Government Excess: 2011 Freightliner Unimog

Curiously, the Mercedes-derived Unimog seems to pop up every now and again as a piece of government surplus. I say curiously because for years, it seemed as if these diesel-powered brutes were mildly exotic, only appearing for sale when some well-heeled farmer sold off his oddball import. But this particular example is said to be a former government vehicle, up for auction here on the Wisconsin Surplus auctions page where bidding is already cresting $17,000. 

Thanks to Barn Finds reader Don S. for the find. The ‘Mog captured here was supposedly “….re-worked and titled by U.S. government as 2011.” Forgive me if the irony is slapping me in the face here that the same entity which will graphically destroy a vintage Land Rover for the purpose of emphasizing customs enforcement plays fast and loose with title documents of what is effectively a de-commissioned military vehicle from another country. Anyhow, I’ll remove this tin foil hat for a second to break down why this Unimog even exists.

Given the Unimog’s rampant popularity with militaries around the world, companies like U.S.-based Freightliner entered into an agreement to modify Unimog model FLU-419 for military use. The vehicle proved immensely capable, and by 1989, 2,500 of them had been brought into the U.S. via Freightliner for battlefield support. Models like this SEE, or Small Emplacement Excavator, were used in military engagements including Desert Storm in the early 1990s. According to Wikipedia, the SEE life cycle ended in 2005 but the ‘Mogs remained in inventory until 2010.

According to the listing, this Unimog features a Mercedes-Benz six-cylinder diesel, a front 5000 lb. forklift and rear 6000 lb. crane. Also onboard are air disc brakes, pintle hook, air hook up, and auxiliary hydraulic power lines to run hydraulic tools. The body appears quite clean and with only 133 miles and seven hours registered since its rebuild, the Unimog is yet another example of how good our government is at pouring money into something and then getting rid of it. Come to think of it, the government is eerily similar to almost every project car owner I know!

Fast Finds


  1. Bob S

    That has to be the most useful vehicle ever built. Would be great at a wrecking yard.

  2. geomechs geomechs Member

    Pretty hard to stop once it’s in motion. Did a tuneup on one a couple of years ago. The owner brought it over from Europe and used it for several years on the farm. Then he took it off the road and did an exhaustive restoration. Turned out pretty good. Really unfortunate though. He never had a chance to completely enjoy it. Shortly after I took this photo he passed away…

    • glen

      Atleast he got to use it on his farm.

  3. Jay E.

    Capable, but like many multi purpose tools, they don’t do any of the capabilities very well. Low hours reflect this. Painfully slow to drive. I can only imagine what these cost the government, 100K each wouldn’t be of of reach. I drove one of these years ago, it would always be the last tool I would select for the job if the regular one, (like a forklift or backhoe) was available. I do see these quite often in Europe, where tight spaces and multi function are a plus.

    • Alex

      I’ve seen many of them here in Italy….and they were all used on the mountains. Never seen one of them on the street.

  4. JW

    From what I’ve seen in off road magazines they can’t be beat for rugged terrain but for highway use forget it as they are way too slow.

  5. Dave Wright

    The Fed has been selling 50 or so of these a month. Mostly with loaders and backhoes. Starting bids at around 5,000. Many have been going without bids. There was one like this that sold a couple of weeks ago for 3,000. The military has surplused them early because they are so unstable. I think the forklift version is better than the backhoe’s but still not as useable as one with something like a plow or side mower. 17,000 is crazy amateur money to spend on one. There are some on eBay with asking prices like that but they are being sold by guys that have 10,000 in them with shipping and are trying to double there money. I bought one years ago from the BLM in Winnemucca that a novice driver had damaged driving out across the prairie at 35 mph without the plow high enough. He caught a berm and bent the frame like a taco where the plow attached under the cab…… course it ripped the seat belts out and threw him through the windshield. The truck only had a few thousand miles and was quite valueable at the time. We ordered a new frame from Germany and made it look new again. Made a few bucks.

  6. Dave Wright

    Licensing on Federal Government vehicles is via a SF 97, it reflects the date of manufacture so there might be small discrepancies in the year model but not very large or common. When they are sold, they are untitled so the first buyer is listed as the original owner. Nothing nefarious there. If a vehicle goes through a depot rebuild it is documented as a rebuild date not a manufacture date. I suppose our highly competent government employees could make a mistake on the paperwork……..but if properly filled out, the manufacture date should be accurate.

  7. J.Raley

    We have one at the city street dept where I work They picked it up for a lil over $4,000 att the government surplus.It sold new for $91,000 new back in 1990,,has low hours/miles,,we use the forklift from time to time but have never used the crane.

    Like 1
    • Doyle Sumrall

      I am looking to buy a 419 HMMH Please let ,e know if this one is still for sale

  8. Red'sResto

    Just saw two of these for the first time outside a shop in Traverse City. Must be from a similar govt liquidation.

  9. aboyandhisdog Tom Member

    For the 20 years I lived in Vail, this was there go-to vehicle for snow removal. Gets into tight spaces, short wheelbase, great clearance for deep snow. Very stable with the plow down. Put chains on it and it will go anywhere. For the right application, an extremely capable vehicle.

    Like 3
  10. Wm Lawrence

    There were couple versions of these supplied to the US Army for use by the Combat Engineers. All kudos are true, but to be comfortable in one you will need to have one leg amputated. The front wheel takes up almost all of the footwell.

  11. D

    I must be missing something. The vin doesn’t equate to 2011

  12. Wagonmaster

    Technically this is an HMMH (High Mobility Material Handler), a variant of the same UNIMOG that the SEE was based on. These were fielded to mostly Ordinance and Quartermaster companies, for use at forward area re-supply points. These were (are) very capable vehicles, but because the Army had other vehicles in it’s inventory that could perform the same mission, like the RTFL (Rough Terrain Fork Lift) and the LHS (Load Handling System), they tended to be Motor Pool “Queens”. At least the HMMH was a little bit easier to work on, without the scoop-loader up front!

    The UNIMOG is actually a fascinating vehicle, and used to be imported to the US by the Case Equipment Company. There were dozens of special models available, but my favorite was the “Railroad Tractor” model, fitted with front and rear adjustable bogies and a transmission/portal axle combination that had a rated speed of somewhere south of 1 mile-per-hour!

  13. Beeman on Nevis

    A well known Scottish commercial beekeeper uses these to transport his beehives to the Heather moors of Scotland …he has several. They all have “Q” licence plates (registration numbers) meaning their exact year of manufacture is not known. MM takes his beehives to some pretty obscure remote locations which require the kind of off road ability these rugged workhorses can provide.If you just happen to be travelling along the A93 highway up Glenshee in Scotland about 5 early/mid July, you may see a remarkable sight of a bright yellow Unimog, or two, piled high with beehives. Quite a sight believe you me ! Worth a special trip to Scotland to see….if you are a born again enthusiast of Unimogs !

  14. DrinkinGasoline

    In the mid to late 80’s, Cleveland, Oh.’s Div. of Streets purchased about 25 for snow plowing side streets and some were relegated to snow blowing duty at Hopkins Int’l Airport.
    MVM had nightmares over them as replacement parts were slow in coming and expensive, so quite a few sat for periods of time. The city tried to auction them off after only approx. 5 years of service but found that they couldn’t even give them away. Most were cannibalized to keep a few operable and the remains were scrapped.

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