The curious history of how some G-Wagens ended up without Mercedes badges

Have you heard of a brand called Puch before?
by Tom Harrison | Apr 18, 2020
PHOTO: TopGear.com

They say you learn something new every day. And today we learned that until the year 1999, if you bought a G-Wagen in Austria, Switzerland, or Eastern Europe, it would not come with a Mercedes-Benz badge. It would be exactly the same car, of course, but where you’d normally find a three-pointed star, you’d instead find the green and white emblem of Puch, an Austrian manufacturing company.

See, Mercedes-Benz didn’t design and develop the mighty G all by itself. The legendary 4x4 was in fact a joint effort, the result of a partnership between Mercedes and Austrian conglomerate Steyr-Daimler-Puch (SDP).

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Puch was already known for its all-terrain military vehicles, the Haflinger and the Pinzgauer. Its chief engineer Erich Ledwinka would lead technical development of the G from 1972, and production would take place at SDP’s facility in Graz, Austria. Today’s G-Class is still built in the very same factory, and by the same company, now called Magna-Steyr.

The contract between the two companies also stipulated that in Austria, Switzerland, Yugoslavia, Mongolia, and Eastern Europe, the G-Wagen would wear a Puch badge rather than a Merc once, because in those countries, the former was well-known.

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That led to curiosities like this thing. The 500GE was the first V8-engined G-Wagen, built for only a couple of years in the early ’90s. Just shy of 500 were made and the vast majority sold in Western Europe, given only three had a Puch badge. RM Sotheby’s has one for sale (pictured)—it’s lovely and, we think, all the cooler for not having a Benz badge. Ought to fetch a fair sum of money when it’s auctioned in June.

We would.

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NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.

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PHOTO: TopGear.com
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