1990 puch (mercedes-Benz) 230GE automatic
at a glance
ENGINE: 2.3L Mercedes-Benz Gasoline
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed automatic with 2-speed transfer case and locking center differential
MILEAGE: 98.834 km (61,277 miles)
EXTERIOR: Dove Gray
INTERIOR: Black and Gray Plaid
WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
Beginning with a straight, clean, beautifully maintained and low-mileage vehicle that had been recently decommissioned from the Swiss Army, we stripped and refinished the truck in a high-durability paint by Raptor, custom tinted in “Dove Gray,” a light gray color used by British Leyland in the 1960’s. All exterior trim has been refinished in black, including the wheels, which have been fitted with oversized Toyo Open Country tires, and a black roof completes the look. This military-style canvas top can be configured in several ways, so the truck can be used fully enclosed, fully open, or with just the front part in place, in a sort of… soft top pickup truck body style. In the nose, LED headlamps have been fitted with individually operable halo running light rings.
Inside, the original military-spec NATO interior was removed, and all exposed metal trim refinished in black. Custom hand-cut black carpeting was installed and the seats and door panels were reupholstered in a vintage-style black and gray plaid. A DIN-sized stereo receiver has been installed, with a flip-out screen that provides GPS navigation and is connected to a wireless backup camera that initiates automatically when reverse is selected in the 4-speed automatic transmission. In the rear, split folding bench jump seats can be configured as you wish, providing seating for anything from one to six rear passengers, folded up out of the way for more storage capacity, or removed entirely for maximum load area, making this body style ideal as a beach runabout or adventure truck.
Underneath, the chassis is straight and entirely free of structural rust, with none of the scrapes or dents to the frame rails that would indicate off road use in the past, and all suspension components, bushings and mounting points are healthy and recently serviced.
The result is a marvelous mix of old and new. Classic detailing with modern comfort amenities, in a subtle yet striking color combination, that allows the 230GE to tackle relaxed tarmac driving or serious off road adventures with equal aplomb.
WHAT'S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
What would you expect of a vehicle designed and engineered in Germany by Mercedes-Benz, hand assembled in Austria by the famous Steyr-Daimler-Puch, and subsequently maintained by the Swiss Army? In short, it drives fantastically.
Perhaps most striking is the overall levels of refinement. For anyone accustomed to the rather, errr… “agricultural” nature of vintage 4x4’s, driving a 230GE is a revelation. Firing from a touch of the key and idling quietly with uncanny smoothness, just starting the 2.3L Mercedes engine gives you a sense of what you’re in for. Select drive in the floor-shifting gearbox and you’re off in entirely quiet and refined style. Power is remarkably useable and available, and underway the 230 feels much quicker than something like a 200Tdi-powered Land Rover Defender, and the lack of noise and vibration from the drivetrain, even under full load, is unique and wonderful. It will easily pull up to modern highway speeds and cruise there all day long, and it has enough grunt to overtake slower traffic on secondary roads with relative ease.
Everything else is typical of Mercedes-Benz in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The power steering is light and direct, with no slop or play. The brakes are strong and sure with no noise, vibration or drifting, and will haul the Geländewagen down from any attainable speed without drama. The coil-spring suspension is supple and composed over any road surface, yet packs massive travel for articulating over difficult off-piste terrain, a combination that the G-wagen has always been famous for. It can be driven by anyone, and will happily go get groceries or drop the kids at school, but when asked it can also tackle anything you care to throw at it off road.
And make no mistake, this is a serious off road vehicle. In w461 chassis form the Geländewagen couples the military-specification toughness of the original w460 with the modern drivetrain refinement of the more tarmac-oriented w463, and after driving it for a bit you can see why these were so popular with well-heeled militaries around the globe. Potent and efficient, simple to own and maintain, it is nevertheless nearly unstoppable in difficult conditions off road, and will happily power through, over or around anything you are ever likely to encounter. In a pinch (or for towing with the heavy-duty rear tow hook) low range in the transfer case nearly doubles the available torque to the driven wheels, and a manually-locking center differential is on hand in case you find yourself in over your head.
It’s an astonishingly well-rounded vehicle, the 230GE, and makes for a go-anywhere, do-anything companion that is hard to fault, particular in this specification. Fully serviced, with all mechanicals and electricals working as they should, it is ready for new adventures with an owner who will appreciate it and use it regularly.