When I sold my company back in 2018 I wanted to treat myself to a 4×4 that I had been thinking about for several years: a white or blue 1995 Land Rover Defender 90 soft top. I knew basically what I was getting myself into as I have owned a Toyota FJ40 for over 20 years. I wanted a Defender with a good engine and a solid frame. I knew the rest of it would likely be rusty but, I could replace it. I was ready to dump $100K into a fully restored Defender of my Dreams.
After reading in on-line forums about the problems people have when owning old Land Rover Defenders, I decided to broaden my search to consider other 4x4s. This is when I found a picture of the Mercedes Benz 250GD. I found a guy in New Jersey who restores both Land Rover Defenders and the Mercedes 250GD. I flew down to visit him to make sure his business was legitimate. He had three 250GD 4x4s for me to test drive. The restoration job they did was very good. Since I could custom order exactly what I wanted, I decided to go with the G Wagon.
The G Wagon sold in the USA is based on the military 250GD or as the German’s call it, the ‘Wolf’. Here is a partial list of some of the things I remember ordered it with:
- Front and rear heated seats
- Rear cup holders
- Wood floor in the rear
- Receiver for towing a trailer
- A two inch lift kit
- Custom upholstery and stitching
- Paint that matched my Toyota FJ40
- A brush bar above the front bumper with a winch
- Double wrapped steering wheel
- Garmin with a backup camera
In six months I had my truck and it was and still is beautiful. After spending two years with the 250 GD and my restored Toyota FJ40, I have become a bit of an authority on the good and bad points of owning an old but restored 4×4. In some ways I liked the 250GD over my FJ40 but, in other ways I didn’t.
Below the Upsides and Downsides of owning an 1992 Mercedes Benz 250GD.
Upside of a Restored Mercedes-Benz 250 GD ‘Wolf’
My 250GD ‘Wolf’ was restored in Europe before it was shipped to me. I was told that it involves a 1000+ man hour restoration that included an engine rebuild, all new paint and a reupholstered interior. It still looks amazing today.
I love the looks of the vehicle and when people approach me to ask questions. Where did you get it? How much did it cost? Does it have a diesel engine? It is definitely an attention getter and most can’t believe that it is a 1992. To modernize the vehicle, I’ve modified the electrical system to try and bring it up to date a bit more on the interior. I added when cab lights when you open the side doors and blue running lights that are on dimmers that stay on when driving at night.
The stock stadium seats make siting in the 2nd row much more pleasurable for passengers. I love that it is a soft top and that I don’t have to find a place to store an unnecessary hard top. The bottom line, I’ve never seen another 250GD on the road. I see occasional Land Rover Defenders and Toyota FJ40s but, never have I driven by another Wolf and I absolutely love that.
Downside of a Restored Mercedes-Benz 250 GD ‘Wolf’
- The diesel engine is only 80 HP which makes it almost dangerous when trying to pull out onto busy roads. You can push the throttle to the floor but, it won’t help. The stock engine in this vehicle is an absolute dog and driving it every day all year long will get frustrating. Putting in a turbo is not possible unless you replace the engine. It will go 75 MPH but, it will take you several minutes to get there and any slight grade on the freeway can slow you down to as low as 50 MPH. On some Maine roads, I have to pull to the right and drop down to 1st or 2nd gear! It is also a high winding engine which can get annoying on a 30 minute drive at 60+ MPH. Turning the radio up doesn’t help with the noise. Sometimes I think about traffic conditions depending on the time of day before I reach for the keys.
Continued in Part 2 of this series.