The G-Class-Based Heuliez Intruder Is What Every Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet Wants To Be When It Grows Up

Heuliez Intruder Topshot

Affluent people intent on showing off are very much into unusual G-Wagens. Whether factory-produced efforts like the G550 4×4 Squared or G65, or aftermarket endeavors like the Brabus 700 6×6 or Mansory Viva, custom G-Class SUVs keep getting more and more outrageous. However, none of the efforts I’ve mentioned are quite as absurd as what a French company called Heuliez cooked up in 1996.

Profile In Grass
Photo credit: DK Engineering

Think of Heuliez almost like a French Valmet, a contract manufacturer that helped major automakers produce more specialty vehicles. Valmet had the Saab 900 cabriolet, Heuliez had the Opel Tigra, that sort of thing. However, Heuliez made much, much more interesting stuff than what typically rolled out of Valmet. The Citroen CX Break, Citroen XM Break, and Peugeot 604 Limousine all were made by Heuliez, and that’s before we get to the really crazy stuff.

While Renault 5 Turbos were built by Alpine, the bodyshells themselves were modified by Heuliez. Oh, and that’s not the only bonkers rally homologation special Heuliez had a hand in. To homologate the Peugeot 205 T16 for Group B rallying, Peugeot had to sell 200 roadgoing variants. However, it was Heuliez who built the bodies for these road cars. Oh, and the third bonkers ’80s French hatchback built for rallying, the Citroen BX 4TC? Yeah, Heuliez built the bodies for those as well. Three of the maddest hot hatches of all time, all sharing a common coachbuilder. If that’s what Heuliez could do to sensible cars, what would it do to a Mercedes-Benz G-Class?

Heuliez Intruder Side
Photo credit: DK Engineering

A two-door G320 with a removable roof isn’t a revolutionary concept by any means. Mercedes themselves offered a soft-top Gelandewagen for a period of time, several of which have migrated to sunny, affluent climes like Southern California. However, Heuliez’s vision didn’t look anything like a warmed-over military vehicle, instead adopting a sports car-like body. Heavy on sport, light on utility, most certainly a vehicle. The grille was similar to the one on a CLK, the lamps were straight concept car fancy, and the weird profile slashes were a little bit like the ones on the Porsche Panamericana concept, just without the cut-outs underneath. Think of it as the FILA dino-stomper of cabriolets. A car this jarring to the psyche deserves an equally-imposing name, so it’s only fitting that it’s called the Intruder.

Heuliez Intruder Rear Top Up
Photo credit: DK Engineering

It’s not what I’d call a conventionally-attractive vehicle, but it holds an undeniable amount of whimsy, especially regarding its novel cabriolet top. Keep in mind, the Mercedes-Benz SLK was brand new in 1996, so a power-retractable hardtop was an incredible bit of tech at the time. For a relatively small company to cook one up from scratch in the mid-’90s is rather incredible. What’s more, it looks far better fitted than the top on the Mercedes-Maybach G650 Landaulet.

Heuliez Intruder Interior 2
Photo credit: DK Engineering

On the inside of the Intruder, things don’t get any more normal. The driver and passenger sit in high-back buckets upholstered in blue leather with captain’s chair-style armrests, a gloriously strange mashup. The gauge cluster is in the center of the dashboard for an unencumbered view out, while even the 12-volt socket in the passenger footwell appears garnished in wood. There’s also blue leather on the steering wheel, the steering column, the door cards, and the dashboard. How many Smurfs had to lay down their lives for this interior?

Front In Field
Photo credit: DK Engineering

Of course, once you get your head around the truly unique interior and exterior, everything underneath is a bit common. Power comes from the excellent M104 straight-six and the gearbox is a standard Mercedes automatic unit, so servicing costs shouldn’t be exorbitant. This is a bizarre one-off concept car that actually makes sense to own, which only makes it more unusual. Think of it as a Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet, only much better in every way except seating capacity.

So what became of Heuliez and the Intruder? Well, Italian coachbuilder OPAC riffed off some of the Intruder’s themes to create the Contender XG for Swiss-based Status & Class. That name’s a big hint that this new car had all the elegance of a dumpster fire. As for Heuliez itself, the company ended up folding in 2013, closing its doors for the final time nine years ago today.

Heuliez Intruder Rear
Photo credit: DK Engineering

It’s a shame that Heuliez isn’t still in business, building bizarre G-Class roadsters for the rich and eccentric. While the customer base would be quite small, I’d imagine coachbuilt luxury off-road cabriolets would be a slightly more sustainable business case than cranking out Opel Tigras. However, if you do desire the Heuliez Intruder, DK Engineering in England has it listed for sale at a surprisingly reasonable $190,995. That’s not bad considering a 2022 G63 starts at $179,000 before freight and options. The firm’s actually been trying to shift it for several years, so if you have around $200,000 burning a hole in your pocket and want a weird Geländewagen, ring them up.

Lead photo credit: DK Engineering

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