Heidi Hetzer, who drove her 1930 Hudson around the world, dies at 81

Heidi Hetzer, who was 77 in 2014 when she decided to drive her 1930 Hudson Great Eight around the world, died on April 21 at her home in Berlin, Germany. She was 81.

The German businesswoman took over her family’s Opel (and Victoria motorcycle) dealership in 1969 and turned it into one of Berlin’s largest before selling it and retiring in 2012. Hetzer didn’t slow down in retirement. A trained mechanic, she participated in numerous car rallies and drove from Berlin to China in 2007 when she decided to drive around the world. Her trip included a stop at the AACA Fall Swap Meet in Hershey, Pennsylvania, in 2015 as a guest of the Hudson-Essex-Terraplane Club.

Hetzer and Hudo, her nickname for the Hudson, circled the world in 31 months. Hetzer drove through Eastern Europe and across China before visiting Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Central America, and South America. She then sailed to Africa before driving north to Germany. Hetzer received a hero’s welcome when she rolled into Berlin in March 2017.

The story of her trip, Hetzer’s German-language biography Living Without Brakes: How I looked for freedom when I was 77 and simply set off in my car, was published last September.

At the time of her death, Hetzer was planning another trip to Africa in November. “Age doesn’t protect you from life,” she wrote in her book, and clearly they were words she lived by.

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