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Canadians are preoccupied with winter

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Our athletes’ fabulous successes at the Sochi Winter Olympics prove the headline statement. We love them all - especially today, Valentine’s Day- the ones on the podium and those who help get them there.

In addition to snow covered mountains and plains, and the Polar Vortex solidifying rivers and lakes, we have rinks with artificial ice, we have ice rain and ice storms, we have outdoor ice skating, ice racing -cars, motorbikes, snow mobiles- and ice sailing, we have ice roads and ice hotels, we have ice-sculpture artists and -contests.

In our hot summers we have juicy icicles and ice-cream trucks; but earlier this winter, of all things winterly, we had one ‘ice-cube’ truck. And we have at least one water-to-ice processing firm (no pun). Making not just any ice, Iceculture of Hensall, Ontario, produces thick block-ice without any bubbles; Chrystal-clear.

What does this have to do with alternative transportation, you may ask. A truck made from ice is surely alternative, if that word is understood to mean unconventional.

You may have seen news on TV of an ice truck from Canadian Tire Corporation (CTC). They wanted to demonstrate the improvements which batteries have undergone, since everybody is waiting for a better battery in our quest for electric vehicles (EV) to replace ICE cars.

As a regular reader of this column you know the difference between an ICE car and an ice truck. (If you, dear NEW reader, are puzzled, let me explain. The ICE stands for Internal Combustion Engine, the ice forms naturally at this time of year,- or in a freezer. If we want to be sarcastic or icy, we can call the IC-Engine an infernal consumption engine.

Canadian Tire’s marketing people wanted to dramatically demonstrate that a good battery works wonders when ice-cold in an ICE truck. A new regular (lead-acid) battery had only half the cranking power at -20°C of the power available at +20 centi-grades .... Would today’s battery be better?

Together with Iceculture they planned to build a pickup with blocks of frozen water to find out.

Let Mac Christie repeat his story from the Times-Advocate: “One of the most challenging projects we’ve ever done,” that’s how Iceculture president Heidi Bayley described building an ice truck for a new Canadian Tire commercial.

Although the Hensall company has done larger projects, such as the 9,000 sq. ft. Pontiac Ice Maze in Toronto or a Disney Ice Castle in Times Square, those were challenging due to their size.

“This had so many other components,” Bayley said. “It’s definitely one of the most difficult we’ve done because there were just so many factors that were not about ice.”

The 60-second spot, which will [did] air Jan. 1 during the first period of the NHL’s Winter Classic, is advertising Canadian Tire’s battery and its ability to start in -40°C weather.

Bayley explained that the truck is built on the chassis of a real truck which was stripped by Zurich’s Bronson Line Automotive, before being sent to a fabricator in St. Catharine's where a platform to place the ice on was installed.
At Bronson Line the cab, body and box were pulled off a GMC 2500 before the steering column, brake pedals and throttle were put back on. The electrical was also consolidated and any extraneous parts were removed.

“(We) left enough electrical on it to make it run and drive,” said Bronson Line Automotive’s Andrew Steckle, who noted their part of the process was not too different than other things they’ve done.

From Iceculture’s point of view, Bayley told the Times-Advocate the challenges included the fact that the engine was encased in ice.

“We had to be able to change the engine so that it didn’t, believe it or not, overheat,” she said. “We had to add more fans.”

Another issue was that the truck didn’t turn well and had issues with getting over bumps, which Bayley said they discovered at Iceculture when they built a test truck.

They then built a second one for the commercial.

The commercial was shot in early December in Markham and part of the shoot included the Iceculture staff building the truck on site. As well, the commercial will [did] include a ‘second screen experience,’ which will include a documentary of the making of the truck to prove it is real. [You can see that for yourself in the nine short videos at the link below]

Andrew Barrett, with strategic marketing at Canadian Tire, came up with the concept behind the commercial and ice truck.

“We had this idea that Canadians refer to their cars and trucks as being ice cold,” he said. “From that initial idea came the idea of, ‘Hey, let’s not just make a truck cold, let’s actually make a truck out of ice.’”

While he noted a lot of people didn’t think they could do it, their research led them to Iceculture.

While the company is world-renowned for giant ice sculptures and lounges, Barrett said Iceculture once made a car out of ice.

“So we knew they had the capability,” he said. “We added the extra twist that we wanted ours to actually drive on the road.

“They said they could do it.”

Barrett added it was quite a journey from the concept to the finished truck, noting seeing it on the road was a satisfying moment.

“It’s kind of like . . . the birth of a child,” he said.

That heart-warming story of cold, hard, winterly facts could only happen in Canada; Yeahhh!!

You can find a documentary on the making of the ice truck at this link , and 9 short, cool -not cold- video clips of 10 minutes total right here. ....easy viewing after the Polar Vortexes we had so far this winter....

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