Here’s something you don’t expect to encounter in Japan – a good old M-B Unimog 406. Even a total truck ignoramus such as I recognized this one immediately. But this one, on top of being forlorn in the courtyard of a 19th century soy sauce factory (I kid you not) in the Japanese sticks (bamboo, surely?), has the coolest period accessory I’ve ever seen on an old truck.
Our little beast here seems like a ‘70s Mog, but then I’m really no expert. It’s LHD, but I don’t know if they were ever made any other way. Only one factory made these – Gaggenau in Baden-Württemberg – for the entire run, which lasted from 1963 to 1989. Mercedes-Benz made just over 37,000 over these and sold them all over the world, except North America.
In 1970, the cabin got two extra rear windows, which this truck has. The chrome bars on the grille (which are painted over in this case) were deleted in 1979, after which the Unimog 406 more or less stopped evolving and sales sank. Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, it had a 5.6 litre direct injection Diesel straight-6 delivering 84 PS and could barely reach 80 kph. But then, it was not really meant for speed.
And now for the party piece: this magnificent machine has an equally magnificent roof-mounted Mark IV A/C unit. Generally, these would be under the dash, but I take it the 406’s dash probably doesn’t have enough space. I couldn’t get a picture of the interior, unfortunately. But the A/C vents are clearly visible for this angle – directly under the unit, ready to blow copious amounts of cool air directly into the faces of the Unimog’s passengers.
I photographed a similar arrangement on an old Škoda 1000MB in Bangkok earlier this year. It was comical on that COMECON contraption, but on Big Blue here, it looks fine. Aerodynamics are really of little concern here, so why not have the ability to drive this great big AWD classic truck without sweating it? It gets very hot and humid here in the summer, but not so in the coolest Mog in the country.
Cohort Sighting: Unimog In Hell, by Perry Shoar
CC Outtake: The Odd Couple, by David Saunders