The centre of attention in the centre of Africa
The Unimog is one of Mercedes-Benz’s most rugged machines to date. “It offers top off-road performance, and its extreme manoeuvrability means it can go almost anywhere,” says Christo Kleynhans, Mercedes-Benz trucks product manager.
This robust truck is now set to conquer the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with the epic quest embarked on by Rupert Jooné, manager of operations and HR for Anglo American Exploration Africa. He needed a vehicle for the company’s exploration activities in areas where a journey of less than 300 km can take up to 12 hours.
Jooné was first introduced to the off-road capabilities of the Unimog during his compulsory military service many years ago, which he was reminded of during a customer day hosted by Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles’ Centurion dealership.
Although the team had also considered other vehicles for the transport of camping supplies and geological samples to their base in the DRC, he was most impressed with the Unimog’s reliability and NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme) safety ratings.
“It is an expensive process to collect samples and we cannot afford to run the risk of losing such valuable cargo due to breakdowns or other mechanical problems,” explains Jooné.
Kleynhans adds that the Unimog’s versatility is what gives it the edge and makes it well suited for exploring hostile terrain. The vehicle also lends itself to a range of capabilities and customisation, including the fitment of a crane to off-load and load heavy equipment.
And the quality of diesel in the DRC needn’t be of any concern as the Unimog can operate on any grade of diesel because – its fuel line is fitted with filters to capture any contaminants or pollutants.
Jooné believes in only using genuine parts for the vehicle, which resulted in the team taking along their own stock of Mercedes-Benz replacement parts. “This means that in the inaccessible and remote areas where the Unimog is based, it will only be serviced by qualified Mercedes-Benz technicians, even if that requires flying the technicians to the DRC,” he adds.
Jooné points out that the vehicles will also be operated by trained drivers, as Mercedes-Benz South Africa has prepared the team for the expedition.