Arctic Trucks Lead a Millennium Desert Drive in Dubai
An Arctic Truck Land Cruiser was shipped to the United Arab Emirates to see how it could perform in the deserts of the Middle East.
The annual Gulf News Overnight Fun Drive took place in the desert near Dubai on the 27th and 28th of January 2000. It was the sixteenth of its kind and understandably it was nicknamed the "Millennium Fun Drive". This big event, organised by Gulf News and sponsored by al-Futtaim Motors, was first held in 1985 with 75 4WD vehicles participating. The popularity of the Fun Drive has grown by leaps and bounds and in 1989 Gulf News added another dimension, making it a two-day event designed to give the UAE residents an opportunity to experience the desert.
Testing the AT concept further
With the aim to check if specially modified 4x4 vehicles which are superior in the arctic regions could also perform in the hot desert, al-Futtaim Motors, the distributor for Toyota in UAE in co-operation with Arctic Trucks Iceland imported the "Polar Truck" to participate in the annual Fun Drive. The "Polar Truck" is a Land Cruiser 80 series modified for driving in Antarctica in heavy snow conditions. Intended for use far away from any service stations the vehicle was designed and built to withstand use in extreme conditions and to be "self-sufficient". This particular truck has been driven thousands of km in the Antarctica, two times across the Greenland ice-cap and various excursions in Iceland. Now it was time to test it in the sand. In short, the truck performed extremely well, floating across the sand, where other 4WD vehicle sank, the suspension systems along with the bulky tires working wonders.
"Normally, we have to adjust our driving in the desert to the harsh axle traps," Jehanbaz Ali Khan, a Dubai 4WD specialist commented. "Driving across the desert in an Arctic Truck, it seemed that there were no such traps at all." The first AT modified truck in the UAE Al-Futtaim Motors also supplied a Land Cruiser 90 (Prado) which Arctic Trucks engineers modified for 33 inch tires, a very popular modification in Iceland. The AT crew was supplied with outstanding facilities and assistance by the staff of Al Futtaim Motors during their stay and Arctic Trucks would like to extend their gratitude to company's Colin Leitch, Graham Pitcher, Calvyn Hamman and Paul Shewan, for their assistance with the project. The AT 33-inch conversion consists of changes to suspension, wheels, tires and bodywork. Behind every detail there is knowledge gained from years of experience in truck modifications where style as well as outstanding functionality is the key issue. The vehicle was exhibited in the desert at campsite during the Fun Drive. In the coming months it will be subject to further tests in the area to see how it performs in the desert, on the streets of UAE and last but not least how it will withstand the heat which can exceed 50 degrees Celsius during summertime. Given the that the vehicle will pass these test and there is a market for it, al-Futtaim Motors in co-operation with Arctic Trucks will offer these modifications to UAE residents
"Even though there are many similarities driving in snow and driving in sand, there are some differences" said Freyr Jónsson the technical manager of Arctic Trucks who drove the vehicle in the Antarctica and across the Greenland ice cap. "In the snow you don't want the wheels to start spinning while driving, on the contrary you can spin the wheels in the sand as long as you have some momentum. In the sand all the wheels have a very even grip compared to the snow where a vehicle with no differential locks can easily start to spin only one wheel in difficult situation. Momentum is more important in the sand than in the snow and flotation is much greater. Even though we can find lots of sand in Iceland it is very rare to find sand as dry and loose as we experienced in the UAE. This trip gave us a much better insight in what the challenges are and what kinds terrain you can face in these areas. With the right driving technique, unmodified 4x4 vehicles can be driven in the desert with airpressure lowered 16 to 20 psi." "Driving the unmodified vehicles you had to take great care to keep momentum in the loose sand. If you stopped in the wrong place you would end up helplessly stuck in the sand. The Polar Truck, on the other hand, had such a great floatation in the sand that it could stop anywhere. Even when stopping on a fairly steep upward slope in loose sand, we could shift into the crawler gear and the Truck it would spin the wheels without sinking, slowly moving to the top."
"In our opinion the trip was a great success and the experience and knowledge gained from it will most likely prove invaluable in the years to come. We proved that the AT concept, at first glance, can function in the desert just as well as in the arctic regions of the world. We are very excited to see what further tests will conclude, but we are optimistic that the concept has definite opportunities in the region" said Emil Grimsson, Arctic Trucks' Chairman in conclusion