This week, the people over at Guiness recognized a new world record. An expedition set out last year from the edge of the Antarctic High Plateau with the goal of getting to the South Pole, 1,434 miles away. The team made it in just 108 hours, and though this means they only drove an average of 13 mph, it took a truckload of toughness and technology to make the drive in the fastest time ever recorded.
If you’re a fan of the UK motoring show Top Gear (and you should be), you’ll be familiar with their North Pole expedition special. The goofy TV presenters were the first people to ever drive to the North Pole, and they did it in a Toyota Hilux modified by Iceland-based Arctic Trucks.
The custom house began as an arm of Toyota back in 1990, but has since been bought away from the auto giant and now modifies several different vehicles, though the Hilux is still the most popular. This group of Antarctic trekkers chose the AT44 Hilux variant to meet their needs.
The team included a pair of men from the Kazakhstan National Geographic Society, Konstantin Orlov and Stanislav Makarenko; Andrey Myller, a representative from the Antarctica Company; and Hlynur Sigurdsson of Arctic trucks, each in his own AT44 and trailer.
Why did they choose the Scandanavian build to get them to the very bottom of the world? Because it was modified for just such adventures. Power dials in at just 170 hp from Toyota’s stock 3 liter diesel, but that was plenty, because it packs torque enough to haul 1.3 tons and tow another 1.5.
Most of that payload was actually needed, too, since each truck had to carry its own fuel- 285 gallons of it-there are no Speedway Stations in Antarctica. One fueling cache bisected the entire journey. Mileage, with extra heating generators whirring happily, averaged at about 5 mpg. Dodge Challenger owners can sympathize. Jet 1A fuel was needed to keep from freezing, and it’s not as efficient as plain ol’ diesel.
Also driving down the mpgs may have been the low inflation tires. For increased traction on snow and ice, the tires were deflated to 2 psi from the original 2.9. As those tires measure in at 44,” they needed a considerable accommodation from the chassis. The entire front axle was nudged forward from a stock Hilux.
Another significant modification was the transmission, a five-speed auto with a crawling gear. Remember, the team averaged 13 mph, so you might imagine they used that gear none too seldom. There were also a part time transfer case and locking differentials.
A set of coilovers with leaf springs lent each of the trucks an 18” ground clearance.
Other goodies abounded on the AT44s. Onboard generators powered equipment and heaters, and integrated air compressors were always on duty should those low-inflation tires get too low. Heavy-duty air and fuel filters kept their respective systems clear.
Among Arctic Trucks’ goals is eliminating the need for high-impact, low efficiency tracked vehicles on such expeditions. Their efforts are making the netherworlds of Antarctica and the North Pole more accessible. In an AT44, they might be downright welcoming.
Would you ever drive to the South Pole if you had an AT44? Would you drive there in anything?
Images courtesy arctictrucks.com