Unimog Shopping Trip

My quest to purchase a suitable Unimog


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The Experience

I had worked for a company called HNC Software and they went public in 1995. Being an engineering director, I was lucky enough to have an equity position and I disposed of some of the shares to go shopping for "boy toys". And other than the biological boy toy, what toy could be better than a vehicle? Answer: a big vehicle. Something that you do not find everywhere, something uncommon and unusual. And what to better fit the bill than a Unimog? So, I started searching the web. The first hit I got was a model 900 for sale in southern Oregon. We contacted the seller and set up a visit. We got plane tickets and a rental car and went to his location to inspect the goods. The photos below are what we saw. These were scans of chemical photos, so please excuse the quality.

This model U900 was in pretty good shape all things considered. It had a big winch and a home-built steel camper box to provide ballast since the U900 is very nose heavy.

The seller was kind enough to take a photo of Kathleen and I in front of his rig. This was taken back in the days when I actually had hair.

Generic (and clean) interior. The cab was in good shape as you can see.

Kathleen goes for a drive with the owner.

A close up of the winch.

Details of the interior shift cluster. This rig had the 20 speed transmission, splitter, and crawler gears.

A shot of the inside of the bed.

The home made bed also had an extra fuel tank at the back that was a step. Both Kathleen and I agreed that the rig had to be high speed road capable. The U900 could go about 45 mph, so that combined with the interior comfort issue caused us to "pass" on this specific unit. We continued our internet search and found something that we thought would be more suitable.

This is a photo of the U1300L that I eventually bought. This photo was taken at a ranch belonging to the owner in Washington state. Here he put the rig to work hauling pipe at the ranch.

Another shot of the truck at the ranch during the previous fall.

Here I try out a cold start. The outside temp was pretty cool, resulting in the white smoke. Much later, I discovered that the white smoke was due to antifreeze in the cylinders as a result of a cracked cylinder wall.

Inspecting under the hood.


The truck was recently painted but the owner (right) painted over body and wood rot. In the end, I pulled the bed and had the frame sandblasted. Likewise with the cab.

Kathleen mounts up for a test drive. We both agreed that the truck would meet our needs. I told her that once she said "yes" she would not be able to complain about it again.

The owner had a house on Lake Washington. The backyard had a dock and he had a big, fast boat. So, to seal the deal, he took us for a ride past Bill Gate's house which was still under construction.

Here is another view of Gate's house in Medina.

While I paid more than I should have for the truck, in the end, we used it heavily over the next ten years. The truck has taken us all over the southwest, northern Mexico and Baja. Despite the multitude of mechanical issues that I repaired to get the truck fully functional, we have had a great time with it and I do not regret any part of it. Even what I know now, I would do it again.

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