A team of adventurers have become the very first to cross Antarctica in a passenger car. The weapon of choice? A modified Hyundai Santa Fe.
Among the adventurers was the great-grandson of polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and while the Santa Fe may not be considered as the most rugged vehicle currently on sale, it managed to conquer the Antarctic continent with just a handful of modifications.
The Santa Fe used was customized by expedition leader Gísli Jónsson and outfitted with huge, low pressure tires, new front and rear sub-frames, upgraded suspension components and gears installed inside the wheel hubs. The 2.2-litre diesel powertrain remained stock.
Throughout the treacherous journey, the team had to cross the Ross Ice Shelf. This huge glacier lies beyond the continental land mass, is hundreds of feet deep and is filled with deep, hard-to-see fissures. The Hyundai became the first passenger vehicle to drive across the glacier and was tethered to three support trucks in case one of them fell into the abyss.
Speaking about the journey, Jónsson said “From previous experience, we were expecting more trouble. It was a really good team, a very good bunch of people and the expedition was exceptionally well prepared. Do that and you prevent the drama. The longest repair stop we had was 45 minutes because of a loose bolt!
“A lot of people thought we would never ever make it and when we returned they were shaking our hands kind of thing – they just couldn’t believe we’d actually done it!” he said.