Otto, Gunther Holtorf’s 1988 Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagen, is the most well-travelled G-Wagon in the world. Otto and Gunther have been on the road for more than 23 years, and have visited 172 countries and 18 territories – if a territory has its own currency and legal situation, Gunther adds it to his count. All told, Otto has covered around 823 000km, about 200 000km of which has been ugly dirt roads.
It all started when Gunther Holtorf and his late wife decided to travel Africa for a while. The original plan had been to spend a year or two traversing Africa from north to south. They caught a serious case of the travel bug, though, and ended up spending five years in Africa. When that trip eventually ended, they decided to travel South America. They might not have set out to travel the entire globe, but that is what it turned into.
According to Gunther, Otto has hardly needed any work over the last 23 years. The gearbox and transfer case are both original, and have never even been opened. The axles and differentials are also original.Thanks to its impressive performance, Mercedes-Benz have apparently approached Gunther to place otto in a museum once the trip is over. And when will Gunther and Otto finally stop travelling? They are currently busy with the final leg of their journey. The plan is to ship the vehicle to the East, visiting South Korea, Thailand, Singapore and Burma. Burma promises to be a particular challenge, since no foreign vehicles have been allowed into the country for the last 15 years. From Asia, the pair will visit Mauritius and Madagascar, and then come to South Africa. From SA they will travel to Europe, visiting west Africa, since there are a few countries in the region that they have never visited. If all goes according to plan, they’ll be in Europe by August 2013.
And does Gunther hope that people remember him for his incredible journey? No. All he wants is for people to remember Otto. “It’s not me that is special; it’s the car. This car has been in so many countries all around the planet,” says Gunther.