While most of the attention this time of year revolves around the North Pole and Santa's sleigh, a group of researchers from the National Center for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR) recently employed four Toyota Hilux pickup trucks to head in the opposite direction.

Rather than using the standard tracked vehicles to make the roughly 2800 mile roundtrip to and from the South Pole, four Toyota Hilux pickups were used to test their efficiency and reliability in the extremely harsh environment. The NCAOR's gamble paid off as all four pickups negotiated the Antarctic terrain successfully, completing the journey without a hitch and setting records for time and fuel economy in the process.

With engines running 24/7 to keep them warm, the trucks averaged just under 5 mpg during the journey. While this may seem like an incredibly low number, it's five to eight times as efficient as tracked vehicles. This greatly reduced the NCAOR's trip expenses as, according to Toyota, one barrel of fuel can cost as much as $10,000 in Antarctica.

Of course the pickup trucks were modified from stock to contend with one of the harshest environments on the planet. The modification duties were performed by Arctic Trucks of Iceland, which has previously modified Hilux pickups to take on the North Pole and the Icelandic Volcano Eyjafjallajoekull. The company made extensive modifications to everything but the engine -- a 3.0-liter turbodiesel I-4 -- which was left completely stock except for extra lubricants added to the corrosive jet fuel, despite the extreme cold. Arctic Trucks revised the front and rear suspensions, added an auxiliary heating system, a horizontal rollbar to protect against falling into crevasses, low-ratio crawler gears, and extra large tires. Each truck was also fitted with a crane to transfer equipment.

This is one of the most extreme places anyone has ever taken a production-based vehicle before. What's the most extreme place you've taken yours? Let us know in the comments section below.

Source: Toyota