Pole Position – Two modified Toyota Hilux trucks park on the frigid Antarctica High Plateau during their record-setting journey to the South Pole. Photos by Arctic Trucks
At an average speed of 13 mph, the pace was more torpid than torrid. But it was fast enough for two modified Toyota Hilux trucks to set a Guinness world record for the fastest overland journey to the South Pole.
“This route to the South Pole is extremely challenging,” says Emil Grimsson, executive chairman of Arctic Trucks, which modified the vehicles. “Our vehicles are operating at altitudes up to almost 11,500 feet, in ultra-low temperatures and in very difficult snow conditions.”
Guinness officially recognized the record in October, about 10 months after the Hilux 3.0-liter turbo diesel trucks embarked on the expedition last December. The expedition was organized by the Kazakhstan National Geographic Society and The Antarctica Company.
The trucks crossed 1,434 miles of the Antarctica High Plateau from Novo station to the South Pole in 108 hours, or 4.5 days. The trek included a 12-hour acclimatizing stop and a five-hour fuel/rest stop. The return trip was faster, clocking in at an unofficial 3.5 days with an average speed of 17 mph.
Polar Express – Hlynur Sigurdsson, Arctic Trucks driver and mechanic, arrives at the ceremonial South Pole.
No comparable speed has ever been recorded for high plateau expeditions in Antarctica, says Grimsson, whose Icelandic company modifies vehicles for extreme off-road use.
Although the Hilux isn’t sold in the United States, it’s very similar to the Tacoma. And a modified Tacoma with a 4.0-liter V-6 engine is scheduled to embark on its own arctic journey this month. The vehicle, which can run on biofuel, will attempt to break the current overland world record from Patriot Hills to the South Pole, a 683-mile journey.
Also this month, the Kazakhstan National Geographic Society will return to the South Pole to celebrate Kazakhstan’s 20 years of independence. They’ll also commemorate the 100-year anniversary of explorers Roald Amundsen’s and Robert Scott’s arrivals at the South Pole.
Along for that ride? A modified Land Cruiser, which is celebrating its own 60th anniversary.