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How Unimogs Work

Unimog Features
A different view of the GAZ-66
A different view of the GAZ-66
Steve Taylor/Getty Images

Versatility has long been one of the Unimog's strongest suits. Whether it's hauling, crossing impassible terrain or heavy farm work that's needed, there's a Unimog that has the right size and equipment for the job. There is no such thing as a standard Unimog -- each one is built to the customer's specifications [source: Rocky Mountain Moggers].

The current Unimog lineup comes in three flavors: the compact U20, billed as being one of the most maneuverable four-wheel-drive commercial vehicles available; the mid-size U300, U400 and U500, which range between 10 and 14 feet (3 and 4.3 meters) long and include the luxury "Black Edition" off-roader; and the heavy-duty, 17-foot (5.2-meter) long U4000 and U5000 with all-wheel-drive capabilities that can take it anywhere [source: Unimog International].

The front cab is small and stub-nosed, leaving the back part and sides of the vehicle to be customized with attachments like a truck bed, loading crane, wood chipper or even a street sweeper. Unimogs feature attachment areas on their bodies with hydraulics that can operate snowplows and grass mowers. There are literally thousands of ways to customize a Unimog to suit any task. In addition, they're designed to carry a variety of tools in numerous compartments.

The Unimog is powered by a direct-injection, turbo diesel four- or six-cylinder engine with loads of torque, featuring Mercedes' emission-reducing BlueTec system. The engines can switch between "driving mode" and "working mode" for maximum smoothness and fuel efficiency. Transmissions are just as sophisticated, with an available planetary automatic gearbox and a transmission with eight forward gears and as many as eight reverse gears so it can move big loads in any direction. They can also travel at speeds of 55 to 60 miles per hour (88.5 to 96.6 kilometers per hour) [source: Unimog International].

More features include hydraulic devices that can be operated by simply plugging them into stations on the Unimog's body, and equipment that lets the driver control tire pressure at the touch of a button -- this keeps the vehicle from sinking into soft surfaces.

We've seen how technology and customization have made the Unimog a popular vehicle. But who uses a Unimog? In the next section, we'll examine the people who put Unimogs to work -- and play -- all over the world.