From conflict-torn Afghanistan [via Newsweek] comes this strange tale of Taliban tribute to the “the vehicular equivalent of the AK-47”: the Toyota Hilux (more famous among Western car nuts for its infamous Top Gear adventures).
As the war in Afghanistan escalated several years ago, counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen, a member of the team that designed the Iraq surge for Gen. David Petraeus, began to notice a new tattoo on some insurgent Afghan fighters. It wasn’t a Taliban tattoo. It wasn’t even Afghan. It was a Canadian maple leaf.
When a perplexed Kilcullen began to investigate, he says, he discovered that the incongruous flags were linked to what he says is one of the most important, and unnoticed, weapons of guerrilla war in Afghanistan and across the world: the lightweight, virtually indestructible Toyota Hilux truck.
“In Afghanistan in particular,” he says, “[the trucks are] incredibly well respected.” So well respected, in fact, that some enterprising fraudsters thought them worthy of ripping off. The imitations, Kilcullen says, had flooded the market, leaving disappointed fighters in their wake. But then “a shipment of high-quality [real] Hiluxes arrived, courtesy of the Canadian government,” he explains. “They had little Canadian flags on the back. Because they were the real deal, and because of how the Hilux is seen, over time, strangely, the Canadian flag has become a symbol of high quality across the country. Hence the tattoos.”
And yet somehow, we don’t see Toyota incorporating this touching story into its marketing campaign. From Afghanistan to Somalia, and from Nicaragua to Chad, the Hilux has been the ride of choice in conflict-torn hellholes for several decades now. A conflict between Libya and Chad in the 1980s was even dubbed “The Toyota War.” A former British special forces officer explains
The appeal is pretty simple. You can’t underestimate the value of having a vehicle that is fast, will never break down, and is strong enough to mount a heavy weapon in the back.
Which isn’t all that different from the Hilux’s original design concept as
a lightweight truck with big tires on big wheels. It was meant as a recreational truck, a truck people could have fun with. They also have a really high ground clearance, which means they’re ideal for off-road work.
The modern Hilux may “suck to drive” according to TTAC’s lone review of the “insurgent special,” but then the AK-47 isn’t exactly known for its accuracy either. Still, it’s no wonder that the US-market Tacoma ditched the solid-front axle in 1986… American trucks are built for the road, not armed insurgency (although our middle-east correspondent informed us a few years ago that US service men were stripping Hilux manual transmissions, forcing the military to replace them with Silverado Z71s) . Curious as to what makes the Hilux different from the US-market Tacoma? Brian894x4.com has your answers here. Want to check out some American Hiluxes, soldiering on as Curbside Classics? Check it out.