Rolling rarity: Conrad Mercedes G-Wagen

This is one of those models that makes me feel good to be a collector, and a car person in general. I’m always willing to expand my diecast knowledge, and until my diecast buddy Nick over at nms_collection posted about these, I had never been aware of their existence in Conrad’s short stay in the world of small scale diecast cars. But as soon as I saw it I knew I had to have one, and Nick had finally located some spares he could part way with. And viola, here we are. Conrad are probably more known to collectors of heavyweight diecast trucks, but during the 1980s they made a tiny run of 1/66 cars taking aim at Schuco and other European diecast makers. Only three models comprised the whole range, all of them Mercedes-Benz: A W123 280TE wagon, a 1980 W126 380SE and this G-Wagen.

And it’s my favourite generation of “Geländewagen” (terrain vehicle) that Conrad have replicated: the 1979 – 1992 W460/461 model.

The G-Wagen was developed as a military vehicle at the behest of the Shah of Iran, who at the time was a major shareholder in Mercedes-Benz. He had requested 20,000 vehicles to equip the Iranian military, and Mercedes turned to Austrian company Steyr for assistance. Steyr had valuable experience with building military vehicles, and the company’s Graz plant was chosen to build the car. Prototypes underwent harsh testing in fierce conditions ranging from the Artic Cirlce to the Sahara Desert. Production began in 1979 with the cars being built almost entirely by hand.

The Iranian revolution of 1979 toppled the Shah and with it any Mercedes deal. Subsequently the first military customer of the G-Wagen (W461 as the military model was coded) ended up being the Argentine Army in 1980, and since then it has been a solid fixture of the armed forces of over 40 countries around the world, including Greece where it is license built in Thessaloniki for the Hellenic Army. Steyr produced their own version badged as the Puch G, and the near identical Peugeot P4 used by the French military was also born from the original G-Wagen.

Civilian versions (W460) were renowned for being hard wearing and reliable, capable of tackling almost any terrain. Short and Long wheelbase options were available with fixed or canvas roofs and rear covers or indeed open pickup beds. The Conrad version is a short wheelbase, canvas back car and my example is finished in a very military (therefore very me) shade of green.

At 1/66 scale, the Conrad is surprisingly dainty. It’s ever so slightly crude, with a couple of paint bubbles and one side of the car appearing to be barely painted on the lower half, but it still feels solid and well built. There’s a metal base, spare wheel, opening doors and bonnet and a removable canvas back.

It’s superbly simple, with the bare minimum of detail picked out; the Mercedes badge and headlights. The engine is nicely done for a model of the era, though the interior is laughably poor: there’s no detail whatsoever, and the steering wheel is somewhat curiously mounted, attached to the dash vertically as if it’s on an Airfix sprue and hasn’t been fitted. So it’s best to ignore this, and just bask in how awesome the rest of the model is.

It’s perfectly of the era, and ticks all my boxes. I’d take this over a Hot Wheels or Era Car G63 AMG 6×6 any day.

I love discovering these rare pieces of diecast past, and this has been one of my all time favourite Lamley posts to create, a real pleasure to write and a real pleasure to share it with you all.

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(At the time of writing there were no Conrad G-Wagens on Ebay, but the other models in their line up can be found here)

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