Gelendvagen: how two unemployed enthusiasts made an unnecessary SUV famous all over the world

Today it is the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, a full-size luxury SUV that costs some absolutely insane money in the eyes of most people. However, this was not always the case. At the dawn of its history, Gelendvagen was not at all like that. If someone had told in 1979 that stars, politicians and businessmen would buy the G-Class as a personal car, then she would surely have heard hysterical laughter in her address. At the same time, in our time, not everyone remembers that the way it is today, “Gelik” was not made by Mercedes at all … But two “unemployed” friends with one screwdriver for four hands.

Where does “Gelik” begin …

There is a popular legend that the Mercedes-Benz G-Class was created primarily for the army. Actually it is not. Well, or not quite like that … The development of the first generation Gelika – W460 began in 1972. Initially, specialists from the German Mercedes-Benz did not even work on the car. For a long time, the project was mainly carried out by engineers from the Austrian company Steyr-Puch. German colleagues at the initial stage took almost nominal participation, even despite the fact that Mercedes and Steyr created a joint venture specifically for the development of a new car. In 1973, a wooden model of the future W460 was presented, and further work stretched until 1979.

The “Gelik” of the first generation very faintly resembled what our contemporaries were used to seeing in this car. From the common between the two G-class is perhaps a high cross-country ability and a characteristic recognizable silhouette of the body. Otherwise, the W460 was not only not a luxurious car, but also unnecessarily simple. And all because the SUV was conceived (this is how the German word “Gelandewagen” is translated) as a universal vehicle for moving over difficult terrain. The Austrians and Germans assumed that in the future the G-class would become a platform for postal vehicles, police, ambulances, and emergency services. The car was seen as a rural transport. If you’re lucky – as an army. And maybe as a means of transportation for tourists.

No rich equipment, no luxurious finishes and no super-duper powerful engines. The car of 1979 was a simple car, not to say trivial even by the standards of the late 1970s. Minimum convenience and maximum utility. The dynamics of the course is not about the first Gelik. Just imagine: the stock model of 1979 was equipped with either a 2.3-liter 90-horsepower M115 with acceleration to the coveted “hundreds” in 17-18 seconds, or a 2.4-liter 72-horsepower diesel engine, which showed an even more modest result … The top speed bar for the G-class of that time was 128 km / h on the highway!

At the same time, as already noted: simplicity reigned not only under the hood, but also in the cabin. From the “luxury”: an analogue clock on the front panel and a radio tape recorder. On this, in fact, that’s all … Upholstery – fabric. The driver’s seat is on the toolbox. The steering wheel is plastic. Many already probably want to ask: so maybe the W460 could be additionally “stuffed” under the order, like a modern car? Alas, and oh no. In general, by the “efforts” of Mercedes-Benz, the new car was destined to be written until the end of history, except that the cows on Austrian farms should be disturbed, if not for the case …

How fame came to Gelik

In the early 1960s, two young engineers Hans-Werner Aufrecht and his friend Erhard Melcher worked in the Daimler-Benz design department. They worked exactly on the new 300 SE sports engine. However, in 1967 Daimler-Benz decided to close the racing car business. Staff cuts have begun. Aufrecht and Melcher actually remained under the fence and then two young and hot said something in the spirit: “Oh, so! Then we’ll make our own company with Blackjack and… drawing boards.” They said and did. In the same year, an independent AMG tuning studio was born at that time (later it would be bought by Mercedes-Benz). Years passed, the guys worked on small orders, until they paid attention to the car of all German foresters and farmers – the G-class. The year was 1987, so the guys from AMG decided to do “something special” in honor of the anniversary. And as you might have already guessed, the W460, stuffed with everything you could, became special. But the main thing that the guys did was to replace the native engine with a much more powerful one.

Looking at the motley tuning product, most motorists twirled a finger at the temple at AMG. However, the car was noticed by those who should have noticed. First of all, the “illumination” descended on the guys from Mercedes-Benz itself. The guys realized that if you hammer a normal engine into a “collective farm” SUV, decorate the interior richer and add all sorts of goodies, then even wealthy guys can like the car …

It’s not that the idea didn’t cross the minds of the Mercedes guys at all. So, since 1981, the first paid options have already begun to appear in the G-class: automatic transmission, air conditioning, good interior trim, various additional equipment, 22 color options and much more. However, the idea of ​​deep processing of the car was born only in the late 1980s at the suggestion of enthusiasts from AMG.

Already in the early 1990s, a new G-class model appeared, which grew in quality over its “village” predecessor. The car began to be heavily advertised. Some of the first German car bought such stars as Eric Clapton, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Brad Pitt. The car was noticed by businessmen and politicians. In just a few years, nothing remained of the reputation of a simple rural SUV. Now the car was positioned exclusively as a luxury model.

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