Drunkenly Into Oblivion: The Hooniversal Polar Expedition

Like so many other great ideas, this one was borne of a whole lot of alcohol. We were sitting in the Techie Lounge and watching the Top Gear Polar Special. After a few more drinks, someone scoffed at the goings-on in the saga, letting loose with the fatal words that have doomed many men before: “How hard can it be?”

It's amazing, the difference a budget can make.

Anyone who has been in this situation before will be familiar with the sequence of events that followed. A conversation ensued involving CardboardSamurai, CaffeineFuelled, TechieInHell and myself. More drinks were consumed and the conversation gradually got louder. At several points, arguments broke out. The resolutions to those arguments may or may not have had anything to do with the original point we had been arguing about, and the solutions resulting from the problems that had sparked the arguments in the first place proved to be completely counter-productive to the project as a whole. And some of the problems we ran into just didn’t have a simple solution.
Part I: Choosing Our Vehicle
One of the largest problems we ran into was probably the most glaringly obvious. In the Top Gear Polar Special, they had used a specially-modified Toyota HiLux, likely costing many tens of thousands more than our budget would allow.
Scotch! It's what's for breakfast!

Truth be told, our budget was quite limited indeed. There were very few cars that would have been easily accessible within the boundaries of our financial restraints. We briefly considered using our budget to modify one of the vehicles we did have available to us, however even that option rapidly evaporated when we opted to spend our entire budget on more scotch. In our defense, it was really nice scotch.
Our expedition, then, was not off to a fantastic start. Nevertheless, we did have some great equipment to work with. I, of course, had my Corrado, which has proven to be a better winter vehicle than most, and better than virtually every four-wheel-drive truck I had taken out in the winter. The caveat was that it would only be good on the highways. After that, well, we’d pretty much have to walk. CardboardSamurai, had a marginally better option in a Jeep TJ; unfortunately it was a four-banger Jeep, and might be great once we got off-road, but was horrendous on the highway. Also, the three of us are quite large fellows, and trying to get all three of us – as well as the much smaller CaffeineFuelled, who we volunteered as our cameraperson – inside either one of those vehicles for any kind of long journey really just wasn’t going to be possible.
It was at that point that TechieInHell made the obvious suggestion. Clearly, if we were going to take on the Top Gear challenge of driving to the North Pole, we should be taking an appropriately Top Gear vehicle.
That's right. We took on the challenge in The Reasonably-Priced Car.

In retrospect, it seemed to be an obvious choice. After all, we have seen the capabilities of the Chevrolet Lacetti in many episodes of Top Gear, and heard many celebrities stating that it was easily the best car they had ever driven. Indeed, in numerous situations we have also seen its off-road capabilities, even its airborne capabilities. So we were confident the vehicle could make the trip.
We're off to a stellar start.

Fortunately, Techie had already invested in a good set of winter tires. For anyone unaware, in any climate where the temperature drops below about -3C, winter tires are actually a requirement. By -5C or so, those “All Season” tires really aren’t serving any purpose anymore, and in fact are little better than summer tires. Even a cheap set of winters will allow a vehicle to perform better in snow than a good four- or all-wheel-drive car on all-seasons.
With that step out of the way, we began discussing the next steps we needed to take. Realizing that some work would need to be done to appropriately prep the vehicle for travelling through severe arctic weather, we sat down to draw up a plan.
Unfortunately, in true fashion, rather than successfully solving the problem, we simply argued about it. By the time all was said and done, we had managed to do nothing more than block off the radiator with a bit of cardboard to allow the car to run warmer. The argument was once again resolved through the application of copious amounts of alcohol, and even though nothing had actually been resolved, we simply moved on to the next challenge that stood in our way.
That challenge will be dealt with in Part II. Stay tuned!

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  1. BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ Avatar

    Jo Schmo's Snowmowagon should do the job.

  2. Maymar Avatar

    The Optra wagon would've been preferable, as it's got more room for brefass scotch a replacement engine or two vital supplies.
    Also, did you bring along polar bear toques? Could be important for camouflage.

    1. Han_Solex Avatar

      Being from the lower 48, my question is, does the Optra have more PAH! than the Lacetti?
      Also, can you make a double double with scotch? Seems like a nutritious expedition beverage to me.

      1. Maymar Avatar

        Well, our Optra was more or less your Suzuki Forenza, so a 2.0L engine (compared to a reasonably priced 1.4-1.6). 119hp isn't enough to be called PAH! unless we're dealing with motorcycles or Se7ens.
        I don't see why you can't make a double double with scotch, although our Quebecois brethren have an excellent alternative in sortilege (maple whiskey).

  3. OG Schm-san Avatar
    OG Schm-san

    Is all i can say is bring a sat nav, satalite phone, food, guns and lots of alcohol.

  4. feds Avatar

    Durring my GM days, I heavily considered an Optra wagon instead of the Protege5. The first winter they were available in Canada, the 401 between Scarborough and Oshawa was littered with the little guys any time it dropped below -10 (C, of course).
    You guys have made an excellent choice for a winter vehicle.

    1. TechieInHell Avatar

      For the record, the venerable Lacetti has been surprisingly sure footed in the snow. See article above for why morons in Ontario think they don't need winter tires.

      1. Feds Avatar

        I didn't say they had crashed their Chevdawuki's. They all suffered some sort of not-engineered-for-cold-weather related mechanical fault.

        1. Tim Odell Avatar
          Tim Odell

          I'm of no use.
          My wife discourages me from unloading any of the 4 cars in the driveway.

        2. TechieInHell Avatar

          Fair enough. I still stand by my claim that there are morons in Ontario.
          Now whether *my* Opt…. er, ah, Lacetti will survive the cold and ice, stay tuned for Part III. (FWIW, it's an 04 and has survived Canadian winters so far).

  5. dwegmull Avatar

    You are going to the SOUTH pole, right? Right?

    1. dragon951 Avatar

      cause the south pole is easier…

      1. njhoon Avatar

        Well, it is summer time down there at least.


    Nice Beaver!
    Thank you, I just had it stuffed!

  7. lilwillie Avatar

    Oh Good God this can only end with one person missing and many empty liquor bottles in the trunk. (hookers under snow banks)

  8. Jo_Schmo Avatar

    You know, shootin the shit with fellow hoons and then writing about it opens up all kinds of creative possibilities. Way to think outside of the box! I might have to put the six-wheeled, merlin-engined Merc into an actual article. (Must learn photoshop)
    Oh and how do I knot have any of these people on my facebook for regularly/randomly occurring Schmolopnik?
    Btw… nice headgear.

    1. highmileage_v1 Avatar

      Six-wheeled, Merlin engined Merc? This I have to see. Yes please, photoshop away!

  9. aSoundofSleep Avatar

    Not only does this article prove that all Canadians are awesome and that I would love to drink with them (who am I kidding? I'll drink with anyone). It also proves that all Canadians have beards of some nature. This may seem like a small non-underlining fact but those beards are going to come in handy once you guys are lost out in the wilderness, drunk off your asses, half freezing to death, and trying to use the largest one as a Ton Ton to cut open and keep warm. Beards? What was I talking about?

  10. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    You guys are like the Icy Hot Stuntaz.
    Minus the Hot, of course.
    Oh, Canada.

    1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

      They are probably hot for Canadians. We should find a female Canuck and ask.

  11. dragon951 Avatar

    I would like to contribute the idea of a '98 Jeep Grand Cherokee with the 5.9L V8. I know from experience that this Jeep can squirm out of practically anything (after all, it squirmed into a tree when I was 15).

  12. coupeZ600 Avatar

    Two (hopefully) quick questions. You guys (Canadians) wear denim pants in the snow? We all wear those oil-cloth Filson's, but maybe that's because we're AZ pussies. 2nd,. What is a "winter tire"? Studs? Doh!… Three questions! Schm explained what "summer tires" were, but I always thought "winter tires" were of a harder durometer to hold the studs, thereby making them less useful than all-seasons if not studded. I'm not even going to ask …..

    1. dragon951 Avatar

      Winter tires are designed to have flexible tread in sub zero temperature, thus remaining tactile on ice and snow. All seasons were a compound of intermediate flexibility, thus remaining flexible on both slush and mud. In the face of pure ice, all seasons are too hard to grip. But true winter tires are soft. As far as studs go, that is a different chapter. On pure ice the frictional coefficient is essentially zero. This can be interrupted by sharp studs that dig into the road. Unfortunately those tires do a significant amount of damage to the road. Somewhere along the line (and I don't know where), someone figured out that by mixing fiberglass into the rubber, you could get microscopic studs that wouldn't damage the road (asphalt beats glass fiber). Thus studless snow tires were born. Each company has their own strategy, but basically they all levitate between cold weather rubber and spiny additives.

      1. dragon951 Avatar

        Wow…I don't remember writing any of that. Seems slightly coherent. I guess having the world "Drunkenly" in the title is not an invitation to be tanked when you comment.

        1. coupeZ600 Avatar

          I thought it was required! So just to clarify, now that we're both somewhat sober (for the moment, Fridays are always long ones around here), a "winter tire" is a softer, non-freezing rubber compound that is not intended to be studded, whereas a "studded snow-tire" is a harder rubber to hold the studs in? I ask this because a long time ago, I couldn't afford to buy new all-seasons once springtime came, so I just ran the studded tires all Summer. The cops really frown on this because of the damage to the road that you mentioned, but a few sparky burn-outs and sideways turns wore the studs off so the cops couldn't hear them when you drove by. I was amazed at how little wear was exhibited even as the car (a '69 Chevy Nova) would break the rear-end loose with the slightest provocation. Well, Winter inevitably shows up again, and my stud-less studded snow-tires are awful, they don't work at all even though they had plenty of tread. I had to go get chains, and while I have no problem chaining-up at work (I've chained-up 1000's of times, sometimes 5-10 times in one day, and those things really screw up dry pavement), being paid to do something and doing it for free are two very different things.

          1. Deartháir Avatar

            No, a winter tire is just a tire that has a particular design and tread pattern; this can be a specialized ice tire, a specialized snow tire, an ice-and-snow or a studded winter. All a studded winter means is that there are little recesses in the snow tire that are designed to hold the studs if you choose to get them installed. They, also, can be seen on any variety of winter tire.
            The primary difference, however, is that the rubber in a winter tire is designed not to get hard and inflexible until below about -35-40C. It's the frozen rubber that will kill ya, because the flexing of the tread is what keeps you on the road.

          2. Novaload Avatar

            Ding! Ding! Ding! You are the winner, sir. The average winter tire had deeper, more patterned and larger patterned tread to "grip." And if you've ever driven on frozen up regular tires–you might as well be rolling on coffee cans.

          3. CptSevere Avatar

            I bought a set of studded snows for my Cadillac Limo a long time ago, and guess what? Still have them, they're my spare tires for Henrietta, my F100. One of them happens to be on the driver's side rear, got a flat and haven't had the regular tire fixed. It's the only studded snow tire on the road in Cochise County, I'll bet you a six pack on that. Gotta get the real tire fixed.
            That studded snow has an agressive tread. When I feed the animals these days, after all the rain, it's kinda funny climbing out of the wash where the donkeys live, one tire spinning, the other getting traction. Yeah, it's bad for the differential.
            Back when those studded snows were on that '71 factory limo, that damn thing could not be stopped in the snow. It hooked up like crazy, plowed through the deepest Utah powder.

    2. Deartháir Avatar

      Just noticed the first part of this question as I was skimming back through; yes, we wear jeans in the snow. These photos were taken when it was only about -5C. That's not even cold enough for me to break out a winter jacket. And in fact I can't recall it ever getting cold enough that I needed something more than jeans. I did have a pair of long thermal underwear once upon a time, but I never wore them once. If it's cold enough that you actually need them, well, it's colder than -45C, and you're not outside for more than a minute anyhow. The coldest I've ever experienced was about -55C, and if you're not bundled up in 5 layers of arctic explorer gear, you can't stay out there anyhow.

      1. coupeZ600 Avatar

        It's not so much a question of cold, as of wet. I guess it's just that the snow down here (AZ) is so much heavier, and not as cold, that the thought of post-holing up a hill to look for a cell-phone signal in jeans would guarantee you would be soaking wet and hypothermic when you got back. Hardly any of the snow we get is that real airy, powdery, stuff that is hard to pack into snowballs, the snow here comes down in huge, heavy, flakes that often melt as soon as they hit you, so staying dry is our biggest priority. The last big snowstorm we had collapsed roofs all over town, and sadly, the garage of a friend of mine that crushed his beloved '70 Camaro SS, totallying it and his work truck. I'll send some pics when I can stop crying.

        1. dragon951 Avatar

          The biggest trick in MN is to hit your jeans with ScotchGuard. My friend always snowboarded with two pairs of ScotchGuarded jeans, and claims he never got wet or cold. 3M for the win!

  13. scroggzilla Avatar

    Donner party, table of 3.

    1. highmileage_v1 Avatar

      Snort, perfect! Although with the route they'll be taking I'm thinking they might be joining the Franklin Expedition for muktuk.

    2. Novaload Avatar

      Uh, Donner, table of 2.

  14. engineerd Avatar

    Alcohol: the cause of and solution to all of life's problems.
    This little saying is surely being put to the test by our intrepid crew of Dearthair, CardboardSamurai, and TechieInHell. There is no problem too great as to be solved by ingesting more alcohol. What vehicle? Argument ensues, drinks are consumed, and solutions reached. Repeat this same scenario for every step of the planning and soon enough you have a rock solid, fool proof plan!
    Excellent article, my friend. I can't wait for the next installment!

  15. iheartstiggie Avatar

    I'd like to point out the care Dearthair took in shielding the eyes of his COWnterpart…classic.
    That aside, awesome article. I'm stoked to read part two. MOAR PICS!!

  16. B1663R Avatar

    Deartháir is right, for some reason beyond the laws of physics, VW's are really good in the snow. i had an old 88 VW Fox that was unstoppable in the snow, even equipped with tractor tire winter tires.

    1. iheartstiggie Avatar

      My absolute favorite car to drive in the snow is my 71 bug with the standard motor. That little guy goes goes goes!

      1. CptSevere Avatar

        We had a '71 Bug when I was a kid in Vermont. Never got stuck in the snow, but man was it cold in that car. The defroster was just a notion, typical Bug.

  17. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    This is going to end in tears…. albeit incredibly well documented, funny tears…

  18. highmileage_v1 Avatar

    So a beaver, a cow and a rooster(?) walk into a bar and order Brefass Scotch on the rocks…..
    I'd volunteer the Eldosuarus as your exploration vehicle (nothing stops it, including the brakes) but it's on the other side of the continent. Please fuel the story with more Scotch and keep it coming.

  19. superbadd75 Avatar

    Before you boys go any further with this story, I'd like to inform you that you do have the right to speak with an attorney.

  20. Jonny Lieberman Avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Needs better scotch. Just sayin'

    1. Deartháir Avatar

      I'll take your word for it. Honestly, I'm not a big fan of scotch. The Glenfiddich, I'm told, is decent, but everyone agrees that the Glenlivet is rather vile. Johnny Walker is what you drink when you just wanna get shittered.
      The Crown Royal would be my drink of choice.

      1. highmileage_v1 Avatar

        Lagavulin my man. It's like stuffing a burning peat bog down your throat. Excellent booze. Och aye as my Mother used to say.

        1. Han_Solex Avatar

          +1. That stuff is GOOD. Also, Laphroaig is some great scotch for brefass, lunch, or dinna.

      2. Novaload Avatar

        Single Malt, straight from the motherland. A nice light highland or a peaty dark lowlands. It's food and drink and warmth and love, all in one bottle!

    2. Sienna, Studless Avatar
      Sienna, Studless

      No Cutty, J&B or Passport. Also, no Yuek-on or CC. Ther *are* worse Fates, eh?

  21. BrianTheHoon Avatar

    Frickin' Canadians have all the fun, national healthcare and nobody hates you.
    You guys accepting applications or did you learn your lesson after Vietnam?

    1. highmileage_v1 Avatar

      Show up at the border with a rust free '70 Coronet wagon and we'll frickin' adopt you, and we'll throw in a case of beer…..eh.

  22. FTGDHoonEdition Avatar

    Sounds like something, he might have come up with.
    <img src="http://www.trooper.com/presskit/popcult/CornerGas_screen1.jpg"&gt;

  23. […] There are, of course, a few things that are distinctively Canadian. The maple leaf; poutine; a tolerance for cold; mediocre coffee; the ability to spell; Wayne Gretzky. But there are only a very few that are […]