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Sending A Mini With Tracks To Antartica Sure Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

In World
April 12, 2024

Of all the goofy and delightful vehicles to ever wander the of Antarctica and the Arctic, I never thought I would come across a vehicle seemingly less-suited to the icy wastes than Australia’s Volkswagen Beetle. But the Australians who brought the Bug to the continent really out did themselves with a Morris Mini Minor—on tracks, of course.

It’s a rainy gross Friday here in Detroit, and on days like these, I like to scroll around on my favorite YouTube channels to see what I’ve missed, if anything. Of course, I had to revisit our main man Calum Giles, who seems to be making content explicitly for me.

Weird vehicles, Antarctic research stories, history; he’s very much worth that like and subscribe.

Anyway, the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition needed a small, cheap vehicle with more all-terrain capability, as their Beetles were limited to driving just a few miles around base camp.

Enter Teddy O’Hare, who was both an engineer and ran the business that brought Canadian heavy duty trucks all the way to the Australian researchers in the Antarctic. 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 break 200 mph. It was from his workshop the Mini-Trac was born.

O’Hare knew from his import business that most tracked vehicles were front-wheel drive, so that’s what he went looking for. Add the Expedition’s requirements of cheap and small and really only one vehicle at the time fit the bill—the Mini, or Morris Minor Mini as it was known back then. After testing and a few modifications—honestly, less than you might think—the Mini-Trac made its debut ice-side 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, in the end, the Mini-Trac fell to that fatal flaw of most tiny British cars of the era; reliability. Still, it’s a fascinating slice of automotive and Antarctic history and well worth a 20 minute mental break to watch.

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