Mercedes 250GD Wolf by EMC Review: Classic G Wagen reincarnated

Mercedes 250GD Wolf by EMC Review: Classic G Wagen reincarnated

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MALIBU, Calif. – The sun is shining, the air is cool, the roof is off and the beltline is low. We’re surrounded in every direction by atypically green mountains in this remote corner of the Santa Monica Mountains. Oh, and the windshield’s down, sealing the deal on the most back-to-basics, horse-like transportation experience possible. Of course, we’re also going 25 miles per hour, which makes things a bit, um, windy.

And if that seems slow, believe me, it really isn’t when there isn’t a windshield in front of you. I really should’ve brought ski goggles. It also isn’t when commanding a Mercedes-Benz 250GD Wolf by Expedition Motor Company, a vehicle that’s equal parts delightful and delightfully slow. You see, this isn’t some over-the-top retromod that stuffs a Corvette crate motor under the hood of some ancient off-roader. Maybe that’s your cup of tea, but it’s not mine, and it’s not Alex Levin’s, either. He would be Expedition Motor Company’s founder, and he’s riding shotgun for this little wind-blasted adventure in Malibu.


Levin explains that the vision for EMC’s G Wagen Wolf is to achieve something that seems more like a restoration than a modification. Owners are seeking a degree of authenticity, both in terms of aesthetics and driving experience. There are upgrades to be sure over what you might’ve found in a civilian G Wagen back in the 1980s, for instance. The paint is better, the upholstery softer, the seats are heated (did I mention it’s chilly with everything off?), suspension components are upgraded, the brakes are way better, and there’s a touchscreen head unit that’ll run CarPlay. There’s one more, but we’ll get to that later. Otherwise, this is not "Pimp My Ride."

Technically, the Wolf is not a restoration, but more of a reincarnation. That’s because all of the 120-150 donor W461 two-door G Wagens EMC has on hand were in fact former military vehicles, most from Germany. Built from 1990 to 1993, all of the donor 250GDs start in various degrees of rough shape, including the not-so-occasional bullet hole. Some builds take 40 hours of metalwork, some will take 200. Nine out of 10 aren’t drivable. All are complete frame-off “restorations” or whatever might be a more appropriate designation.

Levin says it takes 2,200 hours of labor to (re)create a Wolf. Ninety-eight percent of that is done in EMC’s workshop in Poland, with some finishing touches put on at company headquarters in Frenchtown, N.J. There’s also a shop in Hamburg, Germany, specifically dedicated to building the new injection pumps each diesel inline-five gets. There are 24 employees total in those three facilities, including two technicians who worked on the G Wagen’s original assembly line in Austria.

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Click above to see glimpses of the restoration process

Each donor Wolf gets dissasembled down to the frame, and its body is stripped to the bare metal. A corrosion protection treatment is applied, dents are repaired and bullet holes patched. The customer’s preferred paint color, selected from EMC’s curated collection or paint-to-sample, is then applied. As you can see, the Wolf we’re barreling through a canyon au naturel is a perfect shade of Green (that’s literally the color name) accented by crème-colored seats and various black trim details. It looks like the grandfather of today’s G 550 Professional Edition, complete with a wood cargo floor.

The cabin gets new seats, door cards, dashboards and, well, almost everything, as each EMC Wolf did start off life as a rotting hulk in a field. The end result doesn’t look that much different than a real, meticulously preserved, civilian-spec 300GD I drove back in 2019. I had to look at side-by-side pictures to see that EMC’s door cards are much nicer, its climate controls different and the seats covered in a high-quality vinyl that should be easy to clean. The vinyl stitched onto the steering wheel, dash grab handle and shifter boots is a more leather-like material that looks and feels great – it’s also the extent of luxury touches beyond what a civilian G might’ve been like back in the day.