The Mercedes-Benz Unimog has built its 70-year reputation on being an unstoppable workhorse and off-road vehicle, and it can now add something new to its resume: world-record holder. A pair of Unimogs -- U 5023 models, to be specific -- were part of an expedition that climbed the Ojos del Salado volcano in Chile, setting the world record for a wheeled vehicle driving at altitude.
That altitude was 6,694 meters, to be specific, or 21,962 feet. That is freakin' high up. In fact, Ojos del Salado is the tallest active volcano on the planet at 6,893 meters, and it's also the second-tallest mountain in both the Southern and Western Hemispheres. And here I am feeling queasy when I look out the windows of a 20-story building.
Setting the record wasn't the main reason for the journey, though, it was just a bonus. The 'Mogs were the support trucks for a 10-person team led by Matthias Jeschke, the owner of a company called Extrem Events. The goal was to install four emergency radios at high-altitude camps on the volcano, which will be able to connect to three other base camps on the volcano. The fourth radio was placed at 6,100 meters, so why just not keep going?
Jeschke previously set the world record for trucks at altitude with a Mercedes Zetros on the volcano in 2014, hitting 6,675 meters. So with this expedition he was able to break his own record -- the truck record -- but also set the absolute world record for all vehicles. The record for highest altitude by car was was set in 2007 by a modified 1986 Suzuki Samurai that hit 6,688 meters, also on the same volcano.
They weren't ordinary Unimogs, either. Each one got big winches, giant off-road tires and custom bodies with "variable center of gravity balancing" that was developed by Unimog engineers, coachbuilding company AS Soder and specialists from the Unimog museum (I need to go there). The trucks had to be able to carry not only the 10 expeditioners but also all their gear, and the trip served as a test bed for future rescue operations.
To see one of the Unimogs actually hit the record-setting altitude check out the video above. Jeschke's company has also been releasing videos from the journey, which you can watch below.