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Supercars On A $50,000 Budget: The Inimitable G-Wagon

This ain't your typical Beverly Hills G-Wagon.

You can argue all you like about the definition of a supercar, but whatever you think, our budget supercar this week is a very special vehicle indeed. It is a car, and we think it is super. A 1985 Mercedes-Benz 290GD Gelandewagon is our focus. Gelandewagon means "off-road vehicle" in German, but you may know it better in the US as the G-Wagon. This 1985 model comes from a time before the G-Wagon cost a fortune and was packed with leather.

In the US, a base G550 has a starting price of $122,400. The G-Wagon is one of the most expensive products that you can buy from Mercedes-Benz because it attracts premier luxury SUV status, rubbing shoulders with the likes of the Range Rover. Just take a trip to Los Angeles and you will see tons of G-Wagons roaming the streets. Unfortunately, most of these are completely misused for their entire lives, because the G-Wagon is actually one of the best off-roading cars in the world. Even if someone could afford to spend six-figures on an SUV to beat it up off-road, most people simply buy the G-Wagon as a status symbol, and we think that is criminal.

That is where our 1985 G-Wagon comes in. It costs less than half the price of a new G-Wagon, so maybe you can afford to go off-roading in it. This 1985 G-Wagon is very different from a 2016 model. Step inside and you won't see any fancy leather seats with massage function. This G-Wagon has cloth seats with good old fashioned manual adjustment. Even the windows are manual. You don't get any fancy infotainment, just a simple radio with a cassette player. Under the hood, this G-Wagon doesn't have some high-tech AMG-tuned V8. It packs a modest 2.9-liter inline-five diesel engine. Even with a turbo, this engine only produced 123 horsepower, this non-turbo model only has 95 hp.

What makes this old G-Wagon even more different from a new one is that it has a five-speed manual transmission and a removable roof, like a Jeep Wrangler. It certainly isn't fast, but it is definitely capable off-road. This 1985 Mercedes-Benz 290GD Gelandewagon is currently for sale at North Shore Autosport in Chicago, Illinois. The car has 46,215 miles on it and the dealership is asking $49,888. We adore the tough-looking green paint, and the car even comes with a winch for off-roading. We especially love how different you would be driving this on US roads. If you turned up in Los Angeles with this G-Wagon (hopefully covered in mud), you would make all of those Angelinos look silly for never taking their G-Wagons to their natural habitats.

This G-Wagon represents everything that Mercedes wanted to keep out of the US in the grey market during the '80s, and now it can be yours. This 290GD is well beyond the 25-year mark to be eligible to be imported into the US. The Chicago dealership even has a few more newer G-Wagons with more powerful engines, although they didn't meet our $50,000 requirement for this segment. Mercedes is basically the main cause for why we can't import cars into the US until they are 25-years old, and this 290GD is a perfect example of why that is.

If you could have bought an old diesel G-Wagon with a convertible roof a few years ago for less than a quarter of the price of a new G-Wagon, why would you give Mercedes-Benz USA the money? We think that the old 290GD is an amazing SUV, one that would be a great collector car in the future.

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