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It’s the Ultimate Work Truck for Rebel Groups

October 21, 2010

The various guerrilla wars in Afghanistan and across the world have begun to unveil a surprising trend: The lightweight, virtually indestructible Toyota Hilux truck has become a favorite of rebel groups, according to Newsweek.

One counterinsurgency expert says that the trucks are so well-respected in Afghanistan that imitation vehicles are popping up.

When a shipment of real Hiluxes arrived in Afghanistan, courtesy of the Canadian government, they had Canadian flags on the back. Because of that, the Canadian flag has become a symbol of high quality across the country.

Another military expert agreed, saying the vehicles have become ubiquitous to insurgent and counterinsurgent warfare.

And it's been that way for awhile. Pictures from the last four decades of guerrilla and insurgent warfare around the world showed the first iteration of the Hilux in the late 1960s. The vehicle has been reported to be used by Somali pirates, Sudanese fighters, and Pakistani militants. Forces in Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, Yemen, and Iraq have been reported driving the vehicles.

The trend continues on. Osama Bin Laden is said to have preferred the Hilux's bigger brother, the Landcruiser when he was able to move freely, and most Al Qaeda lieutenants drive Hiluxes, according to a New York Times report from the early 2000s. One report has Al Qaeda using the vehicles in Pakistan, and they use the twin-cab version because they can hold more people and heavy weapons. The truck even has a war named after it: the so-called "Toyota War" between Libya and Chad in the 1980s was dominated by fighters using the Hilux.

British TV show "Top Gear" conducted an experiment with the vehicle, taking an 18-year-old Hilux diesel with 190,000 miles on the odometer and crashing it into a tree. They then submerged it in the ocean for five hours, dropped it from about 10 feet, tried to crush it under an RV, drove it through a portable building, hit it with a wrecking ball, set it on fire, and destroyed it in a controlled demolition. All it took to get it running again was hammers, wrenches, and WD-40. They didn't even need spare parts.

Kevin Hunter, president of Toyota's design division in California, says the trucks have always been built as "body-on-frame" trucks, with a rigid steel frame construction, and the body fitted on top of that. But he doesn't know why Hiluxes are so popular with guerrilla forces, since many other manufacturers' trucks are also body-on-frame.

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