Date registered: Oct 2009
Vehicle: 2015 Rubicon Unlimited (Let the shame be upon me!)
Location: Long Island, NY
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 169 Post(s)
Maintenance wise the 404 no more complicated than an old domestic pickup. Drum brake axles, carbureted 6cyl with overhead cam, an easily converted ignition and the integrated transfer case and transmission.
Honestly with the manual and a working understanding of hand tools you could take it apart and ferry it across a river and reassemble it with an extremely high confidence index for success.
The biggest fear inducer for the lay owner I think is the transmission, scary tales of yellow metal degradation, high speeds melting bearings etc. And yes all of this is true to a degree, it’s also very preventable and corrected.
As a primer, the standard 404 will have a battery shut off on the floor, a main power switch and an ignition switch plus push button for starter.
The three pedals need no introduction. The transmission is a 2+4 shift pattern; 1 and 2 are in the low range and when you move right past the double gate you shift into high range and have access to 3/4 & 5/6. In other words you have a 4 speed in high range and a 2 speed in low range. It’s a torquey engine and you can start is just about any gear you want if it will move. To select reverse you have to go back to the low range side of the pattern. The reverse selector is a forward backward selector allowing you to use 1 or 2 this way or that way. More on this in a moment.
The 4wd & locker selector is fairly straight forward, it will shift on the fly into 4wd, nudge it again and the rear lockers will engage, once more and the fronts and rears. Not advisable on hard surface unless you might be starting a heavy trailer moving and need maximum torque.
For extreme fun you can perform some surgery on the shift logic plate of the transmission and can do a number of fun things: convert to a 4x4 shift pattern, 4 speeds in low and 4 speed in high with selectable high and low range and/or unlock reverse in all gears. The reverse thing is more of a party trick but depending on how you play the pedals it might come in handy.
Common modifications are high compression engine swaps, twin carb swaps, propane swaps all of which have a purpose and place. Additionally it’s not uncommon to see the 4wd selector divorces from locker function and the lockers engaged either via aircraft cable pulls or solenoids of some type.
12v rewires are also desirable if 24v stuff isn’t common or accessible. Also makes add ons more approachable. Your mileage may vary.
The 404 is just about the fastest out of the box unimog and it might also be the quickest. 55mph is possible with a good state of tune and not too heavily loaded. Weight penalty plays a part as does what it was designed to do, low compression heads and a tractor carb mean it can chug along on low quality contaminated gasoline in rough field conditions for as long as you can stand it but this trades off against blasting down the highway at 60. The high compression twin carb model as seen in fire and municipal service can get fussy in back ass nowhere. Such is life.
I would’t call the cab roomy or spacious but depending on your size it may be cozy if spartan. The ride is manageable and suspension can be tuned with new dampers and springs, how far do you want to take it? If you can stand an old full size Jeep truck, a 404 might even seem civilized. The coils and torque tube suspension/chassis flex means it can handle variable terrain surprisingly well and will do better with a load on to aid in flex. Heating and cooling are kinda the same function, how much more additional heat can you stand right now? The pressure tank for the coolant loop in the cab doesn’t help this at all but overall air flow can be great if you open it all up.
You can make it as luxurious or as spartan as you would like and it’s a wonderful clean sheet to build on, even more so if you get the bed you need from the start; troop bed makes a great pickup, radio box makes a great shelter or camper, the fire pump body can make a good working utility body. There was also a larger crew cab type fire body which can be a big camper for one and then a number of specialized fire fighting decks for dry chem or foam etc.