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Monday, February 9, 2009
After making record breaking journey last year - being the first car to reach the Magnetic North Pole with the three stooges from Top Gear (more like two as "Hamster" Hammond went on a dog pulled sleigh), the Toyota Hilux again made headlines by driving across Antarctica to the South Pole.
According to press materials, the Hilux-es were used as support vehicles for Amundsen Omega3 South Pole Race, a 483-mile skiing challenge celebrating the historic rival expeditions of explorers Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott. It also mentions the advantages of Hilux over traditional favourites in traversing snow terrains - belt tracked snowcats, which are slower, uses more fuel and are less comfortable.
Four units of Hilux were used for this momentous journey, each of them covered more than 2000 miles each (over 3,200km) in temperatures below -30C. All four of them were of the 3.0-litre diesel double-cab variant, heavily modified by the Artic Truck who were also responsible for the Top Gear North Pole Challenge Hilux.
Artic Truck is a 4x4 modification and conversion specialist in Iceland. They are an affiliated company with the Toyota distributor in Iceland, which also explains their choice of vehicles. Artic Truck now operates independently from Toyota, but it is obvious from their website that Toyota SUVs and trucks remain their choice of base vehicles to start from.
Some very significant modifications were made to the Hilux-es, among them fitment of 44-inch tires, reinforcing the drivetrain and suspension. To accommodate the gigantic tires, the front suspension had to be moved 4cm down, 5cm forward and lifted by another 5cm. Fenders also had to be cut and larger parts of the body had to be rebuilt. The rear suspensions were moved back 16cm and lifted 10cm. On the drivetrain, a 100% differential lock are fitted on both front and rear axles, while an additional crawler gear is installed. Current 4x4 Low ratio is already for extremely slow crawling speed so one has to wonder who much slower must the crawler gear be, to pull a 2-ton supply trailer.
Very little is mentioned on the engine modifications, other than fitment of a "special device" to melt snow while on the move using the engine's heat.
The earlier TY07 HLX used by the Top Gear Polar Challenge last year.
More photos and videos can be found here.
Closer to home, the local Toyota distributor UMW Toyota Motor have also provided 4 units of Hilux for use as support vehicles in the 2008 Rainforest Challenge, an international 4x4 event which many avid off-roaders now perceive it to be the new "Camel Trophy Challenge" which made Land Rovers a household name for 4x4. After more than 2 decades, the Camel Trophy have evolved to be more of an atheletic event and less of a man-machine event. In its place as the pinnacle of 4x4 challenge is the Rainforest Challenge.
And please don't come down too hard on Louis. He is a really nice chap, an avid off-roader and not a TV personality. The reality is that corporate sponsorhip is critical for the success of such large scale events. There is nothing quite wrong in giving some product endorsement to corporations in return for their financial support. Personally, I would like to see greater involvements of makes like Isuzu, whose D-Max is a seriously under-rated truck. Truth is that there really isn't much of a difference from one truck to another truck, as all 4x4 trucks have to be modified and adapted for use in the muddy rough and tumble world of 4x4 motorsports. No standard truck can survive in those environment. What is more critical is having the right tires, support equipment and a good driver co-driver team. The vehicle is a secondary issue. A properly prepared old banger 2 decade old Daihatsu Rocky can easily keep up with the latest Hilux in the rainforest. The key word here is vehicle planning and preparation. It is easier to modify / build a car for a very focused application and type of usage, compared to designing a car that have to meet a multitude of needs (i.e. on-road comfort and off-road performance). So whatever can be done by the Hilux, I am quite sure it can be replicated by its next nearest competitor.
Images from NihonCar and AutoMotorPortal.
Hilux Minor Change / Facelift
Posted by AutoIndustrie at 9:10 PM