From Jay Leno’s Garage comes this video about the Dominator 3 storm chaser truck. This is an F-350 Super Duty Ford truck that is heavily modified to withstand hurricanes and tornadoes. And it’s heavy, too. Like 11,000-pounds heavy. But the F-350 has to be because it is fortified with armor plate, hydraulic systems, and more.
If you’ve ever watched Storm Chaser on the Discovery channel you know who meteorologist Reed Trimmer is. He has built a series of trucks over the years modified for storm chasing. Each one gets more features and is a bit more extreme. Dominator 3 is no different.
The engine has not been modified but everything around it has
The engine is the same 6.7-liter PowerStroke turbodiesel the F-350 comes with. It has not been modified. Everything around it has, however. It has to be to withstand 150-200 mph winds, not to mention flying debris.
The body is made of 16-gauge steel covered in Kevlar composite. It adds weight to help the Dominator 3 hunker down but also helps to deflect debris. With 150 mph winds flying around the truck it would be easy for the wind to lift it from the bottom. So the truck is equipped with an airbag system that allows it to drop down. The skirts around the bottom of the body help to keep the wind out.
Aiding this is a hydraulic system of spikes to physically nail down the truck. Even though it is 11,000 pounds the wind forces could easily send the truck flying were it not for these two important features. Another preventative feature is the double-paned windows. Besides being shatter-resistant they can be lowered or raised fast. A lot faster than your BMW or Silverado windows.
The Dominator 3 cost $750,000 to modify
Of course, all of this comes at a price. The Dominator 3 cost $750,000 to modify. Protecting one’s self from tornadoes doesn’t come cheap. So why do it? What’s the point being that it is so dangerous?
Asa Meteorologist Trimmer reports his findings to the National Weather Service and local television stations within a tornado’s range. So he provides a service. He also is taking measurements that will help in studying future storms. His up-close videos help researchers better understand the forces of suction vortices. These are mini-tornados that dance around larger tornados that do the most damage.
Since the Storm Chasers series ended Trimmer has created an on-demand series called Tornado Chasers. He also conducts storm chasing tours. If these are conducted before or after a tornado has landed that could be interesting. But during a tornado? Sounds too dangerous to us.