Not a Sunday drive for the faint hearted
If you're going to go for a drive, you may as well do the job properly. You need the perfect car, the perfect conditions, and the perfect road. So, you'd imagine someone would have to be completely and utterly deranged to drive a vintage Porsche across Antarctica.
Except that's not a joke. Take one endurance racer and philanthropist (Renee Brinkerhoff), one polar explorer (Jason de Carteret), one Porsche (specifically a 1956 Porsche 356A) and you're off. Valkyrie Racing's upcoming ‘Project 356 World Rally' ice challenge is taking going for a spin in the Porsche to the extreme. The 356-mile ice trek, scheduled to begin on 05 December, 2021, will mark the conclusion of a near 20,000-mile journey.
There is actually a serious point behind this madcap idea.
Renee Brinkerhoff has established a podium-finishing name for herself in rallies such as the notorious La Carrera Panamericana, a gruelling 2,200-mile trek across Mexico. She has also founded a successful non-profit, Valkyrie Gives , to provide essential funds to support shelters within remote areas including China, Mongolia, Peru, India, and Kenya, for victims of child trafficking. Each contribution received goes directly to education and rescue for the survivors.
Brinkerhoff takes this pretty seriously too. Her personal involvement includes her selection as one of a carefully vetted group of volunteer operatives that partake in global undercover assignments. Each mission aids local area police in evidence gathering with a goal to rescue and restore victims, including children who are sex trafficked, and to prosecute their traffickers. Brinkerhoff has already participated in operations in South-east Asia and Latin America.
“Valkyrie Racing has generated exposure to bring to the forefront one of the darkest illegal industries. Our racing efforts have given us a voice on a global platform to put an end to child trafficking,” says Brinkerhoff. “By racing our '56 Porsche in extreme rallies that have never seen this type of vehicle before, we are a unique anomaly and use this recognition to give a voice to put an end to child trafficking.”
And that's where the trek across the ice comes in. And what a car to do it in as well. As you can probably see from the pictures, that isn't quite how the car left the Porsche factory back in 1956.
It's a safe bet it originally had four wheels, not tracks and an enormous pair of skis. After more than 18-months of re-engineering the road-going vintage Porsche 356 for Valkyrie Racing's coldest and most dangerous endeavour, UK-based chassis expert, Kieron Bradley, has succeeded in creating a one-of a-kind ice machine. The combination of skis and tracks, and that enormous crevasse bar sticking out the front, are the most obvious changes. There's a lot more going on underneath though.
The criteria for designing the car were curiously precise for the intended destination. There are obvious things like it had to be able to operate in temperatures down to -50°C, and the crevasse bar (which also holds solar panels) couldn't impair the driver's vision. But then it gets a bit more complicated.
Amazingly, the design had to accommodate the tracks and skis without any changes to the original rally-prepared suspension or wheel alignment. The reason being it has to be able to switch between the ski/track combo and regular spiked ice tyres. And because of weight constraints on the ice, it must be possible for that change to be carried out by one person using only very basic tools. Essentially, you have to be able to remove all of that equipment and replace it with regular wheels, on your own, using nothing but a hammer, a screwdriver, and a spanner, and in sub-zero temperatures.
As you can imagine, a lot of welding went into the final car. There's also a built in compressor and 4-ton bag jack to lift the car in soft snow, a rear mounted winch, a special temperature gauge to monitor the gearbox, and in case of emergency the occupants had to be able to reach all of the survival and communication gear from within the cabin, as well as being able to exit the car via the rear window – should you find yourself unable to use the doors due to the bottomless crevasse over which you're teetering. And if that's not enough, all of that extra welding and essential equipment could exert no more than 2psi of ground pressure in the soft snow. We've all seen robins skipping across the snow on Christmas cards: now imagine that robin carrying a grand piano.
It's an engineering marvel. And before you ask, the answer is no. We'd love to, but we really can't lease you one.
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