Armor: The Endless Toyota Wars


October 19, 2015: Toyota trucks are again getting some unwanted (by the manufacturer, officially anyway) publicity. It turns out that ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) has paid a lot of money to persuade Middle Eastern Toyota dealers to provide the Islamic terror group with thousands of Toyota Hilux pickup trucks. The base price is about $20,000 but add in bribes and other expenses and ISIL probably spent over $100 million since 2013 to equip its forces with Hilux trucks. This comes as no surprise to Toyota which has been selling the Hilux models to Middle Eastern customers for over half a century and has noted that the vehicle is widely popular there. There are two reasons for the reputation of the Hilux. First it was designed to travel easily off roads. There are not a lot of roads in most of the Middle East. Second, the Hilux is built to last. That means the vehicle can take a lot of punishment, or just decades of use, and never break down. This is important in the Middle East where there are not a lot of mechanics.

The current Hilux model, introduced in 2004, has sold over five million vehicles so far, over 20 percent of them in the Middle East. Toyota began selling light trucks overseas in the early 1960s and the first Hilux model appeared in 1968. The current model is the “8th generation”, and began appearing in 2015 alongside the 7th generation models that will cease production in a year or so. Variants of each generation resulted in over a hundred different models, many of them customized to local conditions or tastes.

Often referred to as the “one ton” truck the empty weight of most models is about 1.4 tons and these can carry about a ton of fuel, passengers and cargo. The fuel tank holds 76 liters (20 gallons) which will carry a lightly loaded Hilux about 1,000 kilometers on good (urban) roads, but about a third of that if fully loaded and moving across rough terrain.

In combat it is common to see a Hilux turned into a “technical” by bolting or welding a tripod for a heavy machine-gun (12.7mm or 14mm) to the cargo deck and still being able to carry ten or more armed men. This sort of thing first became widely known during the Libyan "Toyota War" with Chad in the 1970s and 1980s.  Libyan troops, equipped with tanks and other armored vehicles were completely routed by tribal irregulars firing from Toyota pickup trucks and expelled from Chad. Experienced war reporters then began to note that the militarized Hilux kept showing up again and again. That was no accident and it explains why ISIL made the Toyota Hilux their official combat vehicle.






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