Vehicles with features that are getting harder to find.

B. Dean Berry

Staff member
May 25, 2014
303
101
11
As of late, me and my family have begun entertaining the idea of moving to Texas. Part of this research is going to be another vehicle, as the ones we currently have are already rusting underneath, and transplanting two rusty cars to a place with no rust is not that smart. For my own vehicle, I've been stuck in something that just had to do for a couple of years, and I'm looking to change that.

After perusing used car ads on Craigslist, AutoTrader, AutoTempest, and many others, I have also noticed that even older vehicles that are going for low prices there are vehicles that would command prices multiple times higher here, just because they aren't rotten away to nothing. Overall, the Southern Plains seems to be a gentler life for vehicles than the Northeast. Considering all of this, I'm racking my brain, trying to come up with a list of vehicles to peruse as future daily drivers and Chase Rigs, that offer a certain number of features that I consider mandatory.

Those features include basic stuff like air conditioning, of course, but are more *minute* in the details. Things like no sunroof (some vehicles come with them standard in certain packages), center consoles that are either non-existent or that can be removed (too many modern vehicles have a big, stupid automatic shift lever or parking brake in the center console area), and that also come with AWD or 4WD. Probably, and oddly, the most important feature is the blank floor space/removable center console, as I intend to put a police console in for two-way radios and scanners. Of course, that isn't for all chasers, but it is for me.

I could of course invest in a Ford Police Interceptor Utility or Sedan, Chevrolet Caprice, or Dodge Charger, but those are police vehicles and they look like police vehicles, and that's not a look I really want. At all. I have a similar look now, and quite frankly I'm tired of being stopped on a whim every few months and questioned for an hour, for the charge of leaving the house.

So far, I have found the following to be acceptable, and am looking for any other suggestions that I may be missing out on:

1995-2001 Ford Explorer
1995-2003 Ford Explorer Sport
1999-2005 Ford Explorer Sport Trac
1993-2012 Ford Econoline Van
1998-2002 Ford Expedition
1999-2005 Ford Excursion
1995-2001 Chevrolet Suburban
1995-2001 Chevrolet Tahoe
1995-Current Chevrolet Express Van
2006-2014 Honda Ridgeline

Any other ideas?
 

B. Dean Berry

Staff member
May 25, 2014
303
101
11
I wonder if the Titan's console can be removed? A lot of newer cars with the console, even without a shifter, have hidden all types of stuff inside of the console. Biggest example I can think of is the newer Explorers have a box that runs the bottom of the armrest pocket that controls the headlights and turn signals for some reason.
 
I wonder if the Titan's console can be removed? A lot of newer cars with the console, even without a shifter, have hidden all types of stuff inside of the console. Biggest example I can think of is the newer Explorers have a box that runs the bottom of the armrest pocket that controls the headlights and turn signals for some reason.
If it has a built in power inverter, then that's contained in the console. Also, switches for seat heaters are located there as well, but can probably be relocated fairly easily. That's a really tall console too, and there's a big gap in the middle where you could cut out the middle of the console and build in something to bolt Jotto plates to.
 
Feb 19, 2018
42
11
6
Dunlap Illinois
As of late, me and my family have begun entertaining the idea of moving to Texas. Part of this research is going to be another vehicle, as the ones we currently have are already rusting underneath, and transplanting two rusty cars to a place with no rust is not that smart. For my own vehicle, I've been stuck in something that just had to do for a couple of years, and I'm looking to change that.

After perusing used car ads on Craigslist, AutoTrader, AutoTempest, and many others, I have also noticed that even older vehicles that are going for low prices there are vehicles that would command prices multiple times higher here, just because they aren't rotten away to nothing. Overall, the Southern Plains seems to be a gentler life for vehicles than the Northeast. Considering all of this, I'm racking my brain, trying to come up with a list of vehicles to peruse as future daily drivers and Chase Rigs, that offer a certain number of features that I consider mandatory.

Those features include basic stuff like air conditioning, of course, but are more *minute* in the details. Things like no sunroof (some vehicles come with them standard in certain packages), center consoles that are either non-existent or that can be removed (too many modern vehicles have a big, stupid automatic shift lever or parking brake in the center console area), and that also come with AWD or 4WD. Probably, and oddly, the most important feature is the blank floor space/removable center console, as I intend to put a police console in for two-way radios and scanners. Of course, that isn't for all chasers, but it is for me.

I could of course invest in a Ford Police Interceptor Utility or Sedan, Chevrolet Caprice, or Dodge Charger, but those are police vehicles and they look like police vehicles, and that's not a look I really want. At all. I have a similar look now, and quite frankly I'm tired of being stopped on a whim every few months and questioned for an hour, for the charge of leaving the house.

So far, I have found the following to be acceptable, and am looking for any other suggestions that I may be missing out on:

1995-2001 Ford Explorer
1995-2003 Ford Explorer Sport
1999-2005 Ford Explorer Sport Trac
1993-2012 Ford Econoline Van
1998-2002 Ford Expedition
1999-2005 Ford Excursion
1995-2001 Chevrolet Suburban
1995-2001 Chevrolet Tahoe
1995-Current Chevrolet Express Van
2006-2014 Honda Ridgeline

Any other ideas?
I currently chase in a '95 Suburban, and I'll tell you one thing, it gets really shitty gas mileage. Though they do run forever, mine has 330k on it, You have to take into consideration the gas mileage loss with a V8.

The best vehicle I say you should get would be a 4.3v6 chevy c1500 with a 5 speed manual. Plenty of room in ththe back, and bulletproof.

If you want some interior room, you may want a 1984-2001 Jeep Cherokee XJ. those 4.0 i6's are bulletproof, and if you find one with a manual transmission, you would never have to worry about it.

That's just my 2 cents.
 

B. Dean Berry

Staff member
May 25, 2014
303
101
11
Eh, I considered an XJ, having owned a couple before, but that center console is just unforgiving. Huge plastic spaceship console in that one, with a center floor shifter and a parking brake.

That, and aging Chrysler/AMC products are kind of nightmarish.
 
Feb 19, 2018
42
11
6
Dunlap Illinois
Eh, I considered an XJ, having owned a couple before, but that center console is just unforgiving. Huge plastic spaceship console in that one, with a center floor shifter and a parking brake.

That, and aging Chrysler/AMC products are kind of nightmarish.
My '95 Suburban's center console is very easy to remove, which is what I did for my camera mount, but my '74 GMC has a bench seat in the front, which I love, but it does make it difficult to install a camera mount/laptop mount. Another dream chasing vehicle for me would be my '74 GMC with a camper in the back.


Here's the build thread for my '74 as my next storm chasing vehicle.
 
My '95 Suburban's center console is very easy to remove, which is what I did for my camera mount, but my '74 GMC has a bench seat in the front, which I love, but it does make it difficult to install a camera mount/laptop mount. Another dream chasing vehicle for me would be my '74 GMC with a camper in the back.


Here's the build thread for my '74 as my next storm chasing vehicle.
I had a 93 Suburban, so I know of the center console you speak of. Other than storing paperwork, it wasn't very useful anyway; the cup holders were far too shallow. It was only 2wd though and I'd run it up well over 300k miles, so it was time when I finally got rid of it. That said, I did have a console designed for it before I decided I wasn't going in that direction.
 
Mar 6, 2019
12
21
1
Mesa, Arizona
At work we have Toyota Sienna Minivans in our fleet and I drive them quite often. Some models have no center counsel at all and they have a sort of in-dash shifter. They get great mileage (for the size) and stand up to a lot of abuse in the context of my job. They are available in AWD however, I have no experience with an AWD model. As a Boondocking chaser myself I have considered begging my boss to sell me one for trade in value when we are switching them out but for me personally, my cramped Forester provides better mileage, never gets stuck in the mud and is by all accounts my chase partner.

I do think this is a facinating thread and am interested to see what you end up with. Happy hunting!
 
Jun 4, 2018
69
61
11
30
San Angelo, TX
I like the idea of a Chevy Express van. As I was reading your criteria, I immediately thought of the government ones I drive fairly often. Tons of room between the front seats (we regularly have 2 backpacks plus fast food bags sitting there) and I imagine they can be picked up used for a steal considering how many are used in fleets for everything from hauling materials to moving people. If you went that route I would definitely try to find a short wheel base version. The ones I've driven are the hefty long wheelbase passenger vans and they seem to have quite a bit of driveline clunk and transmission slippage with under 100k miles still. My thought is the big ones are just too heavy for the transmissions they put in them.
 
I like the idea of a Chevy Express van. As I was reading your criteria, I immediately thought of the government ones I drive fairly often. Tons of room between the front seats (we regularly have 2 backpacks plus fast food bags sitting there) and I imagine they can be picked up used for a steal considering how many are used in fleets for everything from hauling materials to moving people. If you went that route I would definitely try to find a short wheel base version. The ones I've driven are the hefty long wheelbase passenger vans and they seem to have quite a bit of driveline clunk and transmission slippage with under 100k miles still. My thought is the big ones are just too heavy for the transmissions they put in them.
That's what happens when they put 4L60E transmissions into something that honestly should be on a 3/4 ton chassis and have a 4L80E. I had to drive a few in the military and they drove like absolute crap in higher winds though. That, and the abysmal fuel mileage, would keep me from using one as a chase vehicle.
 
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Jun 4, 2018
69
61
11
30
San Angelo, TX
That's what happens when they put 4L60E transmissions into something that honestly should be on a 3/4 ton chassis and have a 4L80E. I had to drive a few in the military and they drove like absolute crap in higher winds though. That, and the abysmal fuel mileage, would keep me from using one as a chase vehicle.
The fuel mileage is pretty bad, but I think the huge fuel tank helps to offset that. We travel quite a ways before filling up. I hadn't considered the high profile in strong winds though, which from a safety standpoint is more of a deal breaker than anything.
 
I had a Suburban with a 42 gallon tank, so I know about huge fuel tanks. It definitely took a chunk from the wallet to fill from empty, so I very seldomly ran it down that far. But yes, those vans have a significantly higher center of gravity than even a Suburban or Excursion, and I believe my early 90s Burb had a wider stance as well. The vans we used in the military had fairly narrow tires as well compared to what my Burb had.
 
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