Old military vehicles never really die. They just enter long periods of slumber until they’re needed again. This is why WWII-era Jeeps are still on the road today and are still fixable with nothing but a hammer, a plumbing wrench and a long stream of curse words. And this is why you can still get Cold War surplus machinery that has sat around in a bunker since the time Erich Honecker led the DDR.
This Unimog, as you’ve probably suspected by now, was first supplied to the West German military, and it happens to be a rare 406.145 Doppel Kabine model — most Unimogs featured a single-cab layout with one row of seats. So rare is this version, in fact, that just 353 examples of the Doppel Kabine were built between 1974 and 1986, and as you’re probably guessing by now, judging by the front apron, it may have been used as a tug for pulling aircraft with its front trailer hitch.
So it’s not quite a pickup truck, and it’s not a wagon. Is it a sedan then? It does have four doors, after all.
Bonhams confirms this example was indeed an aircraft tug and was used from 1974 till 1980, when it was put into storage and forgotten about until 2017.
“The vendor advises us that 353 of the 406 Doppel Kabine type were built at the Gaggenau plant, mainly for the German armed forces; of these 353 units, it is estimated that around 140 still exist, although at least 100 of them are no longer in their original condition, having been rebuilt,” Bonhams notes.
The front apron, of course, was used to prevent damage to the front in case a hitch failed or if an aircraft lurched for some reason while being towed, and the high seating position and weight made it a suitable towing vehicle, allowing it to use its weight and traction to pull large aircraft. Powered by an OM32 5.7-liter six-cylinder diesel engine paired with a six-speed transmission, the Unimog was recommissioned for road use after it exited hibernation in 2017.
“In 2017 the Unimog was rediscovered and the vendor was fortunate enough to become its owner,” the auction house advises. “All necessary measures were taken to ensure that the Unimog would be roadworthy, and in 2019 a TÜV acceptance and a vintage car certificate from TÜV Nord were obtained. Copies of all documents are available.”
Bonhams estimates this Unimog to bring between $59,000 and $83,000 on auction day, which is a fairly liberal range and reflects the rarity of this model.
Most Unimogs in enthusiast hands are of the pickup truck variety, equipped with a two-door cabin, and feature a much longer wheelbase. The example here, equipped with NATO hitches front and back and a civil towing hitch with a 48,500-lb towing capacity, reflects the very narrow task for which it was built, but we could still see this being a fun toy that can do serious farm work, act as a fun off roader, tow a boat, be used as a promotional vehicle of some sort for an off-road equipment maker… but it could just as easily end up in a fancy boat yard on the French Riviera.
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