Arctic Veteran Top Gear Hilux Tackles Dubai Sand Dunes

Nick Dasko
by Nick Dasko

This Toyota Hilux has travelled with the Top Gear team to the magnetic North Pole and with James May to an active volcano in Iceland. Now it faces a new challenge: the massive, scorching sand dunes of Dubai.

The temperatures in the desert between the UAE and Oman regularly reach above 120 degrees fahrenheit. This stresses most vehicles, but nowhere near as much as climbing the massive desert dunes in this topographical oven. But dune climbing is exactly what one journalist recently did in the Toyota Hilux.

Toyota Hilux trucks are exceptionally tough and versatile. Being a vehicle designed for construction and farm use and then heavily re-engineered for the Arctic, this particular Hilux is not exactly at home in the desert. It dug in and bottomed out on the peak of a dune ending the trip before it really began. Both of the front-end’s CV joints completely disintegrated. Oil was leaking out and a rescue was needed.

Thankfully Icelandic person and Arctic Trucks representative Hjalti Hjaltasona was on hand to make sure nothing too reckless was done. Arctic Trucks prepared the Toyotas used by Top Gear in their challenge.

Hjaltason was part of the team that did the modifications and was present during the making of the film. These mods for travel on thin ice and snow include relocating the front suspension 40 mm lower and 50 mm forward to make room for the hand-made tires. The tires only ride on 15 inch wheels but the tires themselves are 38 inches in diameter. They have two valves so air can be easily let in or out. The low traction of the sea ice and powdery snow means that lower tire pressure is often necessary. These tires are more than happy to roll at 4psi.

There are aluminum skid plates that are five millimeters thick. They protect the bumper, suspension, transmission, differentials and transfer case. The entire drivetrain was modified to better handle the cold. Naturally a long excursion like this requires a larger fuel tank that requires the exhaust system to be rerouted.

Last but not least are heaters for all the lubricants and of course the fuel. To put that in perspective, many Canadians have oil-heaters in their cars to keep the lubricant from turning to sludge in the cold when they are parked outdoors. Plugs for the heaters are common in outdoor parking lots. But once the engine is running that is all the heat the vehicle needs.

The frigid arctic environment is a stark contrast to the desert sun yet this cold-weather warrior was brought to UAE. This is because it’s use in TV has made Arctic Trucks customized vehicles desired all over the world. The demand is so great for them that Toyota’s importer in the UAE asked the outfitters for development assistance in developing a line of “Extreme” modified Toyotas that can flourish in the spectacular landscapes of this region.

Hjaltason now resides in Dubai ensuring the vehicles customized for this market receive the luxurious interiors and practical modifications the local customers demand. The famous red truck was brought in for promotional purposes and hence it retains the Polar Special appearance. With the suspension setup for arctic ice and powder, the truck doesn’t have the clearance or approach angles needed for dune bashing.

Oh and one other major factor contributed to it failing at dune bashing, the completely stock, 3 litre diesel engine. This engine, like all diesels is great for torque and as such for most kinds of off-roading. In order to get up a tall sand dune, a vehicle needs speed and that means horsepower. The buyer of the “Extreme” Toyotas in UAE likely knew thi,s so hopefully they won’t get stuck on any dunes.

[Source: The National]

Nick Dasko
Nick Dasko

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