At this very moment, a wild beast is trapped on a ship sailing from the U.K. to Chile, where it will then be loaded on a cargo plane and flown to Union Glacier in Antarctica. Only there in the ice fields of the world’s most desolate continent will it be unleashed. The creature we speak of is the Polar Porsche, a 1956 Porsche 356 A that’s been fitted with skis up front, snow tracks in the back and a crevasse bar for, well, keeping out of crevasses. The goal: Drive 356 unsupported miles across inland Antarctica.
The person behind one of the most unbelievable Porsche builds we’ve ever seen is race car driver Renée Brinkerhoff of Valkyrie Racing. If this Shackletonian feat gives you the impression that she’s been doing this all her life, her story is quite the opposite: in her mid-50s Brinkerhoff decided she wanted to race cars. After conquering storied rally races like the La Carrera Panamericana and founding Valkyrie, she started the Project 356 World Rally in an attempt to race her Porsche on all seven continents. The Antarctica leg, her final journey, is scheduled to start on December 5.
While Brinkerhoff is the one who will be literally behind the wheel of the car, there’s a whole team behind the transformation of the rally-ready 356 into an ice-conquering machine. There’s Kieron Bradley, the lead engineer behind the build who has spent more than 18 months reconfiguring the 1950s-era sports car, and Simon Redhead, the crew chief who has been working on the car throughout the entire World Rally tour. And then there’s polar explorer Jason de Carteret, who will serve as the navigator on this last mission. Bradley and de Carteret have worked together before, having claimed two Guinness World Records for the fastest overland journey to the South Pole when they drove in the Thomson Reuters Polar Vehicle that they designed.
In other words, if this seems like utter lunacy, at least these are lunatics with experience.
Now, the car itself. As Bradley explains in a press release, the beefed-up design is actually intended to create a smaller footprint, not a larger one. “The ski and track combination increase the flotation by as much as 300 percent when compared to Antarctic 4×4 support vehicles on 42″ tires — and the 356 will be gliding and leading the tracks throughout the entire journey,” he says. Plus, there was an extra challenge in that the car must be able to swap easily between this configuration and spiked ice tires.
Part of the reason Brinkerhoff got into racing was a desire to find herself and to test her mettle, but her World Rally challenge was started with a more noble goal in mind: help end child trafficking. So far Valkyrie Gives, the nonprofit arm of her racing team, has raised almost half a million dollars — with 100% of donations going directly to vetted organizations in countries from Mexico to Kazakhstan to right here in the U.S. — but the goal is to double that by the end of the Antarctica trip.
While a polar expedition is certainly a great way to promote the cause, they’re also offering people who donate at least $356 a special Ice Challenge hat, and they’ll even sign your name inside the hood of the car and send you a photo of it.
It’ll almost be like you were there.
Learn more about the Project 356 World Rally, the charitable mission and the car here.
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