The Unimog is the ultimate sport utility vehicle. Produced by DaimlerChrysler and developed in Germany, it's actually been in production and service throughout the world since the 1950s and will be sold in the United States beginning in February 2002. The name is a German acronym for "Universal Motorized Unit".

The basic Unimog looks something like a cross between a pickup truck and a military jeep, doubled in size, and can be modified to cut grass and bushes along a road, chop up and carry large branches, plow snow, function as a tractor, carry fire equipment, and even switch locomotives. It's twenty feet long, as wide as a Hummer, and nearly nine and a half feet tall, so that the driver and passengers have to climb three steps and sit six feet off the ground. It weighs six and a half tons, half again as much as a Ford Explorer, carries a six-ton payload, and will retail for about $84,000. (Hummers from DaimlerChrysler retailed last year at over $94,000, and they sold 900 of those in 2000.)

If you live in America, and you see one of these things on the highway -- and you will see them, this thing is the ultimate sport utility penis for macho Midwesterners -- just get the hell out of the way. Better yet, see if you can befriend the driver. When the first blizzard of winter arrives, you won't ever have to worry about shovelling your driveway with one of these at your disposal.

The currently-selling Mercedes-Benz Unimog can be seen online at

In 2002 there was a bit of an uproar over the Unimog -- it was the ultimate in SUVs, the peak of suburban decadence, a threat to all other vehicles in the road! The idea of soccer moms driving a vehicle that dwarfs a Hummer was both amusing and frightening. Safety experts, economists, and pundits all had plenty to say.

It never happened. The Unimog looks like a large service vehicle -- a flatbed, unless you buy the enclosed version, in which case it looks like a delivery van. They were sold by the same dealerships that sold heavy trucks (big rigs, not Hummers), and they were most certainly not aimed at suburban middle-class families. They were tractors built to look like a truck. They were not something anyone wanted to drive to the grocery store.

After five years Americans had bought only 184 Unimogs, and Freightliner removed them from their American dealerships. They are still sold overseas, and are still not anything like an American SUV.

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