Browse over 9,000 car reviews

4 August 2017

The 'Toyota War' is a thing that happened

By Tom WhiteTom White
"The vehicular equivalent of the AK-47"

Toyota utes aren't just one the most popular vehicles in Australia, they're also modern-day cavalry for the third-world.

While the US figuratively and literally doesn't get the HiLux, the third world does. In huge numbers, too.

Day-to-day in Africa the HiLux, 70 Series and 40 Series (yeah, still kicking around...) are used for honest purposes in low-tech industries, but unfortunately are also incredibly useful as makeshift military hardware.

Strap in... or don't... (image credit: MoMa) Strap in... or don't... (image credit: MoMa)

This is largely due to their tough to kill, but also relatively fast and versatile, nature. Kind of like a cockroach. Seriously, when the nuclear fire comes, the only thing left on the surface of the planet will be cockroaches and HiLuxes (and also possibly Ford Falcon BF wagons...)

The late Muammar Gaddafi discovered this the hard way when he triggered the beggining of what became known as the 'Toyota War' in 1983. A conflict between Chad and it's more heavily-armed northern neighbor, Libya.

It was essentially a sad little war fought over a sad patch of desert in the north of Chad. What nobody expected though, was the power of the Toyota 'Technical' used by Chad's rag-tag fighters.

Anything from troops to anti-air batteries. (image credit: Anything from troops to anti-air batteries. (image credit:

What's a 'Technical'? As a US Army ranger once told Time magazine the Toyota 'Tehcnical' is "The vehicular equivalent of the AK-47" - It's a makeshift weapons platform (almost always a ute) that can be fitted with any junk military hardware. Usually that comes in the form of a .50 cal machine gun, but it can also be fitted with archaic flak cannons for anti-air purposes or even rocket clusters to be used as WWII-style artillery. Most importantly in the 'Toyota War', they can be fitted with compact anti-tank guided missile systems.

The trouble for Libya's traditional army was, not only do you not know what equipment you're fighting against, they're so damn quick and small you can't hit 'em anyway. They require no training to use, and have an almost infinite range thanks to low fuel usage (compared to... oh I dunno, a tank?).

To give a clear example of exactly how out-maneuvered Libya was in this conflict, we'll use the decisive Battle of Fada. Chad started out with ~5000ish troops and ~400ish Toyotas. Libya started out with over 1400 troops and militia, but were armed with seemingly superior Soviet-era T55 Tanks and BMP-1 Armoured Personnel Carriers.

The T55 sure looks tough, but is easily swatted by a couple of Toyotas. The T55 sure looks tough, but is easily swatted by a couple of Toyotas.

At the end of the battle, the Libyans had lost 784 troops, 33 BMPs and 92 tanks - while Chad had only lost 18 men and three(!) Toyotas, while capturing 13 tanks and 18 BMPs.

Don't mess with Toyotas folks.

Archaic Soviet BMP-1s from the '60s - Fast then, not so much now. Archaic Soviet BMP-1s from the '60s - Fast then, not so much now.

Toyota is even kind of proud of the 'versatile' use of HiLuxes in the third world, as one spokesman in the US mentioned to Vocativ (with pride) "They [Toyota utes] are used by civilians and governments alike, including the military and rebel groups... they’re popular for a multitude of uses."

The legend of the 'Toyota War' lives to this day. Recently with a local spin, when it was suggested some stolen Sydney utes somehow ended up in posession of the Islamic State. The terror group is now famed for it's usage of Toyota HiLuxes.

Does the Libyan wipeout at the Battle of Fada surprise you, or are you a tactics expert who could easily predict it? Tell us what you think in the comments.