The Iowa Storm Chasing Network has just unveiled "Dorothy—" a five-ton behemoth of an armored van that looks like a giant mouse droid from Star Wars. The tornado-chasers reckon it will get them closer to the action than ever before.
Designed by Brennan Jontz & Dan Auel Dorothy is built off a Ford E-350 van, which now looks like a zombie-killing death machine. Its actual purpose is pretty much as badass; people are going to charge toward spires of wind that can chuck houses and cars and cows around, not to mention transport you to a terrifying place inhabited by flying monkeys, in this thing.
The storm chasing team says the "van" won't be able to drive straight into a twister as its appearance might suggest, but it will allow meteorologists and other weather analysts to get much closer to extremely hostile weather than they would in standard vehicles.
Dorothy carries an entire mobile office behind the driver's seat where storm professionals can monitor weather, operate cameras, or watch Netflix if the rig turns out to be so safe it's boring.
Double wall construction of 14 & 16 gauge steel plus 3/4″ polycarbonate windows brings the total weight up to about 10,000 pounds. The exterior's rubberized with something that looks like RhinoLiner.
A 6.8 V10 moves all that mass around, though no reports on fuel economy or performance have been released yet (haha).
In fact, besides St. Patrick's Day parade duty, Dorothy hasn't been truly field tested yet. The storm chasers will have to wait for some serious wind to take the tank-like machine up to its limit.
The Iowa Storm Chasing Network has a Ford Explorer with a roll cage too. Here's a quick briefing on their fleet:
Image: Iowa Chase