The Most Adventurous "Mercedes"
By Birgit Johannsen<!, EuroTech Services International, Azalea, Oregon 97410, USA> ©1995-1997
It was 26 years ago, back in 1970, when Jim Ince,<! owner of EuroTech Services International,> first encountered Mercedes-Benz four wheel drive UNIMOGS in the deserts of Afghanistan. He was then operating a medical clinic for Tibetan refugees in the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal, and traveled the 6,000 mile Asian Highway in various Mercedes-Benz trucks once or twice annually, over a period of 10 years. Jim, an American, founded and ran the free clinic for these years with the help of the International Red Cross, The United Nations Children's Fund (UNESCO), Shanta Bhawan Missionary Hospital, and private donations received through a charitable organization he founded in Canada 1973. During this time he did alot of the kind of overland traveling it takes to learn that where other vehicles fail, the all-terrain Mercedes makes it through. Thus, on one of his periodic return trips to his home in the Bavarian Alps south of Munich, Germany, he and his bride-to-be, Birgit, purchased their first UNIMOG, a 1.5 ton all wheel drive "UNIMOG-S" equipped with a special van body. Birgit and Jim prepared and outfitted the go-anywhere motorhome with complete galley and auxillary heating system for the overland journies where self-sufficiency and independence were a must. On the first trip, temperatures dipped to 30 degrees Fahrenheit below zero along the stretch from the Black Sea and Mt. Ararat in eastern Turkey, to the Caspian Sea in northern Iran.
The "MOG" turned out to be just right for the task. Since Jim asked no money for the medical services which focused on Tuberculosis and tropical illnesses, he made UNIMOG sorties throughout the hinterlands of the middle east and Asia on the lookout for collectibles, antiques, carpets and other artifacts which he transported back to the art and antique markets of Europe. With the UNIMOG, he could get to the most remote desert oases, where carpets and other treasures could be found far more reasonably than in the bazaars of Istanbul, Tehran, Kabul and Kathmandu. Indeed, other westerners would often follow Jim and Birgit along their 40-day overland odyssey, especially through the Hindu Kush Mountains and the Margo Desert of Afghanistan, where the MOG's cable winch, tow bar and mud/snow chains were everyone's lifeline, without which all would have had to turn back, or remain stranded. He recalls many scenes with Landrovers, Range Rovers, Toyotas, Jeeps and even a bus in tow behind the MOG through axle-swallowing mud and deep drifts of snow! On one particularly memorable occasion, the MOG led, and at times individually dragged, an evacuation convoy across 800 miles of Iranian desert during the Shah's fall from power, circling the several dozen assorted vehicles at oasis rest and fuel stops.
As history unfolded, the Shah's Peacock Throne crumbled (during one of their trips along the Caspian Sea!) and the communists pulled off their coup in Kabul, essentially closing the Asian Highway (for Americans) just East of Mount Ararat on the high plateau at the Persian frontier. Not to be stopped, Jim headed for India and the East by traveling west, via the States, and with the UNIMOG. There, faced with increased Pacific Ocean freight charges, he sold both the MOG and another of his special-purpose Mercedes trucks, an L-319-D purchased years earlier as the clinic's ambulance in the Himalayas.<! However, the window he then peered through into a potential UNIMOG market was to be remembered a year or so later, as Eurotech Services International unfolded its formative stages>.
<!Wanting to introduce Birgit to his native America, settle down and raise a family, Jim made a move based on intuition and his penchant for adventure, and initially set up "shop" in the hills to the East of the San Francisco Bay. Before long, the first of a long line of UNIMOGs of various types were rolling off the ships in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland. Jim received continued encouragement from Mercedes-Benz UNIMOG export personnel at the factory in Germany and from MBNA's Western Zone Office for commercial vehicles in South San Francisco. But life in the suburbs was still not the answer, so in 1983 Jim and Birgit sought and found a remote 160-acre ranch in southwestern Oregon where they base the company today. Still dear to Jim's heart is the UNIMOG-S, the gasoline-powered "hi-speed" off-road cruiser, for which E.S.I. is still the leading North American specialist. But today, Jim operates the business for the benefit of all users (and prospective users!) of all of the dozens of UNIMOG types, including the new "FUNMOG", as well as other fine Mercedes-Benz products such as light trucks, buses, vans, and the Mercedes-Benz 4-wheel-drive Gelaendewagen, for which EuroTech is also a leading specialist. The family-run business has valuable connections with firms on both sides of the Atlantic, such as snow removal equipment and cable winch manufacturers and makers of UNIMOG-based forestry, emergency and disaster relief vehicles, as well as with two manufacturers of UNIMOG-based mobile workshops, laboratories and delux motorhomes. Aside from regular trips to Germany to liaise with key individuals in UNIMOG circles, and to attend industry expositions, Jim maintains telecommunications with his many colleagues and sources there, offering his North American clients custom services and rapid 3-day trans-atlantic delivery of original equipment Mercedes-Benz replacement parts, as well as implements and parts from a list of manufacturers. EuroTech's parts department is known for its expertise, fast service and for its ability to locate hard-to-find Mercedes parts and accessories in Germany. "The secret", Jim says, "is in knowledgeable appreciation of UNIMOG technical concepts, coupled with hands-on enthusiasm and motivation to serve BOTH the client and the technologies furthered by a very successful Mercedes-Benz multiple-implement program".>
<!Jim figures that being fluent in German and using that ability on behalf of his clientele, coupled with an inveterate dedication to excellence in customer service, has been the key to EuroTech's longevity. To enhance these capacities, EuroTech maintains what he says is probably one of the most complete technical (especially parts) libraries in the Americas on Mercedes commercial and special-purpose vehicles.>
Jim reckons that the UNIMOG has taken him "on some of the most adventurous back country tracks on the planet" and has demonstrated to him "almost unimaginable capabilities" there, and in powering a wide array of implements on their ranch. With "a product of this caliber", he looks to the future with hope and enthusiasm. "After all", he says, "the Mercedes-Benz Star stands for excellence and innovation in engineering, also for industry and commerce. Plus, being the most successful truck manufacturer on the planet, with ready market access, why should anyone settle for less?"
This article was authored by Birgit Johannsen and translated by Jim Ince email@example.com<!, EuroTech Services International, 108 Milarepa Road, Azalea, OR 97410 USA> ©1990-1998, All Rights Reserved. Revised March, 1995.<! Tele. 503-837-3636, Fax 503-837-3737.>
<! "UNIMOG Importers and Specialists Since 1978">