The American phrase “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” qualifies the mind-set of a big group of car enthusiasts around the world who do not necessarily subscribe to everything new and shiny.
This certainly applies to fans of the Mercedes G-Wagen, latterly renamed G-Class, an iconic 4x4 coveted for its distinctive looks, solid build quality, and the feel good factor it delivers whether you are driving in town or country.
The G-Wagen (Gelandewagen is German for off-road car) has stayed very close to its roots from day one in 1979. And like the Land Rover and the original Willys Jeep, it started out as a tough, ladder frame chassis 4x4 for the military, in this case made for Mercedes by Steyr-Daimler-Puch (Magna-Steyr as of 2002) in Austria.
While Land Rover and Jeep spawned the Range Rover and Cherokee as their more car-like 4x4s, the G-Wagen hardly changed in exterior form as it slowly morphed into a more luxurious machine, adopting four, six and V8 engines from the Mercedes passenger car range.
As the relationship between Mercedes-Benz and AMG became closer in the late ‘90s, a tuned version of the M104 twin-cam straight six found its way into the variant known as the G36 AMG. But the real powerhouse G was the G55 AMG of 2004, which was powered by a detuned version of the SL55 AMG’s supercharged 5.5 litre V8.
The idea of a high performance G-Wagen attracted a new kind of customer to the marque, for here was a distinctive looking old-school 4x4 with big power and a NASCAR like V8 soundtrack.
The G55 AMG was an overnight success in places as diverse as Texas and Dubai, and the G63 AMG and the totally mental bi-turbo V12-engined G65 AMG that followed took the ‘more is more’ idea to an all-time high. The 6x6, 4x4x2 and Maybach Landaulet versions were the ultimate swan songs.
The iconic G-Class has always held its value well, and run-out versions such as the Final Edition SWB Cabriolet command silly prices today, as do the various limited production LWB types that followed.