Watch Mercedes-Benz Build the Iconic G-Wagen
The Magna Steyr works in Graz, Austria, churns out the coolest luxury tractor ever made.
If an automaker is lucky, it builds one iconic car every generation. When the G-Class hit showroom floors in 1979, Mercedes-Benz created an instant classic: a bionic truck with a bulletproof design (with, often, bulletproof armor) and an irresistible, nearly hormonal appeal in the minds of men around the world. It is the Land Rover Defender meets a tractor meets the Shah of Iran on a muddy, rutted trail in Zimbabwe.
The G-Wagen is the top-selling variant for AMG, the high performance division of Mercedes. It is essentially hand-built at the Magna Steyr factory, in Graz, Austria. That means that all of the pieces, from the chassis to the nav system, are welded, riveted and joined by actual humans over the course of a 40-hour-per-vehicle build. The leather seating and panel coverings are cut and hand-stitched (primarily by women) on a line that runs parallel to the assembly line. The engines—including the 4.0L twin turbo V8 in the G550 and G63 and the V12 in the G65—are manufactured at the AMG HQ in Affalterbach, Germany, (and elsewhere) and installed in Graz.
But Magna is where the action is. The same line that builds the G550 for a dealership in Orange County, California, also builds a custom military-grade variant for, say, the Iranian Army. If a G-Wagen exists anywhere in the world, it was built here.