Front-wheel-drive chase vans

Michael Herman

I have seen chasers using front wheel drive vehicles such as the Dodge Caravan. Does the front wheel drivetrain affect perfomance in chasing conditions, or does it actually help? Wouldn't rear- or four-wheel drive serve better? This has just been bothering me, since I know well the disadvantages of front wheel drive.
Rear wheel sucks (and not only cause its a pain to say without tripping on yourself).. but I'm talking mostly from snow driving in Denver as opposed to chasing.. I wouldn't think it would matter really because in rear-wheel drive, your control is in the back, so if the conditions aren't very good (snow or wet or dirt road or whatever), you're losing most of your control up front as opposed to the back (i.e. - fishtailing). Just my thoughts.. I would think front wheel is much better suited for hazardous driving in terms of two-wheel, but obviously neither can hold a candle to four-wheel. Unless of course you think you're invincible cause you HAVE four-wheel, then you're just an idiot (typical Denver SUV driver)anyway :wink: !
Consider the ancient sport of chariot racing. The chariots were pulled, not pushed by the horses. Front versus rear wheel drive employs basically the same concept. When the power is used to pull the load, it's inherently stable and wants to go in the direction that the power is applied (straight forward). When the power pushes the load, it's unstable and wants to swap ends.
I agree that for snow or mud, front-wheel drive will likely be best, since there is less tendency to lose the back-end (i.e. fishtail). On the other hand, I"ve always thought rear-wheel drive to be better on wet, puddly roads, say during/after heavy rain, when there is ponding on the highway. In this case, I've always thought that front-wheel drive vehicles would be more likely to hydroplane given the power distribution of the steering wheels (front wheels). Since fishtailing isn't AS big a problem with hydroplaning (from my experience, losing steering or the front-end drifting/steering whatever way it pleases) as with snow, I think I'd rather have my power in the rear wheels when hydroplaning is an issue. The fact that the front wheels in front-wheel drive vehicles have both the power and the turning capability means that there's more of a chance to lose traction up front (since both turning and accelerating increase the chance of losing traction). Just my experience...
I have used them for the last several years and love them! Will be getting a replacement one next year. They have served me well on wet and dry pavement, and on some back, dark, nasty, muddy roads in the NE OK forests this year. If they had an all wheel drive in the windstar, I would get it! Not a big fan of the Montana van. Comparing the front to rear wheel on some of those baby poop slick used to be dirt roads we might sometimes encounter chasing, the front wheel has it hands down. The 4 wheel over that, but then there is that gas mileage thing.
We chased last June with a FWD Grand Caravan. From my personal experience exercising the drive-train and suspension on dirt roads way into the boondocks southwest of Lamar, it drives very well indeed. Included in this personal experience is successfully keeping it on the dampening dirt road and us out of harm coming up on an unanticipated 90 degree bend doing about fifty mph with a gusting-out core hard on our heels. Oops!.... :shock: :oops:
I will be chasing next year in a FWD Dodge Grand Caravan. I have no reservations about how it will do. I chased all last year in a FWD Dodge Intrepid. After about 40,000 miles in the last year between work and chasing, it is still doing great.
As most european vehicles hace been front wheel drive for the last 20 years, my experience is that in the wet there is no problem with traction- don't forget the engine is over the wheels so you have the added weight.
There is a slight learning curve to adapt if you are used to rear wheel drive.
1. When going round corners as you turn in the wheels pull you through the corner and the back just tends to follow. You cannot usually do those handbrake turns to get out of trouble like a rear wheel drive- at least not without a lot of practice.
2 Going up hill in wet or slippery conditions FWD wins every time in my book.

3. Only real downer, as the engins are mounted transversely ie across the car - driving through deep water can sometimes cause a bow wave effect that can soak the electrics.

Overall opinion-
RWD great for motor sports.
FWD good for everything else
4WD Best of all especially if you have a transfer box that enables you to switch to 2WD as well.
Ah. Stability over performance. That clarifies thngs. I will take stability into account when I purchase a chase vehicle. Thanks for the help!