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Racer and world traveler Heidi Hetzer, 1937-2019

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Heidi Hetzer fills up Hudo, her 1930 Hudson Great Eight, at Hemmings world headquarters during her 2014-’17 drive around the world. Photo by Crystal Conwill.

When we met Heidi Hetzer a couple years back, she was so full of life and energy, so it was a shock to us when we learned she had died over Easter weekend, age 81. Heidi, along with her 1930 Hudson Great Eight, Hudo, and son, Dylan, stopped at Hemmings Motor News in Bennington, Vermont, in September 2015. She lingered in the general area for the next month, attending the AACA Hershey meet as a guest of the Hudson-Essex-Terraplane Club.

Heidi was born in 1938 to Berlin Opel (and Victoria motorcycle) dealer, Siegfried Hetzer. By the age of 16, she was already working as a mechanic at the family business. She took over entirely in 1969 and ran it as one of the largest dealerships in Berlin until selling it in 2012 to retire.

Perhaps more than working on machines, Heidi enjoyed piloting them. She was an acclaimed racer and rallyer from 1953 into the 21st century. In 2014, she began her famous around-the-world trip in Hudo, which was documented here and elsewhere on the internet. In the course of that drive, she lost part of a finger and a molar, but never her good spirits. A brush with cancer temporarily delayed her journey, but, in February 2016 — following successful surgery to remove a tumor — she returned to South America to resume her trek. On March 12, 2017, Heidi returned to Berlin, having completed her 31-month circumnavigation of the Earth by Hudson.

Since that time, she had continued to travel and, on April 16, returned to Berlin following her most recent journey in Africa. Even an April 1 robbery in Cape Town didn’t dissuade her from planning future travel, or from seeing only the good in people she met during her trips. At the time of her death, she was planning a new excursion to Africa, to navigate the continent’s West Coast, a trip that was to begin in November 2019 and last through May 2020.

Heidi is survived by her son, Dylan, and her daughter, Marla.