The Mercedes-Benz G-Class, or G-Wagon, is one of the most iconic vehicles on the road today. However, the chiseled, muscular truck that's come to symbolize wealth and luxury actually came from very stark, purpose-driven roots.
The Mercedes-Benz Geländewagen, quite literally meaning "[all-]terrain-vehicle", was born in the early 70's, at the suggestion from the Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was a significant stakeholder of Mercedes. The idea was for Mercedes to develop a vehicle that could compete with and outperform competitors such as the Jeep, Land Rover and Land Cruiser. This would be a platform that could not only be used for military applications, but could also be flexible enough to fill the needs of consumers that needed toughness and reliability, and so Mercedes partnered with Austrian manufacturing consortium Steyr-Daimler-Puch (Pinzgauer, anyone?) to produce the first generation G Wagon.
And boy, was this thing tough and reliable.
In 1975, a few after the first G wagons were built, Mercedes brought these test vehicles out to the most extreme of climates and terrains, ranging from the bone-chilling frozen landscape of the Arctic Circle, the muddy and dusty German coalfields, and the scorching and gritty sands of the Sahara Desert.
This "first-generation" G-Wagon, chassis code 460, shipped to both military and civilian customers worldwide, and even did duty as a bulletproof "Pope-mobile" with minimal changes over the years until the next model in 1990.
The 460 would now become two distinct chassis; the 463, oriented towards the majority of civilians as more of a luxury-oriented offering, and the 461, a continuation of the bare-bones G intended for heavy duty military and industrial applications.
The 463 also introduced some styling updates, as well as luxuries such as burl wood trim, cruise control, airbags, anti-lock brakes, and optional leather seats. This generation would also mark the first introduction of the G-Class into the United States market in 2002. While there were a variety of engine options available, in both petrol and diesel flavors, the US variants notably have only ever had petrol-powered V8 engines. Shortly after, the AMG version became available, which eventually delivered a supercharged V8 pushing almost 470hp. 4 7 0 H O R S E P O W E R .
As if the AMG version wasn't enough, aftermarket companies like Brabus stepped in the ring, created wild rigs that were next-level in styling and power. Seriously, these boxy trucks were modified to super-car levels of acceleration.
In 2018, the second generation of the 463 was released, just in time for the G-Class' 40th anniversary. The new, revised truck now featured independent front suspension, even more technology and luxury for occupants, and more customization options, including 34 different exterior colors and an incredible 54 different interior colors. This is also the first time the G-Wagon achieved 20MPG.
While the 461 would remain largely unchanged over the years (in fact-the 461 was available until 2021, where it would be replaced by the 464), they would become more and more difficult for civilians to purchase.
Over the years, the G wagon as the majority of us have come to know it has become more and more opulent, with more chrome, bigger wheels, and more creature comforts. But it's still one of the only vehicles made today that offer 100% locking differentials, making it still incredibly capable off-road, for those that dare take their six-figure rig off smooth pavement.
Originally shot for Avants Magazine. Special thanks to Adam, Karl, Ben, Chi, Jillian, Tim, Simon, Adam, and Ilya for helping me organize the cars and the location :)