Trucking milestones: 1979 – across the Sahara in a U 404 S

Series: Trucking milestones

Ship of the desert on four wheels.

The globetrotter Bernhard Lafferthon was looking for extremes – and found them in the Sahara in his U 404 S.

Loneliness, incalculable risks and a soupçon of adventure – what is less than appetising for most, sounds like the perfect holiday for Bernhard Lafferthon. In the Sahara, the passionate globetrotter experienced the place to make his dreams come true. And he made them a reality. In 1979, Lafferthon crossed the largest desert in the world – with just one companion: the U 404 S.

2.000 kilometres without a petrol station.

The 1959 petrol-driven vehicle used to be an ambulance in the German armed forces. For the tour through the desert, Lafferthon made the vehicle expedition-ready, and created more stowage space for supplies, water and gas cylinders. On the list of things to pack were four barrels of petrol with a total capacity of 800 litres. Because Lafferthon had to manage 2.000 kilometres without a petrol station. And 120 litres of spare water and five spare tyres came on top of that.

Not one breakdown.

The starting point of the trip was Tunis and through Algeria, Libya, Niger and Nigeria all the way to Cameroon. He crossed the almost 3.000-metre-high Hoggar Mountains, followed the badly marked road to Fort Serouenout, passed through the checkpoints of Toummo, Madama and Dao Timmi and overcame the notorious Sahel, an arid area at the southern end of the Sahara. The adventurer managed the entire journey without his faithful companion breaking down once: the U 404 S.