If 4x4s are the devil’s choice of transport, Simon Hacker knows who to blame – it’s all those nasty dictators…
Greenpeace, that fattest and most self-satisfied of ecobrands, recently got a drubbing in the media for creating a short film on that subject that makes sensible people suddenly turn gaga: the 4×4. In it, an office employee is shunned by his colleagues, has his coffee spat in and a label marked ‘prick’ slapped on his back. Why? Because he commutes by Toyota Land Cruiser (though the badge was photoshopped out). The ad backfired and was roundly seen to be more poisonous than anything coming from the Land Cruiser. If they want better PR advice, here’s my tip for Greenpeace’s anti-4×4 mission: pick on dictators. Nobody, not even John Craven, Ben Fogle or Kate Humble, likes to get down and dirty in a filthy rut more enthusiastically than your average ethnic-cleansing, democracy-destroying, proletariat pulverising despot. Starting with everyone’s current favourite, Muammar Gaddafi, here’s our handy guide to the preferred go-anywhere hardware of the world’s biggest baddies.
If you’re on the run in the sun, you need some serious wheels, so what better for Gaddafi than a military-spec Mercedes-Benz ML? You can buy one of these for around £42k and the entry-level diesel manages an eco-friendly 32mpg. This Sahara-spec model, however, cost £3.5m and packs a protective cage and radio wave scrambler technology, thus defying guided missiles. The mpg is academic when your back garden’s an oilfield. So what maniac could have given Gaddafi this ridiculous toy? Er, Nicholas Sarkozy, it appears. Yes you couldn’t make it up.
Hitler liked his Mercs too, of course. But when traversing the military field, he preferred not four but six-wheel drive – the G4 staff car. Reinforced to withstand an attempted coup, the car came complete with bulletproof glass and pistol (not cup) holders. It did 7.8mpg. When things got muddier still, the Führer was fond of his Beetle-based Kübelwagen, which was used to pursue such hobbies as invading Poland and the like. The Kubbie, however, was a two-wheel drive machine, despite its impressive off-roading potential.
Mercedes-Benz’s list of dodgy customers included the Emperor Hirohito, who was also fond of the G4, but not to be outdone, Land Rover can claim a few ignominious clients (relax, Capt Mark Philips, we don’t, of course, mean you). Idi Amin has to top the bill. The Ugandan mass murderer was usually seen bombing around the countryside in a huge Jeep. But after he fled his homeland for sanctuary in Libya, he settled down to retirement with a Chevrolet Caprice, a powder-blue Cadillac and… a Range Rover.
North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il, the man behind many a pussy-stroking Dr Evil caricature, is said to be (oh no, not again) a bit of a Mercedes fan, though a key part of his cavalcade includes several Nissan 4x4s. Information on the finer details of these is somewhat tricky to obtain, though some are apparently kitted for catering and others as dining cars. Our money’s on them being Patrols though. When he’s not off-roading, Mr Kim’s favourite other vehicle is an armour-plated train.
The ultimate example of art imitating life in this field comes, appropriately, from comic genius Sasha Baron Cohen. He is currently working on The Dictator, a movie due to be released in 2012, adapted from a romantic novel written by Saddam Hussein (no, seriously). Cohen had the cinematic vision to see that if his dictator persona was to be credible, he needed an incredible set of 4×4 wheels. But not just any: roll forward the T98 Kombat, built in St Petersburg with a little technical help from General Motors. The spec ensures this is the sort of off-roader that eats Hummers for breakfast: engine choices include a 3.8-litre Duramax V8 diesel, producing 320bhp with an optional upgrade to 550bhp. You might need it: the Kombat weighs 4,150kg and has bodywork that can stop 7.62mm Kalashnikov bullets. Top speed? 111mph – perfect for running away from all those 4×4 haters…