For those craving a road trip, how about a 24-day scenic drive from Cheyenne to the Magnetic North Pole?
Two badass 6x6 Ford F-350s custom-built in a Cheyenne shop made that epic trek in April. Much of the drive to the Magnetic North Pole in extreme northern Canada was made across frozen sea ice and boundless fields of deep snow.
But that’s exactly what the trucks, customized by the Arctic Trucks company, were designed to do. They’re built to carry passengers and cargo across country and in conditions previously traversable only by snowmobiles or other tracked vehicles.
And while the 3,500-some miles from Cheyenne to Magnetic North Pole is quite a journey, it’s nothing compared to the truly epic 30,000-mile, 17-month expedition to cross both the North and South poles the company is supporting with three of its rugged 6x6 trucks. That’s expected to begin next year.
“Our trucks can bring a lot of capability for a wide variety of purposes, but you can also use these trucks as an everyday vehicle,” Kyle Leeds of Cheyenne told Cowboy State Daily.
He’s the director of sales and business development for Arctic Trucks North America. The Arctic Trucks company was founded in 1990 in Iceland, and is still headquartered there. Its Cheyenne shop, which opened in late 2022, is the company’s first, and so far only, North America outlet.
The F-350s that made the drive to the Magnetic North Pole were among the first built in the Cheyenne shop.
Since then, the shop has turned out numerous other vehicles that have been sent out to mines, surveying companies and others operating in some of the harshest places on Earth.
The company’s also been in talks with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and some other entities in the Cowboy State that might put their go-anywhere rigs to use.
‘How Do You Get From Iceland To Cheyenne?’
Leeds is new to the company as an employee, having signed on right before the Cheyenne shop opened. But he is hardly new to Arctic Trucks or the automotive industry.
While growing up in Pennsylvania, he developed a passion for rugged and off-road vehicles, which he carried into his long automotive career.
One day he was watching one of his favorite automotive shows, the BBC’s “Top Gear” series. The episode featured a 2007 Arctic Trucks venture to the Magnetic North Pole.
“It was the first time that wheeled vehicles had been driven to the Magnetic North Pole,” he said.
He had to find out more about the company and its amazing trucks.
“I went to Iceland for the first time in 2015. And I just kept going back, and back again. I just wanted to keep meeting more people and seeing more of their vehicles,” he said.
So, when the company opted to expand to North America, he jumped at the opportunity to work for them full-time.
But out of all the places on the continent to set up shop, why did Arctic Trucks choose Cheyenne?
“How do you get from Iceland to Cheyenne? That is a good question,” Leeds said.
It so happened that one of the company’s executives lives in Colorado and liked Cheyenne’s central location and business-friendly atmosphere, Leeds said.
Leeds has driven Arctic Trucks in Iceland, Wyoming and other states, and into Canada. He wasn’t on the April expedition to the Magnetic North Pole.
After setting out from Cheyenne, the two F-350s cruised to the first waypoint in Edmonton, Alberta. From there, it was on to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. There, the expedition hooked up with an electric SUV that had also been customized by Arctic Trucks. It was to be the first electric vehicle driven to the Magnetic North Pole.
“Once you leave Yellowknife, you’re on the ice roads,” Leeds said.
It Comes Down To Proper Inflation
So far, the Cheyenne shop has worked mostly with pickups, Leeds said. Lighter models, such as Ford F-150s, are turned into 4x4 Arctic Trucks. The F-350s are rebuilt into six-wheel-drive beasts.
Crews at the shop can extend the truck’s frames and bodies to accept an extra axle and other specialized parts.
One of the most important features on any of the vehicles is oversized tires. The full-sized trucks are outfitted with tires that are 44 inches tall and 18.5 inches wide.
Jacking the trucks up to accommodate the huge tires would throw off their center of gravity, Leeds said. So instead, the shop alters the trucks’ bodies to accept the tires with about only a 2-inch lift.
Using a specialized air compressor and hose system that can be controlled from inside the cab, the tire pressure can be adjusted on the fly. And that’s what makes it all work, Leeds said.
The air pressure in the tires can be dropped down to “the single digits PSI, and that’s what gives you flotation on snow,” he said.
The massive tucks can “float” across powdery snow in places where one might think only a snowmobile could go, he said.
“If you’re on sea ice, you want it at 25 PSI so you can cruise along at 50 mph. And then when you come off the ice and get into 3 feet of snow, you want adjust it down to 10 PSI,” he said.
The tires can be inflated to full pressure for driving on city streets or cruising at highway speeds on asphalt.
Arctic Trucks rigs would absolutely fit the Wyoming lifestyle, Leeds said.
But how well might they fit the budget? That depends.
They’re not cheap. With the base cost of the truck figured in, a full-sized 4x4 pickup build might run around $150,000. And for those hankering a 6x6 abominable snow truck, expect to pay in the mid-$400,000s range.
Arctic Trucks can also customize smaller rigs such as “commuter vehicles” for less money. They’re popular in places like Norway, Leeds said, and would also be nice for getting to and from work on Wyoming’s snowy, icy roads.
Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.