Skip to main content

Two people, a Mercedes G-Wagen, and their 23-year, 500,000 mile journey around the world

Gunther HoltorfIn 1989, Gunther Holtorf and his wife Christine climbed aboard their 1988 Mercedes Benz G-Wagen to travel from Germany to Africa, where they planned to complete a once-in-a-lifetime road trip that would last 18-months.

Except the trip didn’t last 18-months, it has lasted 23 years, spanned more than 200 countries and the G-Wagen now has 800,000 kilometers, or 500,000 miles, on its odometer. That’s the equivalent of 20 times around the equator.

The trio have visited everywhere from Alaska to Zimbabwe by way of North Korea, the Sahara desert, Mount Everest and Siberia in an effort to drive around the globe. Sadly, Gunther’s wife Christine passed away in 2010, but he has continued to travel the world, as per her wishes.

In June this year, the Philippines became the 200th country visited, and the G-Wagen showed 799,783 kilometers on the clock.

At 74-years old, Gunther Holtorf is an inspiration, but for all his and Christine’s determination, they couldn’t have done it without Otto — the name given to their trusty G-Wagen.

Powered by a 3.0 liter diesel engine, which produced around 85 horsepower when new, the 300GD was never fast, but it is very, very strong. Quite apart from reaching 500,000 miles, Gunther’s G-Class is continuously overweight, as he carries 500 kilograms (1100 pounds) of equipment on the roof, plus the car is his home — meaning it contains everything he needs to survive, from sleeping quarters to a shower.

He estimates the total laden weight to be 3,300 kilograms, or 7,275 pounds. Its style is also a far cry from many modern G-Class’s too.

Holtorf Otto OdometerAs reliable as the car is, things can go wrong, and more than half of that extra weight on the roof is made up of hard-to-find, genuine Mercedes spares, all of which he fits himself when the need arises.

When another 100,000 kilometers is about to pass, Otto returns to a Mercedes dealer in Europe, where the instrument binnacle is opened, and a new sixth digit is stuck next to the standard five-digit readout.

A 20-year old GPS unit, a traditional paper map and a diesel additive is about as technical as it gets, and don’t go looking for a website, Facebook page or Twitter feed on Gunther’s exploits either, as the adventure is strictly low-key.

Gunther Holtorf and his G-Wagen will finish their incredible journey next year, when the car will retire to the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart, Germany.

Take a look at this amazing slideshow made up of images taken by Gunther, on film with a pair of Leica cameras, and those by photographer David Lemke. It charts not only Gunther and Christine’s truly inspirational adventure, but the astonishing ability of the humble car too.

Andy Boxall
Andy is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends, where he concentrates on mobile technology, a subject he has written about for…
Best electric car charger deals: $100 off home charging stations
The handle of the Grizzl-E EV charger plugged into a vehicle.

While they may not dominate the market just yet, electric vehicles have become pretty massive in the past few years, with many people seeing them as the perfect alternative to traditional combustion engines. Of course, because EVs aren't as widespread, that means that there aren't always a ton of charging stations around, and sometimes those have inoperative or full chargers, leading to quite a few issues down the road. Luckily, you can get some excellent car chargers at home, which is why we've collected our favorite car charger deals for you below to save you trouble.
Seguma 16Amp Level 1/2 EV Charger -- $120, was $160

If you need a more basic charger, this Level one and two charger from Seguma is a solid option and can deliver 16 amps and 3.84kW, which is pretty substantial. It also comes with a NEMA 6-20 plug and a standardized J1772 connector, which should work on most EV vehicles out there except for Tesla, which has its own connector. There are also some intelligent charging features, which include things such as protection against things like under and over voltage, leakage, and lighting, and it has an automatic cut-off when your EV is fully charged.

Read more
Revamped Lucid Air shows this luxury EV’s bandwidth
Front three quarter view of a beige 2024 Lucid Air Touring.

If you’re only going to sell one car, you’d better make it count.

The Lucid Air electric car finally took flight in 2020 after years in financial limbo. While Lucid plans to launch an SUV called the Gravity and a line of smaller, more mainstream models, the Air remains Lucid’s sole product nearly four years after its launch. The Air has evolved in that time, adding multiple configurations that allow this one car to fill several niches.

Read more
With 1,800 horsepower, Bugatti’s Tourbillon brings plug-ins past the Prius
The Bugatti Tourbillon is a plug-in hybrid.

Plug-in hybrid technology has reached the automotive industry’s upper echelon. Bugatti has unveiled the Tourbillon, the long-awaited successor to the Chiron, with a gasoline-electric drivetrain rated at 1,800 horsepower, 3D-printed parts in the suspension, and an unusual sound system that has no speakers.

Bugatti developed the Tourbillon on a blank slate. The big coupe’s proportions are relatively close to the Chiron’s because the two cars need to fulfill a similar mission: cruise safely and comfortably at jaw-dropping speeds. Bugatti hints that hitting 250-plus-mph is well within the Tourbillon’s scope of capabilities. For context, the Chiron set a speed record and became the first car to break the 300-mph barrier when it reached 304 mph in 2019, so the brand knows a thing or two about speed.

Read more