Assembly several Unimogs for #MBSleepOut in the Black Forest

#MBSleepOut: A bed in the Black Forest.

Mercedes-Benz stages a very special outdoor event.

The great outdoors.

“The sky is important. When you’re lying in bed, you’re looking up at it.” Gunther Holtorf knows what he’s talking about. In 1990 he built a bed into his car and spent the next 26 years on the road. Almost 900,000 kilometres, through 177 countries. On his journeys Holtorf never spent a single night in a hotel. “We couldn’t leave Otto alone,” he explains, laughing. Otto is his Mercedes 300 GD, built in 1988. Practically a member of the family, a Guinness world record holder and probably the most famous off-roader in the world.

Gunther Holtorf in, Otto ', his Mercedes Benz 300 GD on a hill in the Black Forest.
Mercedes Benz 914 wheel truck Mercedes Benz sleepout in the Black Forest

A convoy ready for adventure.

When Mercedes-Benz invited him to the Sleep Out, he was happy to accept. A dozen or so car fans met up for this very special trip into the heart of nature, and a night in a vehicle in the great outdoors. It also marked Otto’s final trip before heading to the Museum. Also present: three bloggers and three colleagues from the press.

Ulrich Dolde from the Motor Presse Stuttgart even brought along his own off-roader: a Mercedes 914 all-wheel-drive truck, which the journalist single-handedly converted into a camper van. Vehicles are provided to the other journalists – there are three Unimogs, an Actros, a Zetros, a Marco Polo and a G-Class to choose from, each model a specialist in its own right and ideally suited for the great outdoors.

Mercedes-Benz Unimog is plowing through the mud on the wheel test track, the Ötigheim gravel pit.

The mud bath awaits.

The meeting point is the gravel pit at Ötigheim, site of the Mercedes-Benz all-wheel-drive test ground. There is a lot of man-made nature and plenty of mud. Steep slopes, excavated watercourses, scree and potholes simulate almost every area of application. Some of the artificial hills have gradients of up to 110 %, which is equivalent to an angle of just under 50 degrees. Then the expedition heads into the Black Forest proper.

A ramble through the hills and a corral.

The actual expedition takes place in the Black Forest. The convoy works its way along the Kinzig valley, heading upwards – and at 280 metres they are in the middle of nowhere. Finally the group finds a spot to camp: on a grassy elevation with a magnificent view. The vehicles form a corral, a camp fire is started and the barbecue gets underway. And, of course, there are stories to tell from around the world: Gunther Holtorf has plenty – at least one from every place on earth.


The others chip in with their experiences, too. Apoorva Prasad, founder of India’s Outdoor Journal, tells stories of climbing in the Himalayas. The much-travelled Katrin Lehr from travelblog viel-unterwegs gets a few tips for her next trips through South America and Africa. There are plenty of things to bear in mind when you’re travelling alone in these areas. When Holtorf tells how patiently he waited for his entry visas to North Korea and Cuba to come through, the group have even more respect for him: After all, Otto was the first car with a foreign licence plate to go to either place.

Overnight in the Mercedes-Benz Unimog in the Black Forest
Wild Horses look past on the Mercedes Benz Sleepout for breakfast the next morning.

A night in a star-branded hotel.

The next morning brings unexpected visitors when a few horses drop by during breakfast. “Waking up to this view of the Black Forest, and now this. It’s bizarre and I love it,” Katrin Lehr comments happily. Now Otto’s final journey, to the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, begins.

But Gunther Holtorf is keen to carry on. He is already working away on a new model, another off-roader he’s assembling from two G-Classes. And it goes without saying that there’s going to be a bed in it. The sky is still important.


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