What makes the best storm chasing vehicle?

In your opinion, what would make the best storm chasing vehicle?

  • ...

    Votes: 6 100.0%

  • Total voters
    6
I thought I would poll this, just out of curiousity. There is much debate about this... I wanted to hear your thoughts and get a few unofficial statistics.
 
I bought a new car last year, choosing the model specifically with year-round chasing (everything from snow to supercells) in mind.

I needed:

- Under $28K
- Maximum amount of interior space possible, for both passengers and gear
- Good gas mileage
- FWD or AWD for snowy and muddy roads
- ability to comfortably sleep in the vehicle (able to lie flat and stretch out fully)

Gas mileage and price ruled out SUVs. Space ruled out most small cars. I chose a station wagon/minivan hybrid that fit all of the above.

june12car.jpg
 
I can't believe no one's voted for the Hummer yet. I guess there aren't too many rich storm chasers out there! Sorry Ryan, I'll have to add the "helicopter" and "motorcycle/mo-ped" options next time. I can't believe I forgot to add such conventional methods of transportation :D !
 
I pretty well have the same requirements as Dan above, but disagree on what an "SUV" means. Often we only picture a hugh V8 chevy tahoe type thingy as the definition, when often it can encompass something smaller and reasonably fuel efficient.

I bought my 96 Jeep Grand Cherokee several years ago for less than 10K US and it gets 27MPG on the highway.. not stellar, but manageable. I also setup a sleeping area in the back and have loads of room for gear etc. I plan on keeping it running for as long as I can.
 
I should be getting new car this year.... first requirement is 30mpg on highway. If it can't meet that, then it's off my list. Second requirement is it has to be larger than my present saturn. Right now, potential choices are the Honda Civic (not so small anymore), the Dodge Caliber (lots of chase friendly features), and the Ford Fusion (best room out of all).

I ended up voting for semi-fuel efficient mid-size car. Sorry, driving around in an Aveo doesn't suit my fancy much!

Aaron
 
I went with the mini-van for the combo of space and economy. First of all, I get about 23/25mpg of the freeway compared to 32 from my Tracer. However, its a more comfortable ride and very spacious.

This is my second mini-van out of three vehicles I've owned, and while I'll miss the economy of the Tracer, I'll gladly stuff some cash into comfort and enjoy the spacious interior which I was missing out on.
 
John B Erwin said:
I bought my 96 Jeep Grand Cherokee several years ago for less than 10K US and it gets 27MPG on the highway.. not stellar, but manageable.
Are you serious about the mileage you are getting? I thought the Grand Cherokee's were gas hogs, myself. My best friend had one and it gets about 17 mpg. If that is really the mileage you are getting, when you get ready to sell it let me know, because I will drive up to Canada to get it! :wink:
Aaron, didja know the Caliber will be available with AWD? Of course, you have to check the box for the top of the line R/T package to get it, but I think it would be worth the three thousand premium over the base model to get the AWD as well as the sportier suspension and quicker acceleration (good to have in case you need to escape a hail core or oncoming tornado in a rapid fashion) :D . I'd have to say the Caliber is your best bet with all the chaser friendly features it has, not to mention the gas mileage. Just my opinion though.
 
Originally posted by Mark Farnik
Are you serious about the mileage you are getting? I thought the Grand Cherokee's were gas hogs, myself. My best friend had one and it gets about 17 mpg. If that is really the mileage you are getting, when you get ready to sell it let me know, because I will drive up to Canada to get it!

Keep in mind the different engine/transmission/transfer case combos. I have the 4.0 inline six with select-trac. As long as I have 2WD selected and there's no headwind, I've been able to achieve 27 MPG. To be fair I've made a few upgrades to the air induction/exhaust system too. I suspect your friend either has the gas-guzzling V8 or some other variant.
 
Originally posted by Dan Robinson+--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Dan Robinson)</div>
- ability to comfortably sleep in the vehicle (able to lie flat and stretch out fully)
[/b]

<!--QuoteBegin-John B Erwin


I also setup a sleeping area in the back and have loads of room for gear etc.

I thought I was the only person that did this. :) I actually have a single sized mattress in the back of my minivan. Fits just right. Doesnt affect cargo space, as it is just a raised floor. I can push everything to one side, and get a good 8 hours of sleep on a not so humid, non storm night. Its just like camping. :lol:
 
Originally posted by John B Erwin+--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(John B Erwin)</div>
<!--QuoteBegin-Mark Farnik
Are you serious about the mileage you are getting? I thought the Grand Cherokee's were gas hogs, myself. My best friend had one and it gets about 17 mpg. If that is really the mileage you are getting, when you get ready to sell it let me know, because I will drive up to Canada to get it!

Keep in mind the different engine/transmission/transfer case combos. I have the 4.0 inline six with select-trac. As long as I have 2WD selected and there's no headwind, I've been able to achieve 27 MPG. To be fair I've made a few upgrades to the air induction/exhaust system too. I suspect your friend either has the gas-guzzling V8 or some other variant.[/b]

Yes the 4.0L jeep motor is quite fuel friendly but has gobs of torque due to the inline design. great motor. i would rather one of those over the daimler chrysler 5.2L V8, it's a POS. the transmissions in the Grands suck. period. the 46RE transmission is a time bomb, dont tow anything with it or if you do, have it built up by a good shop. the AW4 trans mission found in XJ (boxy or regular) cherokees are infinately better. the NP231 'selec-trac' is WAY better for mileage as compared to the quadratrac system. the q-trac system is crap too with the viscous center differential. although it'a AWD, if you lose traction at one wheel, all of the power will go to it. unlike the selec-trac that has a real Tcase, in which case at least one front and one rear tire will get power.


if you really want to make a world of difference in a jeep's 4x4 capabilities, you could always go with a selectable locker such as an ARB (air actuated) OX-locker (cable actuated) or eaton e-locker (electrically actuated) this way if you do somehow find yourself looking for traction on a road you probably shouldnt have gone down you can flip the switch and lock both axles (side to side that is) together for ultimate traction. this is OE stuff on newer toyotas and a few chevies. if you know someone with a rubicon wrangler, ask them about the air lockers.


Tires are of consideration too. there are alot of NICE high traction light truck and SUV tires out there that get great tread life. Interco TrXus M/t and the Goodyear MT/R are two that come to mind.


that in mind, my next rig will likely be a 2000-2001 Cherokee (boxy style) with the 4.0L inline 6, AW4 auto overdrive, NP231 Tcase, and the chrysler 8.25 rear axle. I really like these vehicles and their cost is coming way down. the 4.0 is a super reliable engine as well. they can easily go 250k miles not bad for a pushrod 1950's technology as compared to many of todays OHC engines that are crapping out at 150K (yes there are many good ohc engines out there but many just plain suck.)
 
I picked Hummer... And I don't mean the sissy H2, H3, H4's, etc.. I'm talking about the REAL H1. But, that might be out of the question if you don't have $80K to throw around - they are quite a hot item now, ever since the release of the girly-man hummer.
 
I like my Nissan Armada. It's larger than the Hummer on the inside and gets better gas mileage. It also has 6 -12v outlets and a heavy duty electrical system. I have 20" wheels on mine but they come with 18". I would stick with the 18' wheel for chasing as the dubs with the extra wide tires tend to hydroplane a little easier then the factory tires.
DSC01217.jpg

I also have tons of room in the rear for equipment and 4 large people if I use the back for gear.

I checked SUV for the poll.
 
dude that armada is pretty nice. good rear axle too, Dana/spicer 44


ALSO I wanted to mention the new Jeep Liberty with the small Common Rail Diesel. Great mileage and Range. good 4wd system (NP231 transfercase , selec-trac).

I've never noticed the availability of diesel out in the plains, with the abundance of 3/4 and 1 ton farm trucks out there with powerstrokes, cummins and duramaxes, I'd assume it's fairly plentiful except near and in larger cities. I bet out in the plains, every town with one gas station will have a diesel pump.


One other thing to consider when purchasing a chase vehicle besides gas mileage is range. which is a function of gas mileage and fuel capacity. I'd rather get 20 miles per gallon with a 25 gallon tank than 25 miles per gallon and a 15 gallon tank.
 
I couldn't vote because "A DEPENDABLE VEHICLE" was not one of the choices.
 
The new 2006 AWD Toyota RAV4... not an off-roader in any way, but the AWD and 7.5 inch ground clearance will get you thru some spots.

Any for the naysayers, I have done 4WD country roads with a Corolla before (not a good idea, almost did underbody damage), so for the willing and skillful, I think the RAV4 would be excellent (and very reliable).

Plus, 29 MPG! Nice!
 
AWD would be nice... especially if I end up in ND, but cost will be main factor. I can get a well equipped vehicle for $17-18k, while with AWD it will be $20-22... Maybe not a big deal for some, but grad student budget is limited ;)

Aaron
 
Dan Robinson Wrote:
- ability to comfortably sleep in the vehicle (able to lie flat and stretch out fully)

This is an absolute necessity. We have always made space for a small bed in the back of our Explorer. It's definitely not the best on gas, but it has a lot of space and it fits four very comfortably. We're coming all the way from Florida, so comfort and the ability to sleep is crucial. It really helps if you just feel like "getting there". I remember about two years ago when we were in Georgia chasing on a bust day and decided that since the next week was going to be almost storm-less according to the models, etc. We would go to South Dakota to do some sight seeing. So we drove straight there. Without our bed in the back, I don't think we could have ever made it. We ended up driving straight to Murdo, SD from Tallahassee, FL in about 33 hours. Seems like a long time, but it really wasn't that bad.
 
Originally posted by Marc Austin
Dan Robinson Wrote:
- ability to comfortably sleep in the vehicle (able to lie flat and stretch out fully)
We ended up driving straight to Murdo, SD from Tallahassee, FL in about 33 hours. Seems like a long time, but it really wasn't that bad.

I drove from Gainesville, FL to OKC straight, taking naps along the way. Being able to stretch out is THE way to go, also saves on hotels, last year I took someones advice and parked near a RR track in Chapman, KS off I70 for a couple of hours, it was nice.
 
Originally posted by mrobinett
I drove from Gainesville, FL to OKC straight, taking naps along the way. Being able to stretch out is THE way to go, also saves on hotels, last year I took someones advice and parked near a RR track in Chapman, KS off I70 for a couple of hours, it was nice.

Trackside is a great spot to do car lodging. As long as it is in a rural area and there is room to get a fair distance from the road. Two other good spots are frontage roads at the point where they dead-end, and tower site access roads.

One thing I would recommend for any car used in this way is homemade cardboard panels to put in the windows. Blocks streetlights, headlights, sunlight and keeps people from looking in. My only two anxieties from sleeping in the car are people watching me sleep and cops waking me up to question me.
 
Originally posted by Blake Michaleski
if you know someone with a rubicon wrangler, ask them about the air lockers.

I have an '04 Rubicon, and yes they are very nice, similar to the ARB's in operation. Not sure how much value they add to a dedicated chase vehicle, but for improving off-road ability they are hard to beat.
 
You didn't have "All wheel drive station wagon" listed, but I vote for that anyway. :roll: I am probably the only storm chaser in America that has a Mercedes for a chase vehicle. :D My 1990 Mercedes Benz 300TE wagon is a great vehicle. It has the 4MATIC AWD, gets about 16-21 mpg (not as good as I had hoped but it's a Mercedes for crying out loud, they were purchased by rich people to whom gas prices were not a major concern, especially 16 years ago) but it has a 19 gallon tank so it has about a 350 mile range driving reasonably.
It actually has seating for seven, the third row seat is hidden under a panel in the cargo floor, you just open the panel, flip up the bottom, slide on the back and voila! You have rearward facing accomodations with C-pillar mounted seatbelts for two. Then when you're done with it it disappears back into the cargo floor by reversing the three steps you took to assemble it. It's a nice touch, most definetely. It has great cargo room with the second row seats up, but when you fold them flat, you have about a seven foot long by two and a half feet wide flat surface area, perfect for a sleeping bag or two.
The only thing that bugs me about it is it has a central locking system that can only be enabled from OUTSIDE the vehicle; there are NO interior door lock switches. On one hand, it prevents you from ever locking your keys out of the car, :) but on the other it leaves you quite vulnerable if you were to camp out for the night. :? I'll probably have to roll down the window a crack, have someone else lock it, pass me the keys through the window, roll up the window (or leave it cracked depending on how hot/humid it is and the risk of nocturnal convection) and then when I wake up just pull the lock on one of the rear passenger doors to get out. Since I am a 16 year old on a limited budget, I'm going to be spending a lot of nights in the back of the Benz. It should be interesting. :wink: Oh well, I love it anyway.
I can't wait for chase season to start so I can take Das Panzervagen (the name I have bestowed upon it) out in the field and break it in; I am currently suffering from a prolonged bout of SAPSDS (Severe and Proufound Storm Deprivation Syndrome) which began after the last good round of severe storms back on the 14th of September. :lol:
I'll post a pic of it at a later date when Photobucket isn't being such a pain in the a** to upload photos to; happens when you use a dial up connection (DSL and wireless internet are one of the nice perks you miss out on when you live way out in the boondocks like me).
 
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