My kind of pick-up line

We might not need an ex­treme off-roader, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want one. Charles Ran­ge­ley-wil­son is first in line for the lat­est in­car­na­tion of Isuzu’s D-max

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

Charles Ran­ge­ley-wil­son is keen to go off-road­ing in the lat­est in­car­na­tion of the Isuzu D-max

ONce a year, I yearn for one of those dou­ble-cab pick­ups with tyres like mon­strous dough­nuts and a snorkel. The kind you see in Ice­land, which is where I am when I yearn for one. I’m usu­ally driv­ing some Dae­woo or Ssangyong hire car, gin­ger­ing my way along a pot-holed track look­ing for a fish­ing hut in the twilit wilder­ness. Head­lamps, some­times two, but of­ten eight, ap­pear in the rear-view mir­ror. Within sec­onds, they’re on my tail, fill­ing the re­flec­tion. I’ve hardly time to avoid the next sump-trash­ing bump be­fore the beast flashes past and is off into the dis­tance, bathing me in a cloud of vol­canic dust.

You’d think it was the mil­i­tary or some snow-crazed troll-hunter, but no, it’s just Mrs Olafs­dót­tir, who’s for­got­ten the milk. You see, no Ice­lander drives a Dae­woo: th­ese are re­served for the use of tourists. Ice­landers all drive dough­nut-tyred pick-ups, tricked up to the max on rock-hop­ping sus­pen­sion—and they use them to nip to the shops. How the Ice­landers must love to watch us nan­ny­ing along the mar­blerun roads, wish­ing we’d signed our col­li­sion-dam­age waiver forms. How easy would my tours around Ice­land’s rivers be in one of those, I think, as Mrs Olafs­dót­tir blitzes over the lava field.

It was, there­fore, with cu­rios­ity and long­ing that I ac­cepted an in­vi­ta­tion from Isuzu to join the com­pany for a day’s off-road­ing in the lat­est ver­sion of its ven­er­a­ble D-max, fet­tled into full-fat glacier­munch­ing form by Arc­tic Trucks (AT), the most re­spected tricker­outer of off-road ve­hi­cles in Ice­land, where trick­ing out is an art­form.

You see, the puz­zlingly ov­erengi­neered na­ture of th­ese ve­hi­cles when ranked out­side the su­per­mar­ket in down­town Akureyri in mid­sum­mer is ex­plained by an Ice­landic win­ter. Not only is there noth­ing else to do when the night closes in, but that’s when the end­less, eerie and empty land­scape be­comes the big­gest off-road track in the world. Once the snow falls, Ice­landers have a right to roam— the more ex­treme, the bet­ter. Isuzu showed us a pic­ture of this new truck half­way up a wall of snow, al­most ver­ti­cal and dwarfed by a wave of white. In the fol­low­ing shot, the truck was at the top.

It’s an ar­ti­cle of faith with AT that ev­ery ve­hi­cle its team breathes on should be able to head any­where off-road, with­out winches or any other form of ex­ter­nal as­sis­tance. For th­ese hardy is­lan­ders, it’s all about the tyre choice, tyre pres­sure and ground clear­ance. I’m no ex­pert, but there was noth­ing at the Mill­brook prov­ing ground that this AT35 couldn’t han­dle—and that was with me at the wheel.

De­spite their Ice­landic ubiq­uity, this is the first time an AT pickup has been avail­able for UK cus­tomers. AT and Isuzu are bank­ing on a niche mar­ket among farm­ers and coun­try sports­men—or per­haps just mad green-lan­ers—for this kind of hard­core off-roader, even in our tem­per­ate land­scape. I doubt they’re wrong.

AT has 25 years of ex­pe­ri­ence adapt­ing ve­hi­cles for ex­treme off-road use. Isuzu’s D-max, the best-sell­ing pick-up in Scan­di­navia, is a favourite. AT has taken this al­ready ca­pa­ble ve­hi­cle and propped it up on Fox dampers, whop­ping great wheels and Nokian Roti­iva tyres. From a prac­ti­cal point of view, this means it grips like

a spi­der, but, with the air let out, th­ese same tyres will float over deep snow with the light­est of foot­prints (the truck has an on-board re-in­fla­tion pump).

All this ex­tra hard­ware im­proves ground clear­ance, ap­proach and de­par­ture an­gles, too, which means it will go any­where: up and down slith­ery canyons of sand and mud, through pud­dles you could bury a hippo in, over ruts like felled trees all in a row, we did it all.

I’m not wholly con­vinced of the need for such an ex­treme off-roader in our green-and-pleas­ant land, but I’m sure that there’s a bunch of (prob­a­bly) men who’ll de­velop a rea­son to buy it. Me? I’ve taken note of the AT ad­dress in Reyk­javik. An ex­tended salmon-chas­ing test drive is called for.

Ice­landers all drive dough­nut­tyred pick-ups

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