Toyota pickups set records on Antarctic trek

But could they conquer America?

A fleet of 10 specially-outfitted Toyota Hilux pickup trucks recently completed a year-year long trip to Antarctica, setting several records in the process.

The compact pickups are not currently sold in the United States, but are among the most popular around the world and known for their durability. They were outfitted for the assignment by Iceland-based Arctic Trucks, who are also responsible for preparing a Hilux that in 2007 was the first motor vehicle to drive to the magnetic North Pole.

To handle the extreme cold of Antarctica, as low as -50 degrees Celsius during the expedition, the 3.0-liter turbodiesel engines of the pickups were converted to run on jet fuel, which will not freeze even at such temperatures.

While the transmissions of the trucks remained stock, crawler axles were added along with revised suspensions and bodywork to accommodate extra large tires running at just 2-3 psi for improved traction. Several of the trucks were converted into 6x6 vehicles for extra-heavy hauling. The Hilux gets about 5 mpg in Antarctica in this configuration, which is 5 to 8 times more fuel efficient than the tracked vehicles typically used there, representing a significant savings where a barrel of fuel can cost $10,000, according to Toyota.

The trucks took part in a variety of activities on the continent, including acting as support vehicles for an Extreme World Races cross country ski competition and helping to set up a remote fuel depot for use by the permanent research facilities there.

Over the course of their adventures, the trucks set a record for the longest expedition in the history of polar exploration, covering over 44,000 miles combined, while three of the Hilux travelled nearly 6,000 miles each during a double transcontinental crossing that included a stop at the South Pole, each one setting a new distance mark for individual vehicles.

The Hilux was sold in the United States for many years under a variety of different names, before being replaced by the mid-size Tacoma in 1995. review: Toyota 4Runner Trail