By now you've no doubt seen the all-new-for-2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class. The first complete redesign since the model debuted in 1979, it's a drastic departure from the narrow, solid-axle, rough-and-tumble roots of the Geländewagen.
But what if I told you that you can still buy a brand-new old-school G-Wagen today? Because, depending on where you're located, it may be possible.
A quick G-Wagen history lesson: While the G's sheetmetal has hardly changed over the past 39 years, there are technically three generations of the vehicle. The first, chassis code 460, was built from 1979 to 1990; it's the most bare-bones, rugged, low-powered version of the icon.
In 1990, there was a split. The civilian version of the G got a significant under-the-skin update, modernizing the chassis, adding full-time 4WD and the first V8 engine, and generally moving the upright SUV in the luxury direction we know it for today. The 1990-to-2018 civilian G-Class goes by the chassis code 463. (Mercedes, in a nod to history, kept the 463 chassis code for the fully-redesigned 2019 G-Class.)
That same year, an updated but still bare-bones G was developed for heavy-duty use. Known by the 461 chassis code, this is the version used in military and commercial applications. While the 463 was becoming a fashion icon, with ever-more-opulent interiors and increasingly outrageous AMG drivetrains, the 461 soldiered on doing the serious gruntwork.
And while the old-school 463's run ends in the 2018 model year, there's no end in sight for the 461. "The 461 continues, and we offer that in a number of markets, but only markets that will accept Euro 5 or have a professional application where Euro 5 is acceptable," Ian Hadley James, the Mercedes marketing executive responsible for the G-Class range, told me at the launch of the new civilian 463. "Government use, armed forces, that kind of thing."
Like the civilian 463, the industrial 461's popularity is only growing as the model ages. "We’ve been fascinated in the last few years," James told me. "We’ve seen a growth in the 461 sales as well. It’s becoming more unique, there’s no other vehicle like that out there. And yet there’s still very much a need for that sort of vehicle."
The 461 is offered in the traditional four-door station-wagon body style as well as a chassis-cab configuration, and, James says, a 6x6. While the vast majority of 461 production goes toward commercial use, in certain countries—including Australia, the Middle East, and Germany—you can still buy a brand-new 461-series G-Class "Professional," a bare-bones 4x4 with none of the luxury amenities associated with the 463. (The is shown in these images.)
Like the old 463, and the new, completely-revamped 463, the 461 is built by hand at Magna-Steyr in Graz, Austria. Both the top-of-the-line 2019 Mercedes-AMG G63 and the gnarly old-fashioned G-Class Professional roll off the same assembly line. And barring any drastic shift in the market, that's how it will continue to go. "There’s no plan to stop production," James told me. "Quite the opposite—we’re investing in that [model] as well. We continue to develop it because the market is there."