Toyota 4×4 trucks such as the Hilux and Land Cruiser have become renowned around the world for their ruggedness and durability. In nearly every modern armed conflict, you’ll see combatants on both sides using these trucks, often with the bodies clad in camouflage spraypaint and a machine gun mounted in the bed (these are often referred to as technicals). However, they’re also popular outside the military among humanitarian aid groups and other non-government organizations (NGOs). The United Nations uses thousands of Toyota trucks in third-world nations every year, often with specific upgrades such as heavy-duty bumpers, snorkels, winches, and radios. A little-known company called Toyota Gibraltar Stockholdings (TGS) stepped up to meet this need, shipping approximately 650 white Toyotas per month to war-torn and disaster-affected regions around the globe.
A recent video segment from the BBC show Top Gear gave us a sneak peek at the Toyota Gibraltar facility, which resides in the tiny 2.6-square-mile British territory at the southern edge of Spain. This is an optimal location for distributing the white Toyotas, since half of the world’s seaborne traffic passes through the Strait of Gibraltar between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
Much like the scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark where the camera zooms out to show a nearly-endless sea of wood crates, this BBC video shows multiple parking garages crammed with a mind-boggling number of identical white Toyotas. At the time of filming, there were more than 1,000 of these vehicles on-site.
The most common vehicle at Toyota Gibraltar is the venerable 70-Series Land Cruiser. The base vehicles are spartan, with cloth interiors and manual locks. Most of them are fitted with all-terrain tires, upgraded bumpers, roof racks, snorkels, spare tire carriers, jerry cans, dual batteries, and other off-road-oriented upgrades. This custom work is done by in-house mechanics at TGS, using items from storerooms stacked floor-to-ceiling with parts.
Depending on the needs of the customer, TGS can build fully-outfitted ambulances or search-and-rescue vehicles. The video also shows some more specialized vehicles, such as a green Land Cruiser built for anti-poaching operations in Africa and a white Corolla built with shatter-proof film on the windows (likely for transporting aid workers through dangerous cities).
This leads to a question. Given the obvious demand for these trucks in armed conflicts, there’s a lot of money to be made by selling to less peaceful clientele. So, does Toyota Gibraltar also build vehicles for militaries and warlords? The Top Gear host explains, “They do not do armor plating here. This is not the sort of place you can go for a military-specification vehicle. Toyota and the UN do not want to be involved in that sort of business.” We’ll let you draw your own conclusions from this statement, but it’s hard to deny that Toyota has hinted at military applications of its trucks in the past.
Check out the 6-minute Top Gear video below:
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