By Mac Christie, Times-Advocate Staff
HENSALL — “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 weren’t about ice.”
The 60-second spot, which will 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. Catharines 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 include a ‘second screen experience,’ which will include a documentary of the making of the truck to prove it is real.
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.
Click here for a behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of the ice truck
World record attempt
In addition to appearing in the commercial, the truck may also have set a world record.
The vehicle was driven from Iceculture to Airport Line by Steckle, to prove it could actually be driven on Canadian roads.
Steckle noted the truck handled the winter road conditions well.
“The truck drove great,” he said. “Once we got (to Airport Line) I thought, ‘Let’s keep going to Zurich,’ but we turned around and came back.”
Barrett noted the original application was made to the Guinness Book of World Records in November and they sent the footage from the December drive in as well.
“We think this is a world-record feat.”
For video of the ice truck trying to set the world record click here.