Now more than ever, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class is a status symbol for the wealthy and affluent. Instead of spotting one on a rocky trail, you'll likely see an ultra-luxe G550 shopping for a spot in the Whole Foods parking lot. Still, though, that doesn't stop Benz from packing its cushy SUV full of off-road tech and capability that rivals any Land Rover you could throw at it.
But what if there was another way to get supreme four-wheeling performance with peerless build quality for less than the cost of a $125,000 Gelandewagen? In that case, you could save yourself at least thirty grand by springing for one of Expedition Motor Company's top-notch builds based on '90s-era Mercedes metal.
Located in Frenchtown, New Jersey, Expedition Motor Co. has mastered the art of taking ex-military duty G-Wagens and transforming them into ultimate adventure rigs. Their projects typically start with Mercedes-Benz 250GD models from 1990-1993, freeing them from their lives of service and giving them purpose-driven makeovers in honor of the G-Class's 40th anniversary. Instead of investing in amenities like massaging seats with Nappa leather, they focus on unmatched fit and finish with millimeter precision.
These trucks, given the nickname "Wolf," sport Benz's venerable five-cylinder OM602 diesel engine that measures 2.5 liters in displacement. Each example's quaint-but-stout power plant is heavily machined and cleaned to ensure exceptional mechanical condition, and new seals, as well as gaskets, are fitted upon reinstallation. Output is sent to a five-speed manual transmission that's right at home with the rest of the Mercs' analog features.
Inside, you'll find a common theme: durable, two-tone vinyl upholstery and rugged materials throughout. This makes the cabin difficult to damage but easy to clean, both of which are especially nice when bustling down dirt roads or sandy terrain. A bespoke dash design is as simplistic as it is handsome with an extremely tough feel that oozes quality, much like the sturdy cloth top that's also weatherproof.
You needn't worry about off-road aptitude as these 250GD Wolf models come from the factory with above-average performance when the going gets rough. BF Goodrich Mud Terrain tires provide the necessary traction and a tall suspension gives ground clearance when traversing rocks or low-water crossings. Should the tide get a little too high, Expedition Motor Co. also fits the trucks with an intake snorkel to pull in fresh air. Four-wheel-drive is, of course, standard with locking differentials.
Each build requires approximately 1,000 man hours to complete, from entirely disassembling and media blasting the frame to hand-fitting every body panel. All this attention to detail results in a baseline price of around $90,000 with the option for more one-off customizations should you turn in your own G-Wagen for Expedition Motor Co.'s VIP treatment. If you've got the scratch, this seems like one of the industry's best bang-for-buck propositions.