Arctic Trucks originated in Iceland, its roots lay in the need for dealing with the difficult terrain in Iceland, summer and winter. In the 1970s the Icelandic people started experimenting with larger tires and low tire pressures on the snow with interesting results. But it was not until in the mid-1980s, when practical solutions began emerging, that demand quickly rose. Small garages emerged where people and companies had their vehicles modified. With more and more brand new Toyota vehicles being modified and limited or no standardization, Toyota in Iceland (P. Samúelsson hf.) became concerned over warranty, serviceability, safety and customer satisfaction.
In 1990 Toyota in Iceland established its own modification division calling it “Toyota Aukahlutir” (Toyota Accessories). This division grew very quickly and 20% to 70% of all new Toyota Hilux, Land Cruiser and 4Runners got modified before delivery to customers. In 1996 the name of this division was changed to Arctic Trucks and in 1999 Arctic Trucks Norway was established. In 2005 Arctic Trucks was bought out of Toyota Iceland and seriously started working more with other brands as well as Toyota. As of mid-2011, Arctic Trucks has daughter companies in Iceland, Norway and UAE. Franchise agreements have been signed, or are in the final stages, with companies in Russia, Brazil, South Africa and Finland, as well as with CFAO Automotive which represents Toyota in 14 African countries. Arctic Trucks has offered self-drive tours in Iceland since 2008 under the name "Arctic Trucks Experience".
Arctic Trucks modifications
Arctic Trucks modifications range from small modification to a total rebuilding of the vehicles. All modifications are aimed to enhance the off-road capabilities of the vehicle, to varying degrees. Reliability and serviceability are of high importance and no compromises are made in requirements for appearance and driving properties.
Examples of Arctic Trucks rebuilds and modifications:
- AT44 6X6 – Arctic Trucks largest rebuilds, 6 wheel drive with high weight capacity, equipped to take on long distance travelling i.e. in Antarctica.
- AT44 rebuild (44 inch tires) - A very capable off-road vehicle, used by search and rescue teams in Iceland and have driven over 60 thousand km on the high plateau in Antarctica.
- AT38 rebuild (38 inch tires) - can tackle most snow and off-road conditions. The Arctic Trucks Hilux AT38 was used in the expedition to the Magnetic North Pole with Top Gear.
- AT35 modification (35 inch tires) - gives greater ground clearance, better traction and softer ride. This modification is ideal for hunters, farmers and all those who want to go the extra distance.
- AT33 modification (33 inch tires) - gives increases ground clearance, softer ride on rough roads and added flotation i.e. sand.
The range of customers is very wide; individuals, various utility companies, NGO’s, police, militaries, rescue teams, scientific organization, adventure operators and more.
Arctic Trucks has supplied vehicles, organized or taken part in various expeditions in Iceland and outside of Iceland. These vehicles are very capable in various conditions and their increasing popularity in difficult terrains and severe climate is driven by their relatively very low fuel consumption, reliability, comfort and speed.
- December 1997 to January 1998 – Antarctica Expedition organized by the Swedish Polar institute. Two rebuilt Toyota Land Cruiser 80 on 44 inch tires supported scientific research, driving over 3000km.
- May 1999 – Greenland. Three rebuilt Toyota Land Cruiser 80 in 44 inch drove over 800 kilometers across the Greenland icecap back and forth.
- April 2007 - Magnetic North Pole with BBC Top Gear. Two rebuilt Toyota Hilux AT38 along with one Toyota Land Cruiser AT38 drove from Resolute to the 1996 Magnetic North Pole. A first and only time a car has been driven this way.
- November 2008 to February 2009 – Antarctica. Supporting a ski race and a crew from BBC filming the TV show On Thin Ice. With unexplored crevasse area and a route never driven before, four Arctic Trucks Hilux AT44 drove from Novo to South Pole and back with film crew, doctors other service crew. Combined the vehicles drove nearly 30,000km on the high plateau of Antarctica.
- November 2009 - Antarctica. From Novo to 83:20 degrees in Antarctica, preparing a fuel drop. Two Arctic Trucks Hilux AT44 drove over 3000km each to service a fuel post setup on the Antarctic plateau with temperature falling well below – 50 C. When traveling the vehicles were averaging over 500km per day.
- April 2010 - Iceland. Taking BBC Top Gear filming crew to the erupting volcano Eyjafjallajökull.
- November 2010 – Antarctica. From the Indian scientific base MAITRI to the South Pole and back, nearly 4700km. Four Arctic Trucks Hilux AT44 carried scientists and equipment up to 3400 meter altitude with temperature measured at -56C.
- December 2010 – Antarctica. Two Arctic Trucks Hilux AT44 drove a team from Kazakhstan from Novo to the South Pole and back. The expedition to South Pole, 2308km took only 4.5 days.
- December 2010 to January 2011 - Antarctica. Four Arctic Trucks Hilux AT44 and two Arctic Trucks Hilux AT44 6X6 supported an ZDF and ORF TV production team filming the TV show Der Wettlauf zum Südpol where an Austrian skiing team competed with a German team for the last 300km to the South Pole.