In 1989, at the age of 51, Gunther Holtorf quit his job as an airline executive, packed up his 1988 Mercedes Benz 300GD he lovingly named “Otto”, and took off to see the world. A year later he was joined by Christine, 34, who later became his wife. The original plan was explore Africa for 18 months. After 5 years and about 100,00 km – 62,000 miles – exploring Africa, they decided to keep on driving.

Otto completed the journey with few modifications, retaining it’s original 3-litre 88-horsepower diesel engine. The original gearbox and transfer case have never been touched. It also the original axles and differentials. The journey was completed without electronics and little technology. They, for example, didn’t have a GPS, and only near the end of the journey did Gunther acquire a basic mobile phone.

Christine’s journey came to an end in 2010 when she passed away from cancer. Gunther continued on with her son, Martin, to honour Christine and to fulfill a promise he made to her.

In 2014, at the age of 77 Gunther returned home to Germany after being on the road for 26 years and having travelled 897,000 kilometres – approximately 560,000 miles – through 215 countries.

Gunther stated the best part of travelling independently overland is having the freedom to decide where and when to go.

Otto is now on display at the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart.

Gunther and Christine are incredible inspirations.

The next video is in German. Auto-generated English language Closed Captions are not great, but they are available.

This page was last updated on 2020.08.03