215 countries and 900,000 km in 26 years

"Legendewagen" (English: Legendary Car) – across all countries on earth

The German women's national ice hockey team has for many years entrusted ZARGES cases with the task of safekeeping their most important equipment.

Record for eternity: 215 countries in 26 years – marathon: driven effortlessly over almost 900,000 kilometres, one third of which on unpaved roads.

A travelling exhibition organised by Daimler AG is showcasing a car that has seen almost the entire world itself. Its name: "Otto". Its odometer recorded almost 900,000 kilometres. The brand: Mercedes-Benz. Also present: ZARGES boxes and cases.

This is a story about an incredible adventure: Gunther Holtorf drove his Mercedes 300 GD across every country on earth that you can drive in. He was on the road for 26 years with the blue G-Class car that his now-late wife Christine named "Otto". The Holtorfs lived in "Otto" during the entire time and could therefore drive to places far away from civilisation: into the most-remote corners of Africa, across savannahs, deserts, and into the impervious jungle in Congo; to isolated countries such as North Korea, Myanmar and Bhutan; through passes at altitudes of around 5,000 metres in the Andean Mountains, Mount Everest and on the Karakoram Highway.

No other cars before it had been to every country in the world you can drive in. "Otto" has visited 215 countries, regions and territories. Its journey officially ended early October 2014 with a visit to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. But before it moves into its new home in the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart, it is going once more on a travelling exhibition tour especially design for it through Europe for around two years. This will be its last grand journey.

The exhibition
During the exhibition, "Otto" will look just like how Gunther Holtorf would have prepared it for an overnight stay: with a made bed and an open kitchen at the rear. Over the years, the now 77-year-old kept on further optimising his car. He made used of even the tiniest of spaces for storage, using specially made bags, hooks and straps to keep his items secure even on very rough terrains. Mr Holtorf, who had a hand in designing the exhibition and provided many of the original exhibits, wanted a vehicle with which he can be self-sufficient.
Besides "Otto", an open standard container is also on display at the exhibition. In the container, visitors can sit around a media campfire and listen to Mr Holtorf, an adept storyteller, recount his adventures via film footage. Other things to see: Photographs of some of the most beautiful landscapes on earth, taken by the talented photographer on the road, as well as a map of the entire route.

The adventure
The decision to use the container as an exhibition element is not in any way a coincidence: The Holtorfs shipped "Otto" 41 times in such a box from continent to continent. Even when purchasing a vehicle for the journey, they made sure they bought one that would fit inside a normal 20-feet container. Anything else would have been too expensive. The G-Class offers an optimal usable volume – enough space for a bed that is almost 2 metres long and 1.50 metres wide – and this was another reason why they settled on the car in 1988.
"Otto" had never let the world travellers down and overcame the almost 900,000 kilometres with any major technical issues. When something broke down, Gunther Holtorf was able to repair the problem using the car tool kit and the around 400 spare parts he took along with him. Many of the parts were stored in several ZARGES boxes on the car roof during the journey. At the exhibition, the distinctive aluminium cases are now used to present exhibits from various stages of the journey: from typical travel supplies, to a selection of exotic number plates that "Otto" was required to carry in many countries, right up to the many spare parts.

The world record
The Guinness World Records is currently verifying the Holtorfs' achievement and the question of whether "Otto" has officially broken a world record for having visited the most number of countries in the world. This could be a record for eternity because with the exception of a few island countries where there are practically no roads, such as the Maldives and Nauru, "Otto" visited every other country and autonomous region. The only other places the Holtorfs could not visit were Somalia, Chad and South Sudan – at no point in the 26 years was it conceivable to enter and exit these countries in a way that was remotely safe.
In all those years, "Otto" passed through 413 borders outside Europe. Every time it crossed one of such borders, "Otto" had to stop for half a day on average at the border barrier, because many countries do not allow cars across their borders. In Cuba this was only possible owing to Raoul Castro's invitation, and in North Korea to the approval of the dictator Kim Jong Il. Gunther Holtorf is glad that he could bring this journey to an end. In doing so, he fulfilled a promise he gave to his wife Christine, who died of cancer in 2010: keep on driving until he has travelled the world.

The world map
One self-made document helped the Holtorfs at the most difficult of border crossings as well as in many other situations: the "world map", a large-format double-sided documentation of their journey. It continued to be updated in many layers with countries they newly visited. The map, which features many illustrations, was often more important for the continuation of their journey than passports and vehicle documents. The Holtorfs used it to turn many controllers and ill-humoured bureaucrats part of their project. Quite a few of them allowed the SUV, which was equipped with the indestructible 88-horsepower inline-five engine, to pass only after Gunther Holtorf generously presented them with a copy of the map.
Mr Holtorf recounts many of these stories in the almost 200 video interviews on the various countries he visited during his journey. These interviews can be played on an interactive monitor at the exhibition. You can learn more about the project on the internet at www.ottosreise.de or in English at www.ottosjourney.com. After going through the exhibition, visitors can take home the world map in its most updated form as a souvenir.


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