Bimobil EX480 Mercedes Atego 1023

dylanmitchell

New member
Where does the Mercedes Atego 1023 bimobil EX 435 sit in terms of overland capability? Positioned well above a Sprinter 4x4 EX 366 but looks more road focused the Mercedes Unimog 4023 EX 435. Bimobil is starting to overlap with Unicat.
EX 435 looks like a good overland tour option inculding long sections of pavement. In the US we're limited to the various Mercedes Sprinter campers, the HD pick up truck based builds Nimbl/ XP camper, or Acela Montera FMTV.
 

arvsk

New member
Where does the Mercedes Atego 1023 bimobil EX 435 sit in terms of overland capability? Positioned well above a Sprinter 4x4 EX 366 but looks more road focused the Mercedes Unimog 4023 EX 435. Bimobil is starting to overlap with Unicat.
EX 435 looks like a good overland tour option inculding long sections of pavement. In the US we're limited to the various Mercedes Sprinter campers, the HD pick up truck based builds Nimbl/ XP camper, or Acela Montera FMTV.
Instead of listening to unqualified people who have never owned or driven one, I would highly recommend that you direct your question to someone who has actually owned this exact vehicle. 'liveandgive4x4' on instagram owned an EX480 for many years before switching to a bigger Krug expedition unit after the arrival of a child. I am sure they would be happy to answer all your questions. I have personally toured this model on several Abenteuer Allrad exhibitions over the years. They are incredibly well built trucks.
 
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Instead of listening to unqualified people who have never owned or driven one, I would highly recommend that you direct your question to someone who has actually owned this exact vehicle.
I believe DiploStrat owns a Mercedes 917 or 1017 with a camper box, which is the immediate predecessor of the Atego 1023.
So he’s far from “unqualified”.
We’re all happy Krug is still in business in Cherkassy, never have personally inspected on of their campers.
Re Unicat, I have extensive personal experience. I’m subjective, but IMHO nobody comes close to their experience in successfully building a wide variety of campers on a wide variety of chassis.
 
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DiploStrat

Expedition Leader
For the record, there a quite a few folks lurking around this forum who have long, overland experience with beasts like these. Most have been very happy, but most would agree with me on the limitations.

-- Owned a 1990 MB 917 AF with a fiberglass/foam composite camper since 2017. It has made many long trips in North America and is booked for shipping to Europe next year. We will also do Morocco. After half a lifetime in sub saharan Africa, we have no plans to go much further south.

-- Personally toured Stephen Stewart's Bimobil. (http://www.xor.org.uk/campervan/index.html) Happen to think that the Bimobil in question is one of the nicest looking campers around. Would have jumped on one if US specs were available.

-- Have a good internet "friend" who has a home brew, similar, but better than my truck: https://vermonsterrv.com/ We exchange notes regularly.

-- These cats can give you chapter and verse: https://www.ln2-forum.de/

The real issue is your intended use.

-- The LN2 is a medium duty vehicle intended for mostly urban service. As such many (like my 170 hp model) are relatively underpowered and may also be actively governed to around 60 mph. As a commercial vehicle, the cab can be noisy. You can, of course, install sound deadening.

-- While much simpler and more reliable (?) than the Unimog, the suspension tends to be stiff and optimized for paved roads. Parabolic springs and upgraded shocks are available.

-- When converted to single rear wheels you may end up with very stiff tires, depending on the wheels available. (This can be less of an issue with the ten lug wheels.)

-- All of this makes our 917 stiff riding on dirt and broken asphalt. Lowering the tire pressure helps, a lot. The highway ride is actually very good - we have hard mounted racing seats and have never felt the need for the more common suspension seats.

Finally, all of these beasts run heavy - sticking one in a pan or playa will be a nightmare.

Really comes down to your intended use. Would not be my first choice for a highway cruiser. But with a diesel that can burn anything, a very reasonable both-ways-round-the-world truck. At our age, we are looking at things that are better highway cruisers.

If you want to drive one, give me a shout! You can decide for yourself. ;)
 
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JonValentine

New member
Dylan, my two-penneth:

Firstly, Bimobil is an excellent company building good quality trucks. They don't do bling or gizmos, but if you search "German Television" on YouTube, Sven Herzog has many videos on (static, at shows) Bimobils, which feature interviews the company CEO, who seems refreshingly honest, not full of BS. You can use the subtitle/translate function.

Everyone I have met with a Bimobil, on whatever chassis, has said great things about their bodies. Bimobil's most innovative feature is a spice rack (and the big window thing), but in real life most of the "features" people coo and ooooh about on their ultimate builds are unnecessary crap. For instance, a bank of LED spotlights, turning night into day, can be: a) unusable on the road, b) unnecessary if you simply drive in daylight rather than at night. Why on earth would you choose to drive, especially offroad, at night?

Similarly, "offroad capability" is just a nonsense in many cases. I have a Unimog 435, and a lot of people say "ohhh, can go anywhere, blah"... but, no, it can't, mainly because the limit is *ME* sitting in the driver's seat. In practice, if you live in one of these trucks you drive slowly, you take care and don't drive to extremes. It's my home. I use the 4x4, but I've never used the full axle diff locks setting. My brain stops me before then.

I used to fly small aircraft, and the feeling I get of being the weakest link in the chain is very similar... it is my own skill and experience that is the problem, not the truck (or the plane). So I often let discretion be the better part of valour and I turn the truck around or stop. For instance, I am sitting in the Unimog on the edge of a lovely beach in southern Italy (as I type this), but note I am on the *edge* of the beach, not actually *on* the beach. It makes no difference if I am in a Unimog, an Atego or a Sprinter or a 4x4 Fiat Panda... whatever... this is where my brain says "don't be daft, stop here you idiot, unless you enjoy digging".

IMG_20221102_161835132_HDR.jpg

The Merc Atego is an excellent truck with simple design and very strong reliability, (they survive ultimate abuse by local council and utility drivers over millions of miles) and I often find myself longing for a "normal" mid-truck chassis like this. Everything in life is a compromise, and the Atego seems to do that compromise very well. Size of a truck is often the limiting factor, not ultimate extreme off-road capability, and the Unimog is similar size to an Atego but is compromised by weight loading limits, while the Atego usually gives you far more flexibility in load carrying capability, plus simplicity. Going for a larger truck than an Atego (eg an Arocs) will bring its own new limitations, and while 300+ bhp and a more glamorous cab and chassis with giant tyres and a big wide and tall cabin sounds great, there are as many disadvantages as advantages in doing that (not least is the expense).

The Atego is a compact, simple and stable platform and I have never heard any complaints about the chassis. Support from Mercedes is available in virtually every town/city, and every independent truck garage is familiar with the Atego, and servicing and repair and parts availability (genuine and non-genuine Mercedes) is easy and often cheap.

Of course Ategos are slow in absolute terms, but I always see Ategos keeping up with every other vehicle, and in most of Europe you have an 80kph (50mph) limit on normal roads, anyhow. Municipal Ategos get absolutely hammered day in, day out, and they survive perfectly well. I often drive my Unimog at 70-75kph where the roads are free and open, and am constantly overtaken by refuse-body Ategos (with smaller 140 bhp 4-cyl engines), who seem to fly past, uphill and down dale.

One advantage of driving slowly is that you can safely lower your tyre pressures on the road, without danger, so that solves any harsh ride issues, easily and cheaply. I can use 3 bar on the Unimog with no danger of tyre overheating on tarmac, if I stick to sub-80kph. Comfy, grippy, easy and pleasant and I can get effective grip/comfort off road at those same pressures, saving all the faff of airing up/down constantly.

Just choose your own compromise.

I wouldn't hesitate to buy an Atego. In fact, I would buy the smallest and simplest and lowest power manual 4x4 version I could find (rather than the biggest and best version). For instance, 335/80R20 or 12.5 inch tyres are entirely adequate for this truck. Bigger, heavier tyres? No thanks.

Just my opinions. Good luck!
 

dylanmitchell

New member
Very helpful info. Our build would be tailored toward long sections of paved and improved roads. Will be Germany next year visiting friends and see if we can fit in a visit to Bi Mobil. Winkler shows the smaller EX366 Sprinter for rent but no larger builds. Will be spending more time in Europe after retirement and considering a move to Seville to be closer to wife's aging parents.
US builds are usually the F350/ F450/ F550 and smaller van based builds. We did look at a used 2006 International 7400 DT570 4x4 a few years ago and considered a U500 or Acela Montera FMTV build.
No reduced speeds for two axle vehicles in US. California does limit speeds for towing and vehicles with three or more axles. Under 26,000 pounds there's no special license requirement. 90 kph or 55 mph would be very slow here and had hours to the trip.
 

DiploStrat

Expedition Leader
... 90 kph or 55 mph would be very slow here and had hours to the trip.
See my original comment. This has certainly been our experience.

If you are looking at Europe, then lower speed limit (not that I have seen it respected) and the shorter distances might make this less of an issue.

But all of this is moot if you want a US registered vehicle. Visiting Bimobil, and Unicat while you are at it, is an excellent idea.

And do lurk at the LN2 site a bit. Lots of home builders and ex-MB mechanics posting. Tons of interesting info.
 

JonValentine

New member
The EX366 is a completely fine vehicle (on a Sprinter or Iveco possibly, or even on a short WB truck chassis - would fit nicely on the Unimog for instance), and has advantages for being smaller and lighter than most. Like I say, every choice is a compromise. You still have a seat available, when the bed is extended in the EX366, so is fine for 2 people. It still has a spice rack. Rent it and give it a go. Will be limited payload on a Sprinter, though, I guess.

Everyone has long sections of paved roads to travel, it's rare that anyone spends a day off-roading, in my experience... usually just the first/last 500 metres or so.

Maybe it's just me, but I enjoy going slowly, exploring different places as I go, staying overnight (or for days) when I find somewhere lovely. Nice. Travelling gently is rather pleasant, chugging along is less stressful and more relaxing. Throw in some curves and 75kph seems VERY fast in the Unimog. On a highway, just chill and relax, turn up the radio. If you want a fast point-to-point vehicle, don't choose an overland truck. You'll wear it out prematurely driving at speed on highways, and you certainly don't want to drive these things maxxed out. You are forcing a massive brick-shape through the air. Fast is totally inefficient. Gently does it, smell the roses :)

If you have a time issue, that's what you need to work on fixing, really. Escape the time trap.

Just my opinion...
 

DiploStrat

Expedition Leader
You can hear a radio in an LN2? :ROFLMAO:

"The Atego is a compact, simple and stable platform and I have never heard any complaints about the chassis. Support from Mercedes is available in virtually every town/city, and every independent truck garage is familiar with the Atego, and servicing and repair and parts availability (genuine and non-genuine Mercedes) is easy and often cheap."

Agreed. Except in the United States. These beasts were never imported. Mercedes dealers will not look at them. Worse, they will not even look up parts numbers. So if you want to run one of these you will have to:

-- Order parts from Europe. Not that hard, but there are several dealers who will not ship to the US.
-- Plug into the small number of mechanics who will work on it, and,

-- Learn to do a lot of things yourself. You may need to buy an EPIC to find part numbers.

None of this is impossible (drove a Chevrolet in Africa for years), but all should be considered if you want own an LN2 in the US. They are not the same as buying a mass market RV.

Final thought on speed. Speed is not a big issue if you are traveling full time 'round the world both ways. It can be a huge issue for "short" trips in the US were you can easily be 1-2,000 km from the place you want to visit. (You would not believe how big Kansas can be. :eek:)
 

JonValentine

New member
Speed is not a big issue if you are traveling full time 'round the world both ways. It can be a huge issue for "short" trips in the US were you can easily be 1-2,000 km from the place you want to visit.
Fair point. Which is why I suggested escaping the "time" trap. Creating a very tight time schedule and then driving like hell to meet it, is the problem. Try visiting more local places, or find a way to buy yourself more time for the journey, it's far more pleasant (and cheaper as a nice by-product) that way. Not easy, but entirely do-able.
 

JonValentine

New member
Agreed. Except in the United States. These beasts were never imported. Mercedes dealers will not look at them. Worse, they will not even look up parts numbers.
Then if that's an issue, don't look at the Atego (Dylan). ... find something locally. 95% of the time, a 2wd truck will be entirely fine. What cab-forward chassis does the USA use for local garbage trucks/dump trucks? Use one of those... or maybe an Isuzu or Fuso 4x4? Here's a rather nice Fuso I just found on Ebay USA: https://www.ebay.com/itm/354361999096?hash=item52819efef8:g:SY4AAOSw3RZjTXWH
 

DiploStrat

Expedition Leader
Fair point. Which is why I suggested escaping the "time" trap. Creating a very tight time schedule and then driving like hell to meet it, is the problem. Try visiting more local places, or find a way to buy yourself more time for the journey, it's far more pleasant (and cheaper as a nice by-product) that way. Not easy, but entirely do-able.
Agree completely. but do remember that even "short" distances in the US can be stupidly long. My daughter is a quick 350 miles and my son is only 1600 miles. ;)

But, if you are talking about a serious, multi-month trip, you are absolutely correct. It is much, much nicer to limit the number of "transit" stages and spend more time enjoying wherever you are.

An interesting alternative for realistic US touring, while still retaining good boondocking/wild camping capability is the AEON RV: https://aeonrv.com/

No low range, etc., but more than enough for most of the roads one is likely to travel. And if you want to go "Jeeping," then get a Jeep or small LandCruiser. The bigger trucks are made for long term travel, not trail running.
 

sg1

Adventurer
Atego is certainly a reliable workhorse but it is European and cannot be imported. In Europe Mercedes ( brands: Fuso, Sprinter, Mercedes ) Volkswagen (brands: MAN, Scania, Crafter) and Iveco are all producing similar vans and trucks from 3500kg to 40,000 kg GVW for every conceivable niche market. None of these vehicles can be imported. In Europe any vehicle above 3500 kg GVW is subject to a speed limit of usually 80 kph (in some cases 100kph). They are not designed or geared for significantly higher speeds.
Bimobil is a reputable builder. They have been around for a long time. In Europe there are at least 10 other builders with a similar reputation.
Using a medium duty or even heavy duty truck for travel in Europe has a lot of disadvantages. Europe´s roads are often narrow and it is rarely possible to go offroad. Diesel is expensive and road taxes for trucks a significant. To get a big offroad truck for traveling in Europe is an emotional decision not a rational one.
 
It’s not clear where you live and where you intend to use the vehicle. I live in a sparsely populated area of North America but have traveled extensively including across Canada, across the lower 48 once, again through the western states doing geology field work, Baja, but also all over Australia and to Mongolia and back. Also when we first picked it up (new) from Unicat they suggested an escorted trip to Morocco and back.
I agree that travel in western and central Europe with a medium truck based camper isn’t easy. Elsewhere it hasn’t been a problem.
Due to the world geopolitical situation, if you’re from a NATO or EU country (even Helvetia!) we’re all limited in vehicles to the Americas, Australia, and as much of sub Saharan Africa as we dare (I am probably headed to the SACU next year after a stop at Unicat in Germany, unless the world situation worsens).
If you’re from Europe and do NOT plan to venture further, get something smaller, like an Iveco Daily or Sprinter chassis. If the latter, if you want a more competent chassis, blow €60-90k on Iglhaut. I’d like to see a story on an Iglhaut Sprinter doing something like the Canning Stock Route.
And if you live in Europe, don’t even think about having a US built camper. IMHO the Europeans are better at it.
There’s a MAN 6x6 with a Unicat with lifting roof parked at my house for the winter. Something like a 26.550. It’s too big, too hard to maneuver, probably 3-400mm taller.
If offered an even trade for mine (both built in 2006, but 3x the price when new) I wouldn’t take it.
 

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