The Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagen (“terrain vehicle”) started out just how you’d think: a utilitarian truck for the worst corners of the world, originally developed as a military off-roader
Designed to be rugged, reliable, and as tenacious as a mountain goat, the ’80s models G-Wagons were the early roughnecks of the group, more like the Sahara Land Cruisers than the glamping luxury boxes you see NBA wives driving today. This particular 1984 Mercedes-Benz W460 ‘Puch’ Diesel Wagon straddles the line between hard-nosed bushwhacker and luxury urban warrior, featuring a professional build atop a rare, gray-market foundation that’s about as strong as anything ever built with four wheels. Fully restored with bright white paint, tough off-road exterior accessories, a comfortable A/C interior, and go-anywhere diesel drivetrain and suspension, this purpose-built G-Wagon is a very special piece.
The boxy shape and body-on-frame construction has always been a big part of this SUVs appeal, and the utilitarian look hasn’t changed in decades. The W460 model ran from 1979-1992 and the exterior package pretty much looked the same every year and you could get one in a variety of wheelbases with either 2, 3, or 5-door models. The 5-door LWBs were the roomiest and best looking of the bunch, and that’s precisely why the pros at G-Mercedes LLC from Utah picked this gray-market beauty to build their masterpiece upon. W460 G-Wagons were never officially exported into the United States (MB thought the utilitarian SUVs were contrary to our luxury perceptions of the brand), so any that you see were brought over by grey import specialists and sold at a premium. This particular G was built between Daimler-Benz and Steyr-Daimler-Puch for the Swiss/Austrian and Eastern European markets, and the Austrian-made Puch G’s have always been some of the most sought-after derivations as their partnership got the whole party started back in 1972. Stripped down and repainted a slick coat of white during the restoration, this G-Wagon looks brutally elegant, further punctuated with blacked-out bumpers, front grille, fender flares, and that Sahara-ready, multi-use roof rack with a rear ladder, red shovels, and diamond-plate tent surface. It certainly makes a statement what with its flat windscreen, towering roof, and right angles, and the top-driver quality finish shows only minor imperfections, meaning this G-Wagon has likely never had to traverse anything short of a gravel driveway. Build quality is perhaps the best of all the many Benz models, and with its reputation for durability, there’s probably nothing you can do to hurt it out in the wilderness. Other super-tough accessories include oversized side mirrors, four blinding LED light bars, a rear-mounted spare tire, and the coup-de-gras: a giant 3-pointed star in the middle of the grille.
Inside this shiny white box is every comfort and convenience item that was known to Mercedes-Benz engineers in 1984, along with some choice modern upgrades. Recent, ultra-smooth black vinyl upholstery on the front buckets and swapped-in rear bench (original jump seats are available) means the cabin is all-day comfortable, and everything wears like iron – from the simple black door panels, the taut headliner, and the original dash full of factory instruments, switches, and knobs. It’s pure ’80s nostalgia in a very practical design, with durable, protective coverings lining the floors and a huge storage area out back complete with a custom-built pull-out drawer system that’s perfect for camping. Options include ice cold A/C and a heater that’s powerful enough to warm the car as it scales the Andes, and a Pioneer double-din head unit was installed in the center of the dash, along with an additional AUX input that was mounted in the glove box. Those extra billet buttons control the exterior LED light bars, all the gauges are bright and clear, and the dash itself is in fantastic condition, with no cracks or fading from the sun. Working with all that space means stretch-out room is impressive, and for a vehicle that was never meant to be luxurious, this one sure gets it right.
Power comes from Mercedes’ familiar 2.5L Inline 5-cylinder Turbo Diesel that was professional swapped-in and tuned perfectly for this glam-rig. The 2.5s were a somewhat rare for the G-Wagon (originally found in the 1988-91 250GDs), but the added cubes and power is welcomed in a truck this heavy. And you know it’s a dependable workhorse motor as Mercedes put it inside their Sprinter vans for almost a decade, but it also has refined road manners for the modern roads, evidenced by the fact they were also found inside several of their 4-door sedans from 1985-1999. Horsepower and torque numbers aren’t exactly awe-inspiring, but they got the job done, and when mated to a durable 5-speed manual transmission this Puch G is a blast to drive. The Straight 5 is a perfect fit in the G’s engine bay where its mostly stock save for an upgrade intake tube and A/C hardware, and thanks to typical Mercedes engineering, it’ll run practically forever with just a modicum of proper care. It’s tidy under the hood and doesn’t look like it was ever a winter warrior, so no worries in that regard, and the chassis looks robust enough to support a railroad car. Power steering and power front disc brakes means you don’t have to be a bodybuilder to manage the steering wheel and brake pedal, and the heavy-duty axles and suspension, selective 4×4 system, and tall ground clearance all make this a true ‘go-anywhere’ vehicle. Blacked-out 16-inch Merc wheels complete the look, all of which are wrapped in butch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrains.
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