Amature Storm Chaser Budget Chase Vehicle 2021 Edition

Feb 19, 2018
60
20
6
Dunlap Illinois
Last year I started this thread:
And sort of made myself look a bit reckless.
20200913_163537.jpg
Everyone told me I should rent a car or something, and that my 25 year old 340k original enigne/transmission Suburban would not make it through the whole trip.

Well despite Armageddon, I did actually go chasing, driving a total of 2500 miles in a little under a week all through Tornado Alley. Of course, I am a total Amature, so I saw basically nothing in terms of actual tornadoes.
20200913_163506.jpg
Anyways, the Suburban did really well on the highway. While maintaining 80-90 mph it still got 16mpg, and it was super comfy to sleep in.

My only major problem was that I blew the rear transmission seal on my way home. This issue was preventable, since I already knew it was leaking. It was no big deal though, since I was able to coast into a parking lot, walk to an autoparts store and replace it in less then an hour.

It was an overall great truck, but I sold it last month to buy parts for my two other pieces of crap.
20201007_155332.jpg
Now it is not like I'm going to take my '51 Studebaker Storm Chasing, (However Awesome That Would Be!!!) so I need a new vehicle for 2021.
20201011_104416.jpg
_____________________________________
NOW TO THE POINT OF THIS THREAD.

For Storm Season 2021, I need to build an actual chase vehicle, and do it properly this time.
20201008_120503.jpg
Though Ol' Yeller (My 1974 GMC C1500) is a good daily driver, it would be quite an undertaking to make it reliable enough to chase in.
00z0z_2bJBKkgRZxK_0ak07K_600x450.jpg
I'm looking at buying another GMT400 Suburban, one with less miles, and more features then my '95.

I am planning on spending $2-3000 on a truck with 4wd, working A/C, and a Vortec 350 instead of the old TBI 350 my '95 had.

Anyways, this year will be different due to the fact that I now have a chase partner in the form of a younger causin who is also into meteorology.
 

Todd Lemery

Staff member
Supporter
Jun 2, 2014
619
630
21
55
Menominee, MI
Maybe save up and put off the purchase a year or so, so you can get a more reliable vehicle? Not much is worse than being broke down in the middle of nowhere watching your supercell fade in the distance!
 
Feb 19, 2018
60
20
6
Dunlap Illinois
Maybe save up and put off the purchase a year or so, so you can get a more reliable vehicle? Not much is worse than being broke down in the middle of nowhere watching your supercell fade in the distance!
The thing is that I have saved up to buy a more reliable vehicle. My bank account is the Studebaker.

(I'm going to be able to sell it for about 3 times what I have into it since it is such a rare car).

Also, I want a bit of a better daily driver.
 
May 25, 2014
385
168
11
I'm not sure of the value appreciation with it in the condition it's in. If it were ready to roll across the block at Barrett-Jackson? Sure. The value might be a bit behind the 8-ball until you get it completely restored, which will include quite the paint job.

You already have two ancient vehicles on your hands. Understand that time-compression is a thing. Your 1990's vehicles are so far away from 2020 that they might as well be from the 70's. You have a 70's vehicle. Your 1970's vehicles are so far away from 2020 that they might as well be from the 1950's. You also have a 1950's vehicle.

Just pick you up a decent condition 4Runner or Tundra from the 2000's or early 2010's. You will spend more on parts, repairs, and especially time working on 30-year-old GM trucks, than you will on outright purchasing something newer and taking care of it. It will also take care of you, in that regard. No anti-stop brake surprises, no shooting fuel injectors out of the motor, no gummed up heater cores, no failed vaccuum-actuated 4wd shifters, none of that. Just rock-solid Japanese reliability with decent-ish fuel mileage, that needs it's oil changed every 5000 miles and an occasional pair of brake pads, and if you're lucky, it just might come with Bluetooth audio.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Todd Lemery
Feb 19, 2018
60
20
6
Dunlap Illinois
I'm not sure of the value appreciation with it in the condition it's in. If it were ready to roll across the block at Barrett-Jackson? Sure. The value might be a bit behind the 8-ball until you get it completely restored, which will include quite the paint job.

You already have two ancient vehicles on your hands. Understand that time-compression is a thing. Your 1990's vehicles are so far away from 2020 that they might as well be from the 70's. You have a 70's vehicle. Your 1970's vehicles are so far away from 2020 that they might as well be from the 1950's. You also have a 1950's vehicle.

Just pick you up a decent condition 4Runner or Tundra from the 2000's or early 2010's. You will spend more on parts, repairs, and especially time working on 30-year-old GM trucks, than you will on outright purchasing something newer and taking care of it. It will also take care of you, in that regard. No anti-stop brake surprises, no shooting fuel injectors out of the motor, no gummed up heater cores, no failed vaccuum-actuated 4wd shifters, none of that. Just rock-solid Japanese reliability with decent-ish fuel mileage, that needs it's oil changed every 5000 miles and an occasional pair of brake pads, and if you're lucky, it just might come with Bluetooth audio.
Yea, I understand what you are saying.

I can get around 8-10 grand for the Studebaker, since it is a rare Starlight Coupe with the very early Automatic.
(I saw a number saying that they made less than 1000 Champion starlight coupes with the automatics).

Anyways, I have been around old GM trucks my whole life, and I just love Suburbans.

Also I put about 15k trouble free miles on my previous Burb in about a year and a half, and it had 340k on the original drivetrain when I sold it.

I paid $700 for that Burb and it got me through high school, imagine what I can get for $3-4000.
 
Feb 19, 2018
60
20
6
Dunlap Illinois
20201024_171022.jpg
Just bought a '98 K1500 today.
20201024_171028.jpg
It's got 198k, a rebuilt transmission, manually shifted 4wd, working everything, and a unimount plow mount+controller, so I can plow snow with it.
20201024_171034.jpg
I drove it 4 hours home on the interstate, and it drives pretty good.
 
Feb 19, 2018
60
20
6
Dunlap Illinois
I picked this Burb because it is really clean (for the rust belt) and doesn't have all the electrical bullshit that alway breaks on these trucks (power windows, vacuum 4wd, other things).
20201026_120602.jpg
I didn't sell the studebaker to buy it, I actually was able to talk the seller down from 1500 to 900 after finding the the drivers floor pan is completely gone (yet the rest of the truck is perfect).
20201026_120611.jpg
Anyways, I have a floorplan left over from another project, and a good welder.
20201026_120616.jpg
It also needed a rear brake line, but I made one up and installed it less than an hour after buying it.
20201026_120626.jpg
After 198k miles the it runs pretty good, but could use a tune up, but it was well maintained.
20201026_120636.jpg
I've been driving it for a couple of days (including through the first snow of the year yesterday) and I believe if my '95 with 140k more miles on it and practically no preventative maintenance made it on a trip of this size, this truck should.
 
Feb 19, 2018
60
20
6
Dunlap Illinois
I just did a bunch of work to the Burb, and it's now legal for the road.
20201113_092147.jpg
20201112_100820.jpg
20201113_092203.jpg
20201112_100837.jpg
I replaced the exhaust manifold, wheels/tires, pads/rotors/shoes/wheel cylinders, tire rod ends, shocks, and grille. I also welded a patch in the lower quarter, and patched the rockers.
20201106_203313.jpg
20201106_203313.jpg
20201113_092203.jpg
The truck sounds and drives like a brand new truck, so it needs to just needs some decals, antennas, and maybe a marine radar (I know it's basically useless, but I was given one off a family members boat).
 

Attachments

  • Haha
Reactions: James Hilger
May 25, 2014
385
168
11
Marine radars are illegal for land usage, and they suck at determining any storm attributes, so know that. Antennas are great, if they go to something. Lots of guys on here that know things, lots of info down in equipment.

Honestly, with the truck sorted, you're most of the way there. If I were you, with no ham or gmrs license, I'd drop a Uniden Beartracker 885 combo CB/digital scanner in it, pair it with a BCT-15X for dedicated NOAA alert scanning, and plop 3 NMO mounts on the roof. 2 Tram 1180 scanner antennas and a BR140 CB antenna. Add in a gooseneck tablet mount from ProClipUSA, and pick up a 10" or larger tablet from your cellular carrier, and be done. Put the rest of the money in camera equipment and all the fuel you'll need to chase in that thing.

Stickers and blinkies are for kids and famous people, but you do you.
 
  • Haha
Reactions: James Hilger
Feb 19, 2018
60
20
6
Dunlap Illinois
Marine radars are illegal for land usage, and they suck at determining any storm attributes, so know that. Antennas are great, if they go to something. Lots of guys on here that know things, lots of info down in equipment.

Honestly, with the truck sorted, you're most of the way there. If I were you, with no ham or gmrs license, I'd drop a Uniden Beartracker 885 combo CB/digital scanner in it, pair it with a BCT-15X for dedicated NOAA alert scanning, and plop 3 NMO mounts on the roof. 2 Tram 1180 scanner antennas and a BR140 CB antenna. Add in a gooseneck tablet mount from ProClipUSA, and pick up a 10" or larger tablet from your cellular carrier, and be done. Put the rest of the money in camera equipment and all the fuel you'll need to chase in that thing.

Stickers and blinkies are for kids and famous people, but you do you.
Yea, I know that its illegal for land use. I have it though, and the radome would look cool on the top of the truck (even if I don't use it).

Me and my cousin agree that we want to look official in the rear view mirror, so people get out of our way, so stickers and graphics should achieve that.

Also I still might not even take the Burb, since I am building a new 292 longblock for the yellow truck one right now (so I can take it on hot rod power tour). With the stick shift and a brand new engine, how can you go wrong? Though I wouldn't take it unless I installed some creature comforts such as an A/C system first.
 
  • Haha
Reactions: James Hilger
May 25, 2014
385
168
11
You are on a board full of experienced chasers, and will likely completely disregard this advice. I am going to go against my better judgement, and continue to try offering you advice here:

Stickers and graphics do not make people move over, and do not look official. You will look like a goober. Other chasers, who can tell what you are presenting yourself as in a heartbeat, will see that and say "teenage goober". This is not a good look. In the off chance that someone takes you as trying to look "official", it will be cop. Promise, maximum dollars-to-donuts ratio, it will be some highway patrolman who notices this, and then he's going to have fun with you on the roadside, legal or not, PC or not, RS or not, your storm will disappear on you, while you sit on the roadside, getting an impromptu DOT inspection.

Radomes do look cool, granted, but you don't need this. First of all, it's a huge temptation. You mean to tell me you're going to be sitting in a cell data dead zone somewhere, with a completely operational standalone radar right there, and you aren't going to turn it on? You would. We all would. Which is fine, until it starts interfering with any number of things, like the local TV station radar, DOW, or heaven forbid, NWS or airport radar. Then it's time for the FCC to match the complaint with local cell phone GPS/EXIF data, and here comes a big old fat fine, right to your mailbox.

Just don't do it. If you want a radome so badly, have one that you can actually use. Get a multiband transit-style antenna for your scanner. Teradek also makes a radome for their bonded cellular solution. Just go with something you can use.

And that truck doesn't have A/C yet?

All I see here is a grand wasting of money, couched in the premise of asking for advice. Matter-of-factly, so far your entire ouvre on this board is the simple premise of asking for advice. You ask for advice in every thread, state what you want to do, and then disregard the advice you get, and continue doing whatever you were going to do in the first place. If that's your angle, then just do what you were going to do in the first place, and cut out the pantomime of asking for advice.

Just my two cents.
 

Todd Lemery

Staff member
Supporter
Jun 2, 2014
619
630
21
55
Menominee, MI
I’m really not sure what you mean when you say you want to look “official”. What kind of official do you want to look like? Hopefully not a another “pretend” researcher.
If you just want others to know that you are out storm chasing, have a ball and deck it out however you feel like doing. Some people like to run discreet, some like to plaster whatever they can on the outside of their vehicle and most are in the middle. It’s your ride and provided you aren’t breaking any laws, it’s nobody else’s business.
 
Jul 16, 2013
269
173
11
Joplin, MO
Stop focusing on how your vehicle looks and coming across as "being official", that will be you nowhere. People will laugh at you, that is.. if you even have the ability to get on a storm, because you spent all your time on looking official that you can't even forecast and pick a successful target.
 
Jul 16, 2013
269
173
11
Joplin, MO
I'm not certain how official a 25-year-old GM truck is going to look at this point, in any capacity, regardless of intent.
Forget looking official, not sure I'd be comfortable relying on a 25 year old GM truck for storm chasing.. I mean I guess if you completely overhaul it and bring it back to like new condition inside and out, mechanically.
 
May 25, 2014
385
168
11
Forget looking official, not sure I'd be comfortable relying on a 25 year old GM truck for storm chasing.. I mean I guess if you completely overhaul it and bring it back to like new condition inside and out, mechanically.
In and of itself, not too terribly difficult to do. GM trucks of that era were sort of like Lego. It just becomes an issue of whether or not your chase rig is now a restomod, and how much will that cost.