The [Toyota Hilux light 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 light, mobile Hilux. Indeed, Africa, says Kilcullen, is where the truck got its nickname as a fighting vehicle, “the technical.” “When [nongovernmental organizations] and the U.N. first went into Somalia,” he says, referring to a period in the 1990s, “they were not able to bring their own guards. So they got so-called ‘technical assistance grants’ to hire guards and drivers on the ground. Over time, a ‘technical’ came to mean a vehicle owned by a guard company, and then eventually to mean a Hilux with a heavy weapon mounted on the back.”
The Toyota is such a widespread and powerful weapon for insurgents, says Dr. Alastair Finlan, who specializes in strategic studies at Britain’s Aberystwyth University, because it acts as a “force multiplier.” It is “fast, maneuverable, and packs a big punch [when it’s mounted with] a 50-caliber [machine gun] that easily defeats body armor on soldiers and penetrates lightly armored vehicles as well.” It is particularly dangerous, he adds, against lightly armed special-forces operatives.
An experiment conducted by British TV show Top Gear in 2006 offers one explanation. The show’s producers bought an 18-year-old Hilux diesel with 190,000 miles on the odometer for $1,500. They then crashed it into a tree, 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, and set it on fire. Finally they placed it on top of a 240-foot tower block that was then destroyed in a controlled demolition. When they dug it out of the rubble, all it took to get it running again was hammers, wrenches, and WD-40. They didn’t even need spare parts.
Clearly there are two things I need in my next car:
• one of these trucks
• one of Top Gear’s mechanics
One of these might be a bit more expensive than the other, but it sounds worth it.