driving big red toyota hilux
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Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today

Driving big red Toyota Hilux

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Driving big red Toyota Hilux

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Quite a celebrity, is Hjalti’s truck. She’s been on television, of course, driven to the North Pole, and then up a live volcano. So she’s a star. And like many a star, she now spends her days touring the world, going to shows and having her photo taken with all sorts of eager fans. It’s really not a bad life at all. So what’s she doing in Dubai? Well, it seemed like a peculiarly Icelandic thing to do. Well, why wouldn’t you? Hjalti and his company build some of the most awesomely capable off-road vehicles on the planet, designed to cope with conditions far beyond anything we can even imagine here, so when you’ve had enough of crawling up the side of a snow-covered glacier or wading through the floodwaters around a glacier, where else do you look for adventure? Why, Dubai of course. Actually, it’s not so daft. Toyota has long been championed by Al-Futtaim, and when looking for someone to build an extreme off-roader, thoughts naturally turned to Arctic Trucks. The guys at Artic Trucks had been building vehicles for the military, extreme off-roaders for their own backyard and generally doing things that even Toyota fought shy of, but they were undeniably reliable and effective. And if they worked in one of the coldest environments on earth, how would they cope with one of the hottest? Good question. The sort of thing that might just occur to you over a plate of Hákarl and a glass or three of brennivin. (That’s fermented shark to you and me, and you can guess what you need to wash it down with.) Icelanders aren’t like other people. Hjalti Hhaltason is the production/sales manager of Arctic Trucks in this part of the world, and it was he who invited wheels to come and experience one of the most famous trucks in the world. This particular truck is one of the actual expedition vehicles that went to the North Pole, and is in more or less exactly the same specification as when it was on camera. The most obvious and most necessary modifications are the suspension lift and tyres, and the huge flared wheelarch extensions necessary to cover them. No, she’s not road legal here, though the versions Arctic Trucks sell here obviously are. Beyond that, the modifications for polar use are surprisingly few. The engine is 3.0-litre four-cylinder diesel, for torque rather than power, and there’s a full set of locking diffs underneath to keep all the wheels turning. Obviously fuel heating isn’t a problem here, but an important part of keeping running on snow. Navigation and communication systems have been taken out since, leaving a slightly battle-scarred interior, but the gunrack is still there, a necessary defence against over-curious polar bears. And, er, that’s about it. Driving the Invincible is huge fun. It’s relatively low-geared, and that, coupled with the lazy pick-up of the diesel rather defines your progress, but once up to speed she will climb anything. The huge tyres tend to float over sand and are bouncier than you expect, but the ride is comfortable enough. Certainly there’s enough movement in the springs to spare your back (and your blushes) if you are a bit too ambitious climbing the face of a dune. Which we were, rather often. As Hjalti says, this true arctic truck isn’t really at its best in the desert — previous days have seen cooked A/C and a broken driveshaft — but that valuable lessons learned there are translated into the trucks they do build for the region. And there are differences between driving well on snow and on sand, in terms of power output and delivery, traction and suspension, all of which are incorporated now into their Xtreme range. The local-specced FJ-Cruiser that came along as escort was much more at home in the sand. They say you should never meet your heroes, in case they turn out to have feet of clay. But in this case at least, I am very glad I did. I have had the honour of driving one of the most extraordinary and iconic trucks ever to turn a wheel, a genuine adventurer and a piece of television history. There could have been no finer place to go and play than Big Red, and she behaved like a trouper, never a moment’s trouble all day. Thankfully, Hjalti left the fermented shark at home.  

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