A few pieces of cheatery-fudgery, then. The three very short roads in question have been closed, so they are not open ‘public’ highway. One section is closed for a ‘procession’, which feels slightly immodest when led by a piper. The second section is closed for a regularity rally, with a 17mph target average speed (a contest your correspondent wins, you’ll be reassured to know), and the final road is shut so that the farmer can drive her sheep along the road between fields, using a few border collies – and a Mercedes 4x4.
It is, I will not lie, a magnificent journey of breathtaking scenery and challenging terrain. However, that is presumably of no comfort to you at all, given that you cannot do the same journey unless you’re on foot and, even then, soon enough, you’ll have to be on the lookout for wolves. Judith Chalmers never admitted that doing these things is rather more fun than hearing about it, but I’m prepared to accept it. Of more relevance to you, then, is the vehicle we’re doing it in.
And that definitely is cheating. No crossover or lightweight off-roader for us. The car we’re going to do it in is a Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Since the death of the Land Rover Defender, I reckon there are only two of these ‘original old-school’ off-roaders left on sale: the Jeep Wrangler and the G-Class (although there’s an argument for the Lada Niva, too). No, of course I don’t have a scientific or technological basis for my argument. It’s just how it feels to me. All other cars have had vast step changes during their lives. Things like the G-Class, the Wrangler, a Morgan and a Caterham are different. Even if the modern G-Class shares no more with its first predecessor than, say, a Toyota Land Cruiser does, I’m sticking with my instinct.
The G-Class’s predecessors, then. The G-Class was born in 1979 as the G-Wagen, or Geländewagen, which translates into English as ‘cross-country vehicle’. Then, as now, it had a separate ladder-frame chassis and is a serious off-roader. It has done agriculture, but never in the same fashion as a Land Rover. It wasn’t just a tractor unit with various bolt-on bodystyles, although it was versatile. Just a year into its life, the pope had a converted one.
Then, as now, it was built in Graz, Austria, at what was the Steyr-Daimler-Puch factory. There have been facelifts, but although people are starting to use the words ‘legendary’ and ‘iconic’, when it comes to it, there are two things to note. First is that, in the scheme of things, it has been a relatively slow burn. Only 250,000 have been built in its history, and 2016 was its record production year, with more than 20,000 being made for the first time.
Second is that there is seemingly no end to it. The G-Class is a niche product by Mercedes sales volumes but, even so, they like it and plan a future for it. As well they might, given that the base price for a 3.0-litre V6 diesel G350d in the UK is £88,800 before options. At that price – or the considerably greater amount that a lot of regions will spend on uprated G350ds and AMG models – it’s business well worth having. Still, around 180 G-Classes find homes every year in the UK, with 60% of them being AMGs.