotional must-have appeal,” Hewitt says.
We’ll be watching closely to see if this odd duck can charm the crowd at Amelia. Perhaps somebody who snags a particularly delicious Mercedes sports car will be in need of transport home. We can’t possibly think of a better hauler.