Hero (noun), a person car who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities. In Greek mythology a hero was one of divine parentage who showed courage and strength in their bold exploits. In ancient Greek writings a hero was referred to as someone whose courage and achievements would have them remembered long after they had left this mortal plane. We all love a hero. Whether the word evokes thoughts of humans doing extraordinary things or the comic book notion of someone subjected to extreme conditions over which they prevail. If you’re a car nut like us at Motor, you’ll appreciate the hero cars out there. Yes, we love cars so much we don’t see them as inanimate mechanical parts getting us from A to B, they have character and soul and sometimes do extraordinary things they were never meant to.
‘Indestructable’ Toyota Hilux
The first hero car that comes to mind is the Toyota Hilux from Top Gear, series three. Now, we live in Africa and are fully aware of the beating a Hilux can take on a daily basis and still run, but clearly the rest of the world is not. The Top Gear trio purchase a Hilux from a farm in the UK and proceed to attempt to destroy it, each time the mechanic, using no spare parts whatsoever, manages to get the Hilux to run again. It is driven into a tree, dumped in a river, subject to a wrecking ball and plonked atop a 23-storey building during a demolition. It still runs. A noble steed indeed.
Dakar Mercedes-Benz 500 SLC
Next, is a car so unsuited to the world of rallying that it is deserving of hero status for courage alone. More Sunset Boulevard cruiser than boulder smasher, dune destroyer and river wader, this car defied what it was originally built for. In the 1984 Paris Dakar, two Mercedes-Benz 500 SLCs were entered with Hugo Boss sponsorship. Car #154 was driven by Joachen Mass and Stephen Pers, car #155 had Albert Pfuhl and Hans Schuller at the wheel. Mass and Pers finished 62nd, Mass was prone to some errant driving techniques, while Pfuhl and Schuller eventually placed 44th. Footage of the SLCs with spare tyres strapped to the boot while bouncing over boulders in the African desert induces goosebumps of pride in this coupe, instantly elevating them hero status.
Porsche 959 Paris Dakar
Yet another hero car stems from the ’80s glory days when the Paris-Dakar still actually happened in Africa. This time the car is the Porsche 959 Paris Dakar that won the 1986 race outright. That’s right, Porsche, them, of premium sports cars and not so much rough and tumble 4x4s. The sublime Rothmans-liveried 959 was purpose built to take on the Paris Dakar. The tech behind the car came from the Porsche’s unrealized dreams to enter Group B rallying, it had intelligent all-wheel drive and adjustable suspension. The 959 Paris Dakar vehicle has since inspired a sub-community of Safari-style 911 builds across the globe. FYI, if anyone has cash to spare one of the six 959 Paris Dakars is going up for auction soon and expects to retail for $3.5 million. A hero car in everyway imaginable.
Audi Quattro S1
Still on the topic of rallying, the iconic Audi quattro S1 from Group B rallying’s golden era, earns instant hero status for its brute speed and agility. S1s were piloted by Michele Mouton and Walter Röhrl, winning the 1985 and 1987 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb as well. Group B represented the glory days of rallying where anything went, lightweight cars made from advanced materials and virtually zero regulations. Yup, it was Formula 1 in the forest. The quattro S1 was a savage competitor in World Rally Championship and a South African National Rally Championship winner from 84-88 in the hands of Sarel van der Merwe and Geoff Mortimer. Unfortunately, the powers that be at the FIA eventually deemed the class unsafe due to the speed they could attain, leading to numerous high-speed accidents and a lack of spectator safety when things did go wrong. Group B was soon discarded in favour of Group A, a more production-based class, and things calmed down, but the quattro S1 of Group B rallying will never be forgotten.
‘Tracy’ Toyota Conquest
A change of pace now, but still a true hero car of our modern age. A little Toyota Conquest who is 20-years old, running strong and goes by the name of Tracy. Tracy and her driver Julia Albu, who is 80-years strong, recently did 12 000 kms from Cape Town, up the east coast of Africa, through Europe to London. And they’re busy doing the return leg as we speak. Julia heard what Showerhead paid to transport his multiple wives on a radio station one day. Incensed at the cost she called in and said she could drive from Cape Town to London at her and Tracy’s combined age of 100 to see her daughter. Then she had to do it. After a year of planning Julia was ready to go. Tracy had a service and the only thing they altered for her journey was the ride height, to deal with the African potholes. Tracy didn’t put a tyre out of place the entire run, although she nearly lost one after a serious pothole patch in Uganda rattled her bolts, though that was quickly remedied at the nearest service station. Julia and Tracy may be heading back down but that doesn’t mean it’s over, Julia would like to take Tracy up the West Coast of Africa next. Follow their adventure on www.myafricanconquest.com