New Jersey-based Expedition Motor Company is restoring vintage Mercedes-Benz G-Wagens from the early 1990s sourced from the German military and turning them into bespoke convertible SUVs with off-roading capabilities.
Expedition Motor Company founder Alex Levin had an unconventional start to the business: he worked in real estate development before taking the career switch to pursue his side passion project full-time by founding Expedition Motor Company.
Levin claims this passion is what allowed the business to grow smoothly and organically, which was in part aided by the demand of restored G-Wagens. However, he says he still has a “passion for real estate finance” and now does it as a side job.
“This wasn’t something that all of a sudden I had to put all of my life savings into, or all of a sudden I had to mortgage a home or take out a loan and buy and sell and try to make ends meet every month,” Levin told Business Insider. “This was fun, and because it was fun [and] it wasn’t something that ‘make or break this makes or breaks me’, we didn’t cut any corners.”
“With the top on it’s a little inconspicuous, but when the top is off it’s a completely different environment,” Levin said. “In the summertime people are just so drawn to it. There goes a convertible SUV and it’s a Mercedes and a G-Wagen.”
Keep scrolling to see the different conversions:
EMC specialises in one specific G-Wagen: the 250 GD Wolf.
Each vehicle takes nearly 1,100 hours to restore, according to Levin.
The G-Wagens have to undergo extensive repairs because “18 year old military service members [were] driving the crap out of them,” Levin claims.
“If you want this and you want this to be reliable and last you for 20 years, it has to be fully restored, and that’s where Exhibition Motor Company comes in,” Levin said. “So that’s kind of the special sauce.”
However, he tries to stay away from certain kinds of requests, such as putting in a “supercharged” engine or Apple Car play.
“I want to respect the vehicle for what it is,” Levin said. “It’s restored. It’s designed so that a user like me or you could use it.”
Levin claims the restored G-Wagens have a “confidence inspiring drive.”
The company has a contract with the German military to source decommissioned G-Wagens.
After sourcing, each truck goes on a 50-mile test drive.
Then, the first round of inspections take place, including oil pressure tests.
Afterwards, the truck is stripped down to just its frame before it is thoroughly cleaned via water blasting and sanding.
After the cleaning process, an anti-corrosive substance and primer are applied before the vehicle is painted.
By disassembling the truck, the EMC team can ensure that they have examined every part of the vehicle.
The team then disassembles the transmission and engine. Both are rebuilt.
The G-Wagen is then reassembled accordingly before enduring another test drive, this time for 125 miles.
This secondary test brings the G-Wagen on both the highway and off-road.
EMC purchases the parts needed for restoration in bulk, and while it won’t sell any parts, the team will point curious customers “in the right direction.”
However, the restoration company will make some of its own parts if it thinks it can create the needed pieces of high quality.
It takes about three to four months for the G-Wagens to be completed for a custom order.
EMC also has a few builds on hand that are already finished.
The vehicles weigh about 6,504 pounds…
…and are about 175 inches long, 69 inches wide, and 75 inches tall.
“The dream is to have a full pipeline,” Levin said.
This would allow the company to know which customer is buying which vehicle, and when the purchase would be happening, thus taking out some of the guesswork EMC has to do with builds right now.
EMC currently has about 120 unrestored G-Wagens still stored in Europe.
Its main production site is currently in Poland.
EMC currently brings about 24 builds from Europe to the US for restorations annually.
Most of the vehicles end up being sold to customers in the northeast region of the US, Florida, and Texas.
However, EMC recently sold a pack of five G-Wagens to the Emirates.
The inside of the car is waterproof, including the speaker system.
“You take it out on the sand and go fishing, dogs are in the car, it’s utilitarian and fun and sexy at the same time,” Levin said about his vehicles.
Levin claims that most first-time drivers of his restored G-Wagens are surprised by the vehicle’s steering capabilities.
“It’s responsive for a 25-30-year-old vehicle,” Levin said.”They’re expecting something that’s either very tough to turn or is going all over the place like a Land Rover Defender or a Bronco does.”
EMC is headquartered in Frenchtown, New Jersey, about 68 miles from Manhattan and 54 miles from Philadelphia.