When a LandCruiser or Patrol won’t cut it, you need to think bigger …
When you’re looking for the perfect long-distance tourer, what does your mind instantly think of? You want something that has plenty of off-road credentials; something that has plenty of room for camping gear; something that can tow your boat, bikes or camper trailer; and something that simply makes you smile every time you jump behind the wheel and fire it up. Sure a ’Cruiser or Patrol may tick most of the boxes – but if you want the ultimate adventure touring machine, there’s really only one choice. A Mercedes Benz Unimog.
Climb up behind the wheel of one of these bad boys and you won’t have to worry about towing, storage space or off-road ability ever again, because these things have all that in spades, and a whole lot more besides. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Let’s go back a couple of steps and introduce you to Daniel Mavin, the owner and builder of the wild Unimog super-tourer you’re looking at, and find out just how this beast came together.
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If you’re unfamiliar with Unimogs, they’ve been in production since the mid-1940s in post-war Germany – initially designed for use as agricultural equipment but more commonly utilised as military vehicles in armies all over the world from Australia to Argentina. The reason they’ve been around for so long and have been so successful is due to the fact that they can be customised to suit a huge range of uses, coupled with the argument that when it comes to off-road ability – they’re probably the most capable ‘out-of-the-box’ 4X4 on the planet.
This is because they have coils springs at each corner; massive 42in tyres as standard (although this one has had a boost in the tyre department); and, perhaps most importantly, portal gear reduction hubs. These things effectively lower the wheel hub from the axle centre-line, resulting in unparalleled diff clearance. They also use internal gears to lower the final gear ratio, making them perfect for off-road use and reducing stress on driveline components. There’s no doubt about it – portals are cool.
This particular example actually started life as an ex-Australian Defence Force vehicle before it found its way into Dan’s workshop, where he decided to go nuts and build his go-anywhere touring weapon.
Believe it or not, Dan’s Mog actually started life as a single cab before it was attacked with the plasma cutter and grinder. After the body and tray were pulled off the chassis, the cab was sandblasted – and heavy-duty tube bracing was welded into the floor, roof and pillars for increased strength. While he was at it, the rust was all cut out and fresh steel was welded in its place; and the roof was removed and raised for a little more headroom and to make space for the custom overhead console. A second single-cab was given the same treatment before the two were expertly grafted together to produce the Doka (Mog-speak for dual cab) that you see before you. It’s that neat you’d never pick that it didn’t roll off the production line like this.
Dan was only just getting started at this point, though. Storage boxes were built underneath the rear seat and into the roof, and the driver’s side footwell was widened for a bit more legroom, before several coats of gunmetal grey paint were sprayed inside and out. The cab was then lined with marine carpet and Unidan (Dan’s company that’s dedicated to building Unimogs) custom-ducted air conditioning was plumbed in. Interior LED lights mean you won’t lose anything under the seats after dark; and speaking of seats, the front occupants ride in comfort thanks to custom-trimmed Air Ride ISRI seats while the rear seat is another custom unit trimmed to match the front. The rear wall of the cab has also been modified to allow for crawl-through access should Dan decide to fit a camper back in the future.
Climb up into the driver’s seat and you’ll be greeted with a host of gauges so you can keep an eye on what the electrical system and turbo-diesel are up to. The engine is stock other than a fresh set of injectors, tweaked pump, a custom high-flow 3.5in stainless exhaust and custom Unidan intercooler – which have bumped output from 168hp to 210hp with no change to fuel consumption.
Larger 395/85R20 Michelin XZL tyres have been fitted to Hutchison rims (after raising the cab) to take advantage of the Unimog’s prodigious gearing and torque. And hey, not many people can say they have 46in rubber on their touring rig …
There’s plenty of custom bar work all over this thing, with front and rear winches in place to ensure that no matter what predicament Dan manages to get into, he’s got an exit strategy. There’s a 32in lightbar on the front bar and a 50in unit integrated into the roof rack to supplement the aftermarket LED headlights. And yep, there’s LED rock lights for when Dan’s tackling the low range sections of track after dark, too.
The tray is fairly stock at the moment – but there’s roughly an acre of room so it can be loaded up with all of Dan’s camping gear and still have enough space to roll out the swag if need be.
There’s a million other mods that have gone into this thing and there’s simply not enough space to cover them all here, but Dan tells us that this one is actually up for sale so he can start a new project. So, if you want what’s possibly the coolest long-distance tourer, get in touch with Dan who can walk you through it in detail.
Daniel is a bloke who loves his off-road touring, having travelled extensively all around the country in his customised four wheel drives and homebuilt camper trailers. A few years back he bought himself a Unimog and turned it into a true go-anywhere camper thanks to over two decades of experience in the engineering, motor fabrication and fitting and turning industries. That first build kick-started his passion for the big Mercedes off-road trucks, and before he knew it he’d started his own engineering business – Unidan – dedicated to turning the beasts into dream touring machines. He generally builds them to cater to his clients’ individual needs, so he rarely performs the same set of mods on two vehicles.
Wondering how fat your wallet has to be to have one of these bad boys in the driveway? Dan tells us this one is currently for sale for $170,000. But if you have your own Mog ready to go, he can do the Doka conversion and add all barwork, shorten the tray and do the interior for you for around the $65,000 mark. Not cheap, but you can’t tell us one of these things wouldn’t be fun as hell to own.
Words By Dex Fulton, Photography by David Vayro