To call the Unimog U500 a “truck” is really an injustice to the unique Class 6-7 work vehicle that Freightliner LLC is now bringing to the North American marketplace from Germany. Think of it like a motorized Swiss Army knife or one of those multiple-use shop tools and you'll be closer to catching the spirit and understanding the concept behind the Unimog.

“It is really a highly mobile implement carrier for on- or off-highway applications,” says Bob McTernan, director of Unimog North America for Freightliner LLC.

“Users can buy just one Unimog chassis and then attach any number of work implements to it, so one Unimog can take the place of several vehicles that are configured to do a single task,” McTernan points out. “You just buy the implements you need and then change them as the situation demands, usually in one hour or less.”

The list of detachable tools currently available for the Unimog is a proof statement for its versatility. Users can order plows and spreaders, snow blowers, mowers, brush trimmers, wood chippers, aerial buckets, fire-fighting apparatus, knuckle boom cranes, sweepers, dump bodies, backhoes, water pumps, crew bodies, posthole diggers, cherry pickers, utility bodies, rear excavators, chemical tanks, sand/salt spreaders and more.

Versatility is a word that also applies to the Unimog chassis itself. For starters, it is available in two GVWs, 26,000 and 33,000 lb., each powered by the Mercedes-Benz MBE900 electronic 6-cyl. diesel with 230 or 280 hp.

The Mercedes-Benz 8-sp. forward/6-sp. reverse transmission geared for highway speeds comes standard with the electro-pneumatic Telligent gearshift system. A 16-sp. deep-reduction transmission for heavy-pull applications is optional.

The “VarioPilot” option enables a left-handed steering column and pedals to be switched to a right-hand drive configuration in well under two minutes, according to Freightliner. An optional, engine-driven, front-mounted PTO and transmission-driven PTO are controlled from inside the cab by a console joystick and electronic switches, and further multiply the Unimog's capabilities, as does the permanent all-wheel drive with optional axle and inter-axle differential locks.

If the Unimog is all about doing more work in the field, it is all about less on the ledger sheet, according to the company. The multiple implements/ one chassis approach means just one vehicle to license and insure, a common truck parts inventory and no need for additional vehicles to trailer specialized equipment to job sites.

The Unimog is available through selected Freightliner Trucks, Sterling, Western Star and American LaFrance dealers. www.unimogtrucks.com or 300