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Extreme Arctic Off-Roading


You will probably never get the chance to race a Bugatti Veyron against a Eurofighter Typhoon, play "car darts" or fire an anti-tank gun at a flying Ford Scorpio—because unless your name is Clarkson, May or Hammond, you don't have the best damn job in the world. But if you fancy a taste of the incredible life the Top Gear crew enjoy, you might be interested to hear that Arctic Trucks, the Iceland-based company that took the lads to the North Pole in 2007's Polar Challenge, is now offering a range of two-day, five-day and longer expeditions across the same territory—in the same beefed-up Toyota 4WDs that raced against Hammond's dog sled team. Bring your own smug British humor.

Iceland offers a pretty comprehensive range of off-roading experiences—depending on which season you visit in, you can push a vehicle against mountains, fields, glaciers, snow, permafrost, rivers, lava fields and iced-over lakes. This smorgasbord of geography is an island in the north Atlantic, nestled between Greenland and the British Isles.

Of course, unless you live there you're probably not equipped with the ideal gear to go explore one of the world's most surreal and magnificent outdoor areas—and that's where Arctic Trucks comes in.

Based in Iceland's capital, Reykjavík, Arctic Trucks offers 4WD trips and tours, from daytrips to expeditions of several weeks' duration—complete with access to a fleet of heavily-modified trucks designed to survive and thrive in some very specialized driving conditions.

The trucks

The Arctic Trucks fleet is run almost constantly in extreme off-road conditions, including mud and river crossings during the summer and deep snow and ice in the wintertime—so clearly, they need to be a little tougher than the average urban tractor. The company also modifies trucks for customers as well.

Starting with a standard Toyota Hilux or Land Cruiser, the Arctic Trucks lads fit a bunch of survival goodies—air compressors, GPS satnav, VHF radios, tire repair gear, shovels, high lift jacks and kinetic rope. Some cars are fitted with winches, snow anchors and snatch-blocks—essential for dragging free stuck vehicles—and every expedition brings at least one of these cars along.

Then it's on to the main event—switching the standard tires (approximately 29" in diameter and designed for road and very light off-road use) for pure off-roading tires, from a minimum of 32" out to an enormous 44" for glacial and heavy snow work.

In order to fit these gargantuan hoops, the fender flares need to be modified or replaced with wider units, the suspension and body height have to be modified, too. For tires 38" and larger, bigger rims are fitted, the gearbox is modified for lower ratios and a lot of extra work is done on the undercarriage.

The key benefit of running huge tires like these, with an almost comically small rim at the center, is that you can let most of the air out of the tires and run them at between 2-5psi, virtually flat. But at these pressures, the contact patches spread right out to provide a broad distribution of the vehicle's weight—and this means you can drive these heavy vehicles successfully over the top of soft snow without bogging down.

The Arctic Trucks guys soon discovered that their extreme off-road mods were becoming a bit of a fashion around town, with people running huge tires despite rarely taking their trucks out to run them in the wilderness—so they now make sure that style, image and on-road drivability are part of every customer modification. And you have to admit, they look pretty neat.

Tours and expeditions

All tours and longer expeditions are seasonal and need to be planned ahead—most either require that you're an experienced driver in these kinds of vehicles, or else that you take a guide along with you. Some of the shorter tours start out with a bit of an introduction/practice session to get you familiar with some of the skills you'll need to manage these modified beasts.

From there, the sky's the limit. Arctic Trucks has put together a number of day trips and 2-5 day tours that take in various natural attractions around the area—and no doubt you can probably stretch these or discuss your own route plans if there's something you really want to see. Prices are pretty reasonable—a couple of hundred Euro per person for a day trip, and extending upward from there—and there's no limit to the scope of 'Expedition' tours such as the one the Top Gear lads took to find the magnetic North Pole in 2007.

I reckon this kind of thing would be a pretty special sort of holiday. Nice work, lads! More information at the Arctic Trucks website, check out the photo gallery for some of the purest adventure porn going around.

ideas, innovation, invention


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