Author Topic: 30 and 40 years ago: Top models of the Mercedes-Benz MB-trac series  (Read 3652 times)

Offline fasteddy

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The 132 kW (180 hp) Mercedes-Benz MB-trac 1800 intercooler was presented at the Nordagrar trade fair, which took place from 13 to 17 June 1990 in Hanover. This new top-of-the-range model marked the end of development of the legendary system tractor made by the famous Stuttgart brand 30 years ago. The MB-trac 1800 intercooler was based on the MB-trac 1600 turbo with an output of 115 kW (156 hp), which had been built since 1987. It was, in particular, the technical configuration of the 6-litre OM 366 LA six-cylinder engine with its intercooler that provided the additional power that made the 1800 intercooler a force to be reckoned with among the agricultural tractors of its time.

Ten years before the premiere of the 1800 intercooler, Mercedes-Benz had launched the MB-trac 1500 as the top-of-the-range tractor model with the star at the time. That model made its debut 40 years ago at the DLG exhibition in Hanover from 12 to 18 September 1980. Its six-cylinder OM 352 H engine produced 110 kW (150 hp). The Mercedes-Benz press information of the time enthused: “This tractor has enough power to pull through even when the going gets tough, for instance when ploughing in spots with heavy or wet soil or when working on inclines. Interruptions in tractive power due to gear changes are largely avoided. The closely stepped gearing with 12 forward and 12 reverse gears allows the speed to be matched to the work process very accurately.”

The many-facetted cousin of the Unimog

The MB-trac 1500 and 1800 intercooler models belonged to the heavy-duty class (model series 442 and 443) of Mercedes-Benz system tractors that were introduced in 1976. There were also models in the light category (since 1972, series 440) and medium category (since 1982, series 441). In this way, in 1987 the completely revised MB-trac range comprised eight models ranging from the MB-trac 700 (50 kW/68 hp) to the 1600 turbo (115 kW/156 hp), which covered a very wide spectrum of applications in agriculture and municipal services, but were also successful in forestry and construction. With this range of applications, the MB-trac complemented the successful Unimog models, with which it was technically closely related. While the Unimog was able to impress farmers with its excellent off-road capability and high transport speeds on the road, the tractor offered greater performance as an attachment carrier and towing vehicle in the field.

Many farmers have known and appreciated the Unimog as a versatile helper since 1949. In 1972, the MB-trac transferred the strengths of the Unimog to the area of dedicated agricultural tractors. In contrast to conventional tractors of its time, it offered four-wheel drive as a standard feature, four equally sized wheels, a central driver’s cab, powerful control hydraulics at the rear and front, and three attachment areas (front, body and rear) for attachments of all kinds. Instead of the usual block design, the MB-trac had a robust ladder-type frame. The suspension-supported front axle and the well equipped cabin, also with suspension, provided a high level of comfort. The rigid rear axle provided stability even for heavy work in the field.

The MB-trac and Unimog models were not only related by the use of numerous carry-over components, they were also assembled on the same conveyor belt in the Gaggenau plant at that time. In many businesses, from large farms and contractor enterprises to construction companies, they were often used to complement each other. This had advantages in terms of servicing, for example, as a Mercedes-Benz press release on “Economical construction machinery” from 1980 emphasised. It read: “The extensively uniform use of Unimog and MB-trac assemblies results in optimum servicing and repairs in our close-meshed customer service and repair network”.

Continuous innovation

The history of the innovative tractor began in 1967. Under the direction of Gustav Krettenauer, the MB-trac, which was technically closely related to the Unimog, was developed at the Daimler-Benz plant in Gaggenau. In 1972, the prototype of the MB-trac 65/70 was the first model to make its debut at the DLG exhibition in Hanover. Customers were impressed by the concept of the tractor as a particularly versatile working machine, also suitable for large farms, and the high level of comfort. Around 350 orders were placed before the trade fair came to an end.

Mercedes-Benz continuously developed the MB-trac during the production period, which lasted almost 20 years. To this end, endurance tests in live working scenarios were carried out in 1979 in cooperation with farmers from the Boxberg area of Baden. The tractor remained true to a number of important basic principles across all series, power ranges and development stages: the deadweight of the MB-trac was distributed so that the front axle carried about 60 per cent and the rear axle about 40 per cent, for example. When fitted with heavy attachments at the rear or when ploughing, this ensured almost perfect balance with a load on each axle of around 50 per cent.

The tractor was able to demonstrate this advantage in convincing situations – the seat, steering wheel, instruments and pedals could be rotated by more than 180 degrees in the cab. This meant that the MB-trac was also fully operational in the opposite direction of motion with the rigid rear axle now in front. Trac-Technic-Vertriebsgesellschaft, which was founded in 1987 by the then Daimler-Benz AG together with Klöckner-Humboldt-Deutz (KHD), presented these benefits in an advertising film in 1990 using the MB-trac 1800 intercooler as an example. It read: “In combination with the fully synchronised reversing gearbox and the unsurpassed swivel seat, the MB-trac is an economical self-drive alternative”.

MB-trac 1800 intercooler “Black Edition” in the museum

The last of 190 MB-trac 1800 intercoolers built as the “Black Edition” version with the special black metallic paint finish is now part of the permanent exhibition of the Unimog Museum in Gaggenau. This vehicle, loaned by Daimler AG, has been on display together with an early MB-trac since the opening of the museum in 2006. The Unimog Museum is currently showing the special exhibition “The Unimog in the mountains”.

In total, only 190 units of the super tractor of this era were produced before MB-trac production ceased in December 1991. This makes the 1800 intercooler a much sought-after classic in the highly active tractor collector scene today. Anyone who has not already got one can pick one up at the Unimog Museum. Not only can visitors to Gaggenau experience the MB-trac 1800 intercooler in the exhibition, they can also buy one – as a 1:32 scale model.


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