Not a Toyota Land Cruiser or a Land Rover nor any other SUV. Instead, former Lufthansa and Hapag-Lloyd executive Gunther Holfort chose a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen to bring him and his wife Christine to Africa from their home in Germany. Initially, the trip was to take 18 months, but the couple found the trip so enjoyable that they continued their trip— for the next 23 years!
Bought new in 1988, the 300GD model that Gunther and his wife traversed the world with has accumulated more than 800,000 kilometers.When there was no way to drive where they wanted to go, they had it shipped. In a testament to the ruggedness of the vehicle and Mercedes’ vaunted reliability, the G has not had a major breakdown. They only periodically replaced parts that wore down over the course of the trip. And what a trip it’s been. The G and Gunther have gone through more than 200 border crossings (the Philippines being the 200th). Total, they’ve logged enough mileage to have gone around the world an equivalent of 20 times.
You may think that this executive prepped his G wagen to cater to creature comforts. Far from it. The ’88 G was already spartan compared to today’s standards, but Gunther remove unnecessary parts, including the air conditioning system. And although the 3-liter diesel puts out a meager 85 horsepower, the G’s gearing made that power adequate. Besides, a diesel is less finicky with regard to fuel quality. As any adventurer knows, remote regions don’t always have the best fuel quality.
Other adventure essentials like recovery equipment, ropes, a winch and a complement of tools were brought aboard. Since Gunther recognized that hotels and accommodations would be a major part of the expenses, the vehicle was outfitted with a sleeping area. A believer in preventive maintenance, Gunther has actually overladen the G with OEM Mercedes parts, parts which would not necessarily be readily available in the remote corners of the world which the couple found themselves in. All in all, the Model G regularly carries 500 kilos of spares and supplies. For navigation, Gunther uses an old Garmin 75 GPS unit and good old-fashioned paper maps. All this is, as well as the expenses for the trip, was paid out of Gunther’s pocket. No factory or other forms of sponsorship whatsoever.
On a regular 100,000 mile basis, Gunther takes the 300GD back to a dealer in Germany for maintenance. At the dealer, the odometer cluster is removed, and a sticker with a number is placed to the left of the odometer, which only goes to 5 digits. It would be nice to see Gunther and his G keep going. But the factory has seen the value of this G class, and it will soon end its journey enshrined at the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart.
Pictures by Gunther Holtorf with his Leica film cameras and David Lemke.