Well-maintained ex-military vehicles sold via online auction offer great deals. 

Story Mark Muller   Photos Peter Pap

If you’re in the market for a good second-hand Land Rover, Mercedes Unimog or even a Mack truck, whether for on-farm use or for touring, it’s well worth taking the time to run an eye over what’s on offer from Australian Frontline Machinery (AFM). 

The business won the contract to sell Australian Defence Force (ADF) surplus vehicles six years ago, and has become an increasingly popular – and economical – place for those in the market for ex-military equipment.

AFM’s Emma Anderson says they clear dozens of 4WDs and trucks every month. “Land Rovers have been our bread and butter for the past five years,” Emma says. “We get around 20 Land Rovers per month, probably 15 Unimogs and about 12 Macks. Because it’s sold via auction, the market dictates the price – there’s no reserve.”

The Land Rovers are all variations on the Perentie models built specifically for the ADF and are based on the 110 series. These Landies were part-manufactured and assembled at Moorebank, NSW, during the late-1980s and 1990s. Among the modifications, they are powered by a 3.9-litre four-cylinder Isuzu diesel engine, generally run dual battery systems and have all been subject to military maintenance protocols. 

The Mercedes Unimogs, also assembled in Australia specifically for the ADF, were brought into service in 1986. They have a well-deserved reputation as a rugged, go-anywhere 4x4 truck, and are used by military and emergency services throughout the world. 

The Unimog chassis consists of a flexible ladder frame, has short overhangs and double-coil sprung portal axles – which means the wheels’ centres are below the axles’ centre. This gives the truck a 470-millimetre ground clearance, and helps with its remarkable agility. The six-cylinder inline Mercedes diesel engine will deliver 560Nm of torque at 1400–1700 rpm, and is married to a manual transmission with eight forward and eight reverse gears. You get the picture ...

Emma says that the Land Rovers tend to go for between $8000 and $25,000, depending on the specs and demand. Unimogs will clear at between $20,000 and $50,000 and historically, a Mack R 6x6 cargo truck will also land in that $20-50,000 price bracket.

Warehouse manager Alex Doyle says all vehicles are serviced and ‘de-militarised’ prior to being put up for auction. “We have eight mechanics working fulltime to bring the vehicles to roadworthy standard,” she says. “They’re all sold with a roadworthy certificate, full service records and log books.” 

AFM has the exclusive contract to auction the ADF materiel, and makes a commission on sales. The auctions themselves are conducted through GraysOnline, which ensures transparency and makes the items on sale available to the widest possible audience. 

AFM general manager Colin Werner says the auctions have been increasingly popular in the six years since AFM won the defence contract. “We’ve been selling ex-military vehicles including Land Rover’s 4x4 and 6x6, Unimogs, Mack trucks, forklifts, trailers, motorcycles and ATVs for more than five years now, and the interest from the public has been huge,” Colin says. “These vehicles have been built to military standards and are designed to handle the most challenging conditions imaginable – perfect for off-road use, whether it’s farming, commercial or just for fun.”

Auctions go live on the second Thursday of every month, and items are carried out over a seven-day period. Once the auction closes, the highest bidder gets the goods. 

If you’re interested, the first thing to do is check what’s available, and when, online. All vehicles are stored at a range of sites, with the largest being in Minto, NSW. Prospective buyers are encouraged to inspect the vehicles prior to bidding. Inspections occur only during the auction period. After that, you can bid on your vehicle, and – if you’re the top bidder – arrange to collect your purchase.  

Experienced independent truck and motor mechanic Vince Scuderi joined OUTBACK to inspect the vehicles onsite at ADF’s Minto showroom prior to the January 2019 auction. “From what I’ve seen, it’s fair to say that these Land Rovers and trucks are in a used but good condition,” Vince says. “Obviously it’s going to change from vehicle to vehicle, but I’m very impressed by the work that they’ve done to make them roadworthy, and if the prices are right, then there are real bargains to be had. The fact that you can also bid for spare parts is a bonus.” 

This story excerpt is from Issue #123

Outback Magazine: February/March 2019