HomeTop StoriesSending a mini with numbers to Antarctica certainly seemed like a good...

Sending a mini with numbers to Antarctica certainly seemed like a good idea at the time

Of all the crazy and delightful vehicles I’ve ever roamed Antarctica and the Arctic in, I never thought I’d come across a vehicle seemingly less suited to the icy wasteland than Australia’s Volkswagen Beetle. But the Australians who brought the Bug to the continent really did it with a Morris Mini Minor – on tracks, of course.

It’s a rainy Friday here in Detroit, and on days like these I like to scroll around my favorite YouTube channels to see what I might have missed. Of course I had to revisit our main man Calum Giles, who seems to make content explicit for me.

Weird vehicles, Antarctic research stories, history; It’s definitely worth a like and subscribe.

Regardless, the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition needed a small, inexpensive vehicle with more off-road capabilities, as their Beetles were limited to driving only a few kilometers around the base camp.

Then you meet Teddy O’Hare, who was both an engineer and ran the company that brought Canadian heavy trucks all the way to Australian researchers in Antarctica. O’Hare deserves a post all his own as he was an absolutely incredible guy. His workshop was responsible for building the first jet-powered truck, which became the first truck to reach a speed of 200 miles per hour. From his workshop the Mini-Trac was born.

O’Hare knew from his import business that most tracked vehicles had front-wheel drive, so he looked for that. Add to that the expedition’s requirements of being cheap and small, and in fact only one vehicle met the requirements at the time: the Mini, or Morris Minor Mini as it was then called. After testing and a few adjustments (honestly less than you might think), the Mini-Trac made its debut on the ice in 1965.

I’ll save the rest of the story for Calum to tell, but it’s absolutely fascinating from start to finish. It took a lot of experimentation and eventually the Mini-Trac fell into the fatal flaw of most small British cars of the era; reliability. Still, it’s a fascinating piece of automotive and Antarctic history and well worth a 20-minute mental break to watch.

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