What Type of Vehicle Do Storm Chasers Use?
With tornado season quickly approaching, the use of storm chaser vehicles is ramping up. Depending on who you ask, the art of storm chasing is slowly becoming obsolete. This is possible thanks to better technology that makes it easy to track storms from the comfort of a studio. However, some of the original characters are still out there chasing tornadoes to this day. You might recognize some of these Ford trucks and Chevy sport utility vehicles used as the jumping-off point for the Tornado Intercept Vehicle.
Storm Chasers on the Discovery Channel used trucks
One of the most famous examples of the Storm Chasers vehicles was on the Discovery Channel show by the same name. It was a heavily modified 1997 Ford F-350 heavy-duty pickup truck. This version, the Tornado Intercept Vehicle (TIV), turned into a rolling weather lab of sorts.
Another version of this, dubbed the TIV2, was a Dodge Ram 3500 pickup truck. Such pickup trucks have some of the game’s highest tow ratings and payload numbers. It makes sense modifying something so large can only make it more suitable for driving into a tornado.
According to the Live Storm Chasers, the TIV 2 weighs 14,300 pounds and has three axles that require 10 heavy-duty tires. Someone disconnected the third axle from the drivetrain, changing the Tornado Intercept Vehicle from a 6×2 to a 6×6. The third row is now a brace for the weight of the vehicle.
This storm chaser vehicle runs a 6.7L turbo Cummins Diesel engine, with top speeds of over 100 miles per hour. The fuel tank capacity is 95 gallons which offer a whopping 750 miles. The body was made with 1/8 inch steel welded over a steel frame, and the windows were bullet-resistant polycarbonate sheets and tempered glass.
Storm Chasers also used some SUVs like the Chevy Tahoe
In later years, the SRV Dominator (SRV standards for Storm Research Vehicle) was built by some others involved in the project. The first version of the Dominator was a heavily modified 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe. This was used around the same time frame and was made from bulletproof sheet metal and Lexan armor.
In an interview with Jay Leno on Jay Leno’s Garage, Reed Timmer discussed more about the Dominator in its later years. This version also used a Ford truck with a 6.7L turbo diesel engine with 400 hp. The engine mainly remained stock but had a custom air suspension kit that allowed the Dominator to drop to the ground to keep the wind from going underneath.
Timmer noted that the SRV was equipped with hydraulic spikes to help secure the vehicle to the ground. Ultimately, it seemed the heavy-duty Ford pickup trucks were the ideal vehicle to chase a tornado.
The Dominator Storm Research Vehicle is back in action
Even though Storm Chasers has been off the air since 2012, the Dominator 3 is back in action with its first tornado intercept in nearly 10 years. The video below is from Reed Timmer out chasing storms on May 7, 2023. It appears this storm chaser vehicle has continued to receive updates to make it better equipped to handle tornados and other extreme weather.
The Dominator is still out and chasing storms with its big Ford pickup truck base. Ford’s heavy-duty F-350 recently ousted one extremely popular SUV as the vehicle with the longest potential lifespan. The F-350 had a 49.1% chance of reaching 250,000 miles, making it the most durable vehicle out there. It makes sense the storm chaser vehicle would utilize such a capable truck!