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2001-2003 Chase Vehicle  E-mail
Friday, 10 April 2009 23:40

This 1995 Ford Windstar GL was equipped with two Uniden/Bearcat radio scanners with 800 MHz capability. These were built into an overhead console that I custom made, originally for the Ford Explorer (the previous chase vehicle), now transferred to this van. This console also contains light switches that control all the external accessory lights on the truck. The scanners are great for monitoring NOAA WX radio, ham radio stations, fire departments and law enforcement. The van is also equipped with an ICOM 2720H dual band amateur radio for staying in contact with other hams, SKYWARN severe weather nets and for making reports to those nets, and other amateur radio licensed storm chasers/spotters.

Across the roof you can see the various sensors for the weather station, as well as the various antennas used for the radio equipment, cell phone, tv and CB. The amber warning lights are for safety when pulled over along roads, or in bad visibility conditions.

On the computer console is the Radio Shack WX200 weather computer (manufactured by Oregon Scientific), which was generously donated by my good chaser friend in Ohio, Scott Clark. This computer allows me to get real-time readings on wind, air temps, dewpoints, pressure. This has already proven very valuable in finding the dry line. As well as the location of a warm front. All of the sensors are mounted on the roof.

A Uniden/Bearcat 40 channel CB radio (mounted in the front of center console), This is primarily for communication short range with other chasers who are not amateur radio operators. A RAM mount is used with the quick release head of a tripod mounted on the dash to allow my Digital8 Sony camera to quickly go from dashboard to tripod and back.

One of the coolest things that I think I have in here is an integrated PC. In the past, I used a laptop computer extensively, but now, I designed a custom center console to contain the components of the computer. A 15" LCD screen is mounted to the dash with an aircraft style RAM mount. The PC is an Athlon 1.3 gig processor with 1 gig of RAM, 52x CDROM drive and a 20 GB Maxtor hard drive. It also has a PCMCIA card reader which can accept any PC card device. Operating system is Windows XP Professional Corporate version. I use a Delorme Earthmate GPS which has a GPS antenna that plugs into the serial port. This is used in conjunction with programs like Street Atlas and SwiftWX. With this we always know where we are at a glance. Paper maps are still kept in the van for backups. We also use a couple of types of weather data manipulation software, such as Tim Vasquez' Digital Atmosphere 2000.  I do carry along a rather old Toshiba laptop for use when staying overnight in motels, etc.

 

I used to use a DirecPC satellite Internet system, but my current cell phone provider will not work with this setup. I have a for the DPC dish that is a prototype model I successfully tested for BullsEye Dishmounts. (www.rvdishmount.com URL dead at last check 4/11/09) L.W. there at Bullseye Dishmounts makes this awesome mounts for various surfaces for RV users for regular size DSS dishes. He came up with this prototype we tested for the larger DirecPC type dish. I you are in need of a way to mount a dish, either the smaller type or the larger, you should get in touch with him! I am wanting to upgrade this to the newer DirecWay system, especially the newest model out from Motosat, that is designed for mobile use, however it may be a couple of years before that becomes reality because the equipment is rather expensive. Currently I download data via cell phone.

The computer is equipped with an ATI TV tuner, so we can get local or satellite TV on that as well. The black circular item on the roof is the TV antenna which is omni directional. It is connected through a 20 dB gain booster. The TV tuner card also has A/V inputs, so I can connect the dash cam, or any other A/V source. All of the 110V items are powered by a 700W converter.

Additional equipment would be a Sony Digital 8 Camcorder, along with a tripod for this. I have 4 detailed map books, and several notebooks with information, such as ham radio SKYWARN net frequencies throughout tornado alley, TV station listings, all sorts of weather analysis information. And I never go anywhere without my First Responder trauma kit. We also recently added two FRS handheld 10 channel radios, which come in handy for car to car communication when teaming up with other chasers that are not ham licensed. These work much better than CB for short distances.

The custom console was built in 2001, and in August 2002 an engine head overhaul was done on the engine, as this should greatly extend the life of this van. In 2002 I also had to repaint the back door as the paint was badly chipped in the 2001 Kansas Derecho event, and since that time, the power from the car wash pressure had caused a great deal of the paint to peel off the back door. You can see pictures from those projects by following the links in this text if your interested. This vehicle was retired at the beginning of 2004.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 May 2009 01:23
 

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