Here in the UK we rarely have extreme weather. So, our cars are not really suited for bad conditions, indeed, many drivers will avoid taking the car when the weather is severe. If you are a driver of one of the millions of small cars, you will reap the financial benefits and ease of city movement but worry when strong winds buffet you on the carriageway. Over in the States, tornado’s cause chaos and misery for thousands yet the prediction and understanding of these stunning meteorological phenomena is still severely lacking. Scientists in America have studied tornado’s for decades but useful data are hard to gather.
If you have ever seen the TV series, Storm Chasers, or the film, Twister, then you will be aware of the brave (and occasionally foolhardy!) scientists and thrill seekers who attempt to get as close as possible to the tornado’s to get as much information about them as possible. One of the aims is to get a vehicle loaded with sensors and gadgets into the low pressure eye of the twister in order to obtain new data with the aim of producing a better model of their formation and eventually a more accurate predicting technique.
Anatomy of a tornado
Getting too close, unprepared?
In 2001, struggling racing driver, Steve Green set about planning his tornado piercing car. The 33 year old was after an attention grabbing PR stunt to help get him some sponsorship deals that would land him back in the driving seat. It was not something to take lightly, the car would have to withstand the extraordinary shearing and updraft forces that would threaten to lift the vehicle off the ground and, if that failed, something that could stand being rolled and thrown about without crushing the driver in the process.
Steve recruited Richard Broome, an engineer famous for his award winning bespoke vehicles. They bought a $300,000 Jeep Baja racing truck and stripped it down to its frame.
The important suspension was produced by Parker Hannifin. It had to get the vehicle from a comfortable ride height down to flush-with-the-ground at the touch of a button. The custom built hydraulic suspension gets the chassis to hug the ground instantly to avoid being sucked up into a tornados updraft. This feat was achieved by the system delivers 18,500 pounds of force to remove 1.5 gallons of oil from the shock absorbers in under a second.
They trimmed the skirt down and added a gurney lip to assist downthrust, further enhancing its grip.
To prevent debris exploding through the windscreen and windows they installed a kind of double glazing. Two sheets of tough quarter-inch-thick Lexan windshields were installed at different angles so that anything that pierced the outer screen would be deflected off the inner layer. Three sheets of DuPont mylar film were then added to the windscreen. Some say this may be excessive since a single sheet can halt a .38 calibre bullet but it goes to show how keen Green was to make the vehicle as impenetrable as possible.
Sponsors had helped to the tune of $100,000 and this was invested in a custom gearbox by Dr Evil, welded steel onto the roll cage, then installed Van Gilder six-point harnesses and seats. Giving the drive even more security a D-Cel restraint was fitted to the headrest to protect the neck.
Read more of the specifications here.
And, in 2004, the team achieved their goal. The TA-1 became the first vehicle to (deliberately) drive into the base of a tornado and survive this force of nature. But aside from some mobile phone footage the groundbreaking feat is famous for its failure of internal cameras.
So where is the TA-1 now? Steve Green wants to do the unthinkable and be the first person to physically walk into a tornado. His aptly named project Walk into a Tornado and his hope to also be able to tap the geothermal energy of Yellowstone National Park supervolcano caldera needs money. To fund this he is selling the TA-1 on eBay.
Blogger, Greg Coltman, is a science geek of many years standing and loves writing about new and exciting tech. He would love to get the chance to be a storm chaser!Post Categories: Environmental news, Green lifestyles, Green News, Green transport reviews, Recycling reviews