A few years ago a couple of storm chasers in the heat of the moment pushed a little too hard and became stuck in the mud. Easily done, pretty much every chaser will have a moment of woe.
Facebook lit up with judgemental comments (guilty until proven innocent on social media) even without knowing the mitigating circumstances.
One comment in particular had me laughing at its stupidity: “They have no right to be chasing in a vehicle like that”! Huh?! It’s a 4wd SUV and was number 5 on my list when I changed up vehicles in 2014.
So I guess it is time to share some insights into the chaser world. Below I have asked a few chasers with completely different vehicles:
“What is your perfect chase vehicle?”
Chaser: Adam Lucio
Home Base: Chicago, IL
Chase Vehicle: Ford Expedition 2006
About: Adam is one of the most genuine chasers out there in my opinion. He truly loves the experience. He is not out there to collect meteorological data, to capture video to sell to the news or to go viral on social media. He doesn’t care about what anyone else thinks of him and will bluntly tell you as such! I think of him as the true cowboy of the chasing world.
“I chose a 2006 Ford Expedition because my chase vehicle is also my daily driver. I take a lot of other trips outside of chasing that involve hauling people and lots of gear. Also I am tall (6′ 3”) and comfort is a big deal to me. I don’t like being cramped. Also my style of chasing is aggressive and I tend to to take more backroads than paved roads to avoid the crowds. I do have a limited budget, so I can’t afford a totally wild 4×4 – so I needed something practical yet capable of taking abuse. The Expedition certainly has not let me down!
“To many chasers, fuel economy is #1 – to me, its a low priority. I will always take the above mentioned factors over everything else when choosing a chase vehicle. My trusty 2006 is starting to get old, and I will likely be replacing it with something similar. Plus these days the bigger SUVs get much better fuel economy and can travel up to 600 miles a tank, that is just awesome!”
Vehicle Priority List in order: Comfort, Reliability, Capability (off road action), Customization
Advantages: Seat Height/Visibility, Off Road shortcuts, bigger Tires less likely to catch a flat, spacious for 4+ people – helps to split up the costs!
Disadvantages: Fuel Economy, but Adam would rather take the Advantages over this. Also over confidence in the 4×4 capabilities can be a problem – but that’s more of a personal issue than a vehicular one!
Chaser: Skip Talbot
Home Base: Springfield, IL
Chase Vehicle: Chrysler Town and Country 2010
About: Skip is a software engineer. He also is an integral part of Storm Assist which provides financial donations to communities directly impacted by damaging weather event. Plus Skip was able to put together multiple videos and radar sequence of the El Reno 2.6 mile tornado to fully incorporate all available resources to better understand the dynamics of the storm. If you haven’t gathered he is a very smart guy – I once played him on Words with Friends. Once.
“I make long distance trips from the Midwest, camp for several days out of my vehicle, and also use my chase vehicle as my daily driver. I picked a 2010 Chrysler Town and Country as my chase vehicle because of its mix of practicality, storage capacity, and highway performance. The van has seats that fold flat into the floor with enough room for a twin mattress and large cooler, which makes it an ideal camper. It also has the largest engine in its class, making it great for comfortable highway cruising, passing on two lane highways, and starting from a dead stop under a storm. With the addition of all terrain tires the vehicle’s performance also allows it to handle itself decently on unpaved roads.”
Skip has also customized his vehicle to incorporate a video camera dome (pictured under his foot) that he takes some amazing HD footage with.
Vehicle Priority List in order: Handling (highway), Capacity (camping, people, cargo), Comfort, Fuel Economy
Advantages: Storage capacity, configuration flexibility, comfort and efficiency.
Disadvantages: Limited off roading capabilities, only FWD.
Chaser: Bob Schafer
Home Base: South East Colorado
Chase Vehicle: Porsche 968
“I was a serious racing fan for a decade before my first chase, and I have been “into” fast cars since before I was old enough to drive. Chasing storms has always been, for me, an excuse to get out of the house and have some fun driving. That’s why I drive a beater Porsche 968. It is the best car ever made. I would not trade it for a Ferrari F40 or Lambo. That completes my priority list right there. The engine was rebuilt from the block up and is basically new since about 80k miles ago.”
Advantages: Handling at speed, acceleration, 23 mpg
Disadvantages: Expensive parts, older vehicle and stuff breaks a lot.
Chaser: David Mayhew
Home Base: Fort Collins, Colorado
Chase Vehicle: Subaru Forester 2014
About: Born in the UK I quit my engineer career and moved to Chicago to study photography where I was sucked into storm chasing world. I moved to Fort Collins as it is on the edge of the plains for chasing and so I romp around in the mountains. I make my living selling my work as art. But you already new all that, right?!
“I need a multipurpose vehicle for my photography. Something that can get me there and get me away safely again. This includes mountain passes. I am 6′ 3″ so obviously something that I can fit in well, but also something I can camp out in, whether I chase remote lightning storms into the late night or I’m out in the mountains – the front seat reclines almost flat and I sleep pretty soundly, especially with post adrenaline exhaustion. AWD or 4WD is a must as is moderate clearance, comes in handy to cross curbs when traffic jams up from storm debris. The Forester also has an amazing turning radius, helps when pulling into a tight side street to shoot storms. I chose not to go with the turbo version as gas mileage was a priority, but now gas is so cheap I wish I had as the Forester can be a little gutless driving up hill with a 60 mph head wind and a hail core rapidly catching up with me!”
Vehicle Priority List in order: Reliability, Visibility, Cargo Capacity, Fuel Economy & range (distance per tank)
Advantages: Visibility (moon roof), handling, off road capable, great mpg and range
Disadvantages: Limited tire size means limited off road tire options. Light weight means not the best off road. Seats aren’t the greatest though.