The Toyota Hilux has gained an extrordinary reputation for exceptional sturdiness and reliability during sustained heavy use, or even abuse, and is often referred to as “The Indestructible Truck“.
This reputation was further reinforced on the BBC motoring show Top Gear, when a 1988 diesel Hilux with 305,775 km (190,000 miles) on the odometer was subjected to extraordinary abuse (in Series 3, Episodes 5 and 6). This consisted of driving it down a flight of steps, scraping buildings, crashing headlong into a tree, being washed out to sea, and being submerged in sea water for four hours, driving it through a garden shed, dropping a caravan onto it, hitting it with a wrecking ball, setting its cabin and bed area on fire, and finally, placing it on top of a 73 m (240 ft) block of apartments that was next destroyed by controlled building implosion. Although it was now suffering from severe structural damage, the Hilux was still running after being repaired without spare parts, and with only typical tools that would be found in a truck’s toolbox, such as scewdrivers, motor oil, and an adjustable wrench.The Hilux currently rests as one of the preserve background decorations in the Top Gear studio.
In the TV series of 2006, (Series 8, Episode 3), a Hilux was chosen by Jeremy Clarkson (a fellow South Yorkshireman as Neil…) as his platform for creating an amphibious vehicle. With assistance, Jeremy Clarkson rigged the truck with a massive outboard motor, and steering mechanism in the pickup bed. The truck, redubbed the “Toybota”, was driven by Jeremy Clarkson over several miles by road and 3.2 km (2 miles) across open water, before capsizing (three metres away from the finish) during a quick turn.
In 2007, Top Gear ran a Special Program in which Jeremy Clarkson and James May raced a customized 2005 model Hilux to the 1996 Magnetic North Pole from Northern Canada against Richard Hammond using a dog sled, and won. This episode, known as the Top Gear Polar Special, made the truck the first motor vehicle to make it to the Magnetic North Pole. The Hilux used was slightly modified: larger wheels and thicker tyres were installed, a thick sump guard was installed, the front suspension was moved forward, a gun mount was installed, some powerful front lights were installed (although they were not needed, as it was still polar daytime at 23:30) and a toilet seat (first introduced as a joke Christmas present idea in Series 3 Episode 6 which also featured the Hilux challenge) was mounted on the rear bumper.
In 2010, the Top Gear host James May drove a modified Hilux, one which had served as the camera crew’s vehicle during the 2007 Polar Special, to approach the summit of the erupting Icelandic Volcano Eyjafjallajökull and retrieved a fragment of recently ejected volcanic lava. The Hilux was modified for this task by the installation of a simple metal “umbrella” and alcohol cooling drips for its tyres (Series 15, Episode 1).
Outside of TV programs, these vehicles have been known to exceed 482,803 km (300,000 mi) with regular maintenance. It is also notorious for being used as an improvised fighting vehicle (a “Technical“) by militias and irregular military forces, especially in Third World conflicts. The 1980’s Toyota War between Libya and Chad was so named because of the heavy use of Hilux trucks as light cavalry vehicles.
A world record was achieved by the support crew for the participants in the 2008 / 2009 Amundsen Omaga 3 South Pole Race. The crew travelled in specially adapted Toyota Hilux’s modified by Arctic Trucks, completing a trip of over 5,000 km (3,100 miles) from Novo, a Russian Scientific Station in Antarctica, to the Geographic South Pole and back again, making them the first 4×4’s to reach the South Pole. The return journey of 2,500 km (1,600 miles) from the South Pole to Novo Station was completed in a record 8 days and 17 hours.
The Hilux is constantly tested in some of the world’s most extreme environments and there are few more challenging environments than The Dakar Rally. Known as one of the toughest off-road endurance races, vehicles are required to cross dunes, rocky canyons and thick mud in severe heat. In the Dakar 2014 race, only 204 vehicles finished out of 450. The epic 9,500-kilometre journey through Argentina and Chile included 5,000km of racing over 13 sections. Hilux occupying six of the top 30 spots.
There are many (well worth watching) “You Tube” films released, covering both Toyota Hilux and of course Arctic Trucks coversions of these – For those who are really interested….
Toyota also have a very nice presentation “The HILUX Story – Understanding the Legend“, which is very interesting