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Mercedes Benz Gwagen GD290


This Mercedes Benz Gwagen 290GD may well be unique in Australia. It was used as a trial vehicle for a Malaysian army contract a few years ago and subsequently became surplus to requirements. Being a right hand drive model, it was "donated" to Mercedes Benz Australian headquarters and is now used by JG for odd jobs (half yer luck).

There are a few Gwagens locally but this one immediately stands out from any angle. From the front, the track is obviously wider than usual and the axles clearly heavier duty than those fitted to most civilian models. Both axles still have hydraulically operated differential locks that seem to be a Steyr trade mark.

Tyre dimensions are 235/75 R 17.5 which work out at a nominal diameter of 31.4". This size, apparently quite common in Europe, is a tubeless equivalent of the trusty 750x16.

- 4wd.sofcom.com/4WD.html

From the side, the very long wheel base stands out. On top of the live axles, coil springs and full chassis, a very big drop-side tray is fitted. Something apparently so simple is still has many neat gadgets - functional catches, a foot-step in the tail gate, and the ability to fit a canopy and seats for up to 10 troops. A tool box and two jerry cans sit under the offside, the spare wheel under the nearside. A tray under the floor can carry hoops, canopy and equipment, and is accessed from the rear.

The bodywork is all steel, although tapping on some of the panels sounds like fibreglass. It is painted in drab military green, so effective that JG has walked into it on dark nights.

air box

The motor is a 2.9 litre 5-cylinder diesel. (This has been superseded by a 3 litre unit in later models.) The air intake system features a water-dam box (right, with lid off) prior to the air cleaner and designed to stop water, or at least slow it down, before it can get onto the filter element, or worse into the engine.

Like most military vehicles, the electrical system works on 24-volts, and tucked up under the dashboard is a military-style 2-pin socket that enables any vehicle to jump start any other vehicle. Also in fitting with the army role, there are strong "eyes" front and rear, for lifting by helicopter.

The motor drives a part-time four wheel drive system and then the coil-sprung live axles with their diff' locks, as mentioned. The 290GD is no sports car, being geared and governed to 103km/h, but has plenty of low down torque.

1999 was the 20th anniversary of the Gelaendewagen. Australia saw G-wagens in the early 1980's, both for private buyers and also trying out for the Australian Army's Project Perentie which went to Land Rover (then in the form of JRA).
- L. A11ison © 1999

Go to the 1999 --> G-wagen, Mercedes and military vehicle pages

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