TWO X 4X4 - EACH 'GO ANYWHERE': India was just one of the 215 countries toured by the 900 000km G-Class and its owner, Guess this was one of the truck roads... Image: Mercedes-Benz
STUTTGART, Germany - One man, one G, one life's work. That sums up the essence of an unprecedented global adventure. When Gunther Holtorf, now 77, and his wife Christine set out in their Mercedes-Benz 300 GD to visit as many countries as possible, the G-Class was already 10 years old.
Tomorrow (Oct 21 2014), 26 years, nearly 900 000km and 215 countries later, Gunther Holtorf will drive his cherished G - christened 'Otto' - back home to Swabia where it will take pride of place in the Classic Cars section of the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim.
'MORE CHARACTERS LIKE THIS?'
As a world-record holder, 'Otto' will not only be immortalised in the Guinness Book of World Records but, since the finish of this unique journey around the world will coincide with the 35th anniversary of the G-Class, the occasion will be marked with the launch of very exclusive G350 BlueTEC Edition 35 and G500 Edition 35 models.
When the vehicle was officially handed over to the museum Dieter Zetsche, management board chairman of Daimler and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, was equally impressed by the driver and the vehicle. He said: "I promise there will still be a G-Class in the future. Will there be more characters of Holtorf's ilk in the future? I hope so.
Details of the G-Class Edition 35
For the Holtorfs the Mercedes-Benz 300 GD is the expedition vehicle par excellence for such a (torturous) tour. "When I bought the car in 1988 I was a bit more sceptical about the promise made by Mercedes-Benz that "where there's a G, there's a way'
"I'd already seen something of the world and had a rough idea of what the vehicle would have to endure on this kind of world tour!"
His initial scepticism gave way to unreserved trust in Otto's capability as the years' literally, rolled by. Especially in precarious situations, the symbiosis between the Holtorfs and the G-Class grew.
The 300 GD was off-road for more than 250 000 of the just less than 900 000km trek - which is why it exists. On gravel or washboard roads, in mud, on pot-holed tar or rocky uphills in mountains - for the suspension and chassis this punishing workout was equivalent to 2.5-million kilometres under normal central European conditions.
In addition to the challenging terrain there were bad weather and other meteorological conditions with which to contend but which 'Otto' took in its stride through all the world's climate zones - from the unforgiving searing heat of deserts to steaming jungle to the freezing cold of the Arctic. As if the demands on the 300 GD were not already high enough, 'Otto' actually always had to contend with overloading.
GALLERY: Mercedes G-Class 900 000km drive
VIDEO: Gunther Holtorf's world-record G-Class trip
VIDEO: Gunther Holtorf's G-Class at Mercedes museum
Including expedition gear and food, with jerry-cans, operating supplies, tools, recovery gear, spare parts and spare wheels, the expedition vehicle tipped the scales at 3.3 tonnes - around 500kg beyond the permissible gross vehicle weight.
The roof alone had to take 400kg. "Actually, the G was always over-loaded," Holtorf said, "which is why I fitted it with reinforced springs and bad-road shock-absorbers. Otherwise, 'Otto' is like any series-production vehicle. The entire drive train - engine, transmission, axles - is still original. Neither the frame nor the body have shown any signs of fatigue."
THE JOURNEY AN END IN ITSELF
By the time the vehicle returned to Stuttgart Holtorf and his ( now-deceased) wife Christine had travelled around 215 countries with Otto. "Travelled around - mind you!", the former pilot and aerospace manager said. "A quick stop with stamped passports and a symbolic photo with the vehicle at the border crossing - that was never enough for us!
"In our eyes, you can only travel through a country once you've delved into the particular hemisphere, come into close contact with the locals and got to know their very many facets."
Once a country had been ticked according to these criteria, another red line was added to the personal world map 'Round-the-World Record Tour 1990-2014." This now definitive world map is criss-crossed by red lines and, in the course of his tour planning, opened a few doors for Gunther and Christine, letting them undertake journeys which until then had been deemed impossible.
Such as through entirely inaccessible countries such as North Korea and Myanmar - or the grand tour through China across 25 000km with only him at the wheel.
NOW, ONE MORE TIME...
Gunther Holtorf calls these journeys "pioneer tours" - the first time a foreign vehicle with a foreign driver had been allowed to drive through a particular country.
Before 'Otto' gets his definitive space in the Mercedes-Benz Museum he's going to be sent out on the road for two years from the end of February 2015 - travelling to Mercedes-Benz Centres and company-owned sales and service outlets in Germany and Europe.
'Otto' will accompany a touring exhibition developed especially for the vehicle which will recall its interesting stopovers and most impressive experiences. The tour is likely to kick off in Munich in February 2015 - details of other dates can be found at the Mercedes global website.
Detailed Information about the "Round-the-World Record Tour 1989-2014" is also available online.
300 GD WORLD-RECORD TOUR AT A GLANCE
Duration: 26 years
Total distance: 897 000km, equivalent to about 22 times around the Earth or Earth - Moon - Earth plus another two times round the Earth
Kilometres off-road: 250 000
Countries visited: 215
Boders crossed: 410 (outside Europe)
Ocean container shipments: 41
Deep-sea ferry passages: 113
Highest point: Base Camp on Mount Everest 5200m above mean sea level
Lowest points: Dead Sea and Death Valley, each about 150m below sea level
Coldest place on the tour: Near Irkutsk, Siberia, -27C
Hottest place on the tour: Australian outback near Alice Springs, +50C
OTHER STATISTICAL DATA
Total time spent driving: Equivalent to 3.5 years
Stops at border posts: About six months
Mercedes-Benz 300 GD
Body: LWD station-wagon, ladder- frame with bolted-on body
Engine: Five-cylinder in-line diesel, Bosch piston fuel-injection
Output: 65kW at 4000rpm, 170Nm at 2400rpm
Transmission/drive: Four-speed manual transmission, all-wheel drive, low range, differential locks front/rear
Kerb weight/payload: 2105kg / 695kg
Expedition weight 'Otto': 3300kg
Top speed: 130km/h