Polar Explorer: An Arctic Trucks Hilux Built for the Korean Polar Research Institute

    Polar Explorer

    Michael RuddPhotographer, Writer

    When the Korean Polar Research Institute contacted Arctic Trucks Iceland in 2018 and asked the company to build a vehicle for its Antarctica research station, the team at Arctic Trucks confidently accepted the order. The company has been building specialty 4x4 vehicles designed to traverse polar regions for over three decades. In fact, by the start of 2015, Arctic Trucks AT44 vehicles had covered over 200,000 kilometers on the Antarctica high plateau. With a track record like that, it became clear to the Koreans why the legendary Arctic Trucks–built Toyota Hilux was chosen to be the primary ground transport vehicle for their Jang Bogo Station on the coast of Terra Nova Bay in Northern Victoria Land.

    Gisli Jonsson and his team at the Arctic Trucks Special Projects division in Reykjavik were assigned to design and build the truck and worked around the clock to achieve a six-week completion deadline. The short timeframe was important to the Koreans since they needed it shipped to Antarctica before the winter set in. Arctic Trucks has rarely turned down a challenge, and its production team is world renowned for achieving outstanding results.

    To begin, they acquired a Taiwan-built, stock ’17 Toyota Hilux with a 2.8L turbodiesel engine as their blank canvas. During rigorous days and long nights of detailed modifications, the Hilux was quickly transformed into a piece of automotive art. The custom modifications were designed by the Arctic Trucks engineers specifically for polar travel, and they include Nokian Hakkapeliitta 44x19R17 tires, a 4-inch suspension lift, relocation of the front suspension and rear axle, custom transfer case setup, and a 2-inch body lift. Other cool mods include a tire inflation/deflation system that can be controlled by a cell phone app, an interior and bed-mounted rollcage, as well as a front “crevasse bar” designed for disaster prevention when traveling Antarctica.

    Ultimately, the finished rig is capable of tackling the most hostile terrain on the planet, due in part to a wider, taller stance and the 44-inch tires. Its massive meats, when aired down to 2 psi and coupled with the front and rear lockers, provide incredible traction and stability in the extremely cold and harsh environment of Antarctica.

    The powerful Hilux is equipped for the extreme conditions of Antarctica with a custom crevasse bar with a Class 3 tow hitch, a crane system (for lifting barrels and crevasse rescue operations), a ComeUp 9,000-pound winch, a Hi-Lift jack, and a Sandvik stainless steel prybar.

    At a Glance

    General
    Vehicle: ’17 Toyota Hilux Double Cab
    Owner: Korean Polar Research Institute
    Stomping grounds: Northern Victoria Land, Antarctica
    Build Time: Six weeks

    Drivetrain
    Engine: Toyota 2.8L 1GD-FTV turbodiesel
    Transmission: Aisin AC60 6-spd automatic
    Transfer cases: Aisin JF2A 2-spd, LC200, custom adapter
    Low range ratios: 2.62:1, 2.57:1
    Crawl ratio: 118.9:1 (max)

    Suspension
    Front axle/differential: IFS, 10-inch-travel Fox 2.5 internal bypass coilovers, Eibach coil springs/4.88 gears, ARB Air Locker
    Rear: Heavy-duty leaf springs, 10-inch-travel Fox Performance Series 2.0 IFP shocks/4.88 gears, ARB Air Locker
    Steering: Rack-and-pinion, heavy-duty steering links

    Tires/Wheels
    Tires: 44x19R17 Nokian Hakkapeliitta 44
    Wheels: 17x16 Arctic Trucks, steel

    Miscellaneous
    Cool stuff: Custom fiberglass fender flares, interior/exterior rollbars, crane system, crevasse bar, auxiliary fuel tanks, roof rack, 3-in aluminum nerf bars

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