Do you remember the vehicle from the well-loved Storm Chasers television show? It looked like something out of an old movie. This tornado truck was a heavy-duty 1997 Ford F-350 (Super Duty) truck that the owner laboriously modified to be able to drive into the path of tornadoes. It disappeared after Discover Channel canceled the show more than 10 years ago, but the original Tornado Intercept Vehicle has been found.
The Tornado Intercept Vehicle was actually a 1997 Ford F-350 Super Duty truck
There were two versions of the Tornado Intercept Vehicle, which is what designer Sean Casey called the truck. In its heyday, Casey and the TIV would chase tornadoes around tornado alley for Discovery Channel‘s Storm Chasers TV show. The first was a heavily modified 635 hp Ford F-350 that turned into the TIV.
The second truck (TIV2) used a Dodge Ram 3500 truck. Both of which fell off the face of the earth after the show. However, storm chaser Robert Clayton was on a mission to locate the original Tornado Intercept Vehicle 1 (TIV1). Casey said he left the truck back in Kansas sometime in 2011 and started a scavenger hunt of sorts. Clayton began to look around, and what do you know? He found it!
You can see the Ford F-350 turned Tornado Intercept Vehicle for yourself on Google Earth. Clayton was hunting around on Google Earth more than a decade later when he spotted the vehicle in someone’s backyard in Liebenthal, Kansas. The owner said he knew the truck was out there on his property but never did anything with it. He agreed to let Clayton remove it, according to KSN.
The Storm Chasers Ford F-350 was solid, but it wasn’t exactly nimble enough to chase storms
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While the Tornado Intercept Vehicle looked big enough to withstand a tornado, there were a few issues with the design. It wasn’t exactly high enough to go anywhere but on a clear road. If you know anything about tornadoes, these storms don’t usually stay on a path anywhere. Having an off-road truck is a must. So when the show was canceled in 2011, Casey no longer needed the vehicles. He sold the second version of the TIV. The first one lived in Liebenthal, where Clayton found it for more than a decade.
Since the TIV has essentially been sitting for 11 years in a field, it needs a little work. The truck looks like it has been through some tornadoes. While giving a tour of TIV1 on his YouTube channel, Clayton gives a better view of the current conditions. There are claws on all four corners (because this thing definitely has corners) due to a request from the Discovery Channel. He wants to replace these claws with spikes as these work better.
The exterior of the Ford F-350 looks pretty good for how long it has been sitting in a field. The inside looks like something from Jurassic Park. It is rear-wheel drive and manual, sort of resembling an actual Ford truck. The exterior is made from 1/8–1/4 inch steel plate welded to a two-inch square steel tubing frame, and that looks OK overall. Casey had a ton of other things a tornado chaser might need. There is an air control pneumatic system, air pumps to run the claws, generators, and other suspension controls. It has a heat gun, seats, tires, and crown jewel: the IMAX turret.
The Tornado Intercept Vehicle might be chasing storms sometime soon
This gave a great view of whatever tornadoes might have crossed paths with the Tornado Intercept Vehicle. If you ever watched Storm Chasers on Discovery, you probably saw this view on the show.
Clayton has owned the T1V1 since September 2020 and has hopefully been working on the Ford F-350 behind the scenes. Of course, that won’t be an easy task. The Ford truck needs a lot of work, but it is in the right hands now. Cole Pfiefer of Augie’s Towing and Repair in Hays is slated to do the job. It was one of the shops that worked on the TIV back when it was still chasing storms around.
The shop plans to get the motor running, upgrade the windows, and add some liner to the truck’s exterior to make it stronger. As Clayton is a storm chaser himself, he plans to add upgraded technology to help follow the storms and report on the data collected. There should be no shortage of tornadoes to chase in Kansas whenever the Tornado Intercept Vehicle is ready. It is almost storm season, after all.