Sales of military and specialized vehicles had opened up new challenges in countries all over the world and by 2007 Arctic Trucks had been used in more countries around the world than ever before. However, we had not participated in any international event for a number of years when Toyota GB contacted us and asked if we could build a Toyota Hilux to drive to the magnetic North Pole. With limited knowledge about the conditions we boldly responded that we thought so, and we set about studying the practicalities of this challenge.
The project was for BBC Top Gear, the cars would be racing a dog sled. At this point we knew very little about Top Gear and the popularity the TV program enjoyed but the challenge was inspiring. Built on the incredible reputation of the Toyota Hilux, we needed to give it the capacity to endure the expedition without making any extreme visual changes the original vehicle. After a study of the ice and interviews with polar explorers, the distance and logistics we concluded that the AT44 conversion would not be needed and chose to use the AT38, a smaller, but still very capable Arctic Truck.
Toyota GB shipped two new Hilux to Iceland and we had 7 months to develop and test. To transport all the equipment and crew we added one of our Land Cruiser 120 AT38’s to the fleet and built an expedition trailer.
Starting Date: Apr 22, 2007
Time: April 22nd – May 7th 2007
Route: Resolute – Bathurst Island – Helena Island – King Christian Island – west of Thor Island – Noice Peninsula – Magnetic North Pole – Total of 2000 km.
Participants: Hjalti V. Hjaltason, Haraldur Pétursson and Emil Grímsson from Arctic Trucks.
Cars: Toyota Hilux AT38, Toyota Land Cruiser 120 AT38
Combined driving distances: 6000km
Only upon arrival in Resolute in the northernmost reaches of Canada, could we test the performance of the vehicles on the ice and local snow conditions on the surrounding islands. Richard Hammond had already arrived to train with the dogs and joined us for a number of our test drives. It was not very encouraging for him that the cars drove with ease at speeds multiple to what the dogs could keep. His hope was for lots of bolder fields, ice cracks and other obstacles where the dogs would excel. When Jeremy Clarkson and James May arrived they soon started to show sympathy for the short straw Richard had pulled.
The race is covered in an excellent and entertaining TV program. The team arrived at the Pole on the 2nd of May, and took some time to rest before heading back to Resolute. The drive back was considerably easier, and we arrived back in Resolute on the 7th of May.
It was great experience and a pleasure to work with the three presenters, the film crew and the North Pole Challenge team.