Storm Chasing 4Runner

Storm Chasing 4Runner

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While out storm chasing in his own 4Runner, Senior Editor Phillip Jones came across this well-built 4Runner and met the owner, who is a seasoned storm chaser. Phillip invited Brandon to submit an article about his build and his chasing experience.

4Runner Build List

-2014 4 Runner Trail Premium
-Fuel Wheels
-Nitto Trail Grapplers tires
-3-inch Lift
-Custom front/rear bumpers/skid plate
-LED lit steps in back
-10,000 lb waterproof winch
-Rigid LED’s in front/back and underneath
-Wireless Internet
-ChargeGuard (for electronics)
-Optima Yellowtop battery
-RAM Laptop mount
-Kicker sound system with new L7 QB8 in back

When I went in search of a 4Runner, I found an Oklahoma City-based dealership that did a lot of modifications to the dealer’s 4Runner inventory. Seeing those decked out rides got the gears in my head turning. My 2014 4Runner already came with the big wheels, tinted windows, and nice powder coating on the logos. It was the rolling definition of blacked out! After purchasing my 4Runner, I definitely knew I wanted an LED light bar. They were growing popular on off-road vehicles and I wanted to fit in! Getting one put into the grill wasn’t going to be easy. I considered a grill guard, but it seemed grill guards really offered no protection. If I was going to spend money, I may as well do it right! I located a steel fabrication shop in Lubbock, TX named Fearless Fabrication and let them have it for a week. They put together the plans for the bumper, lighting, and other items.

Storm Chasing 4Runner

During the previous week, I was storm chasing in Colorado. My friend got stuck in the mud as a tornado was barreling down on us. I had him jump in my 4Runner, and we were able to escape. That was the day I knew I had picked the right vehicle. We later tried to extract his vehicle with a simple tow rope we found at a gas station, but it didn’t work. This incident served as motivation to purchase a winch, which has come in handy.

The original plan was to only do the front bumper, but the shop owner talked me into the rear bumper as well. I am certainly glad I took his advice because shortly afterward, I was rear-ended by a drunk driver. My 4Runner experienced zero damage.

I have always been in some sort of off-road vehicle for storm chasing, mostly out of necessity. We encounter terrible road conditions in rural areas where dirt roads can instantly turn into mud pits due to flash flooding. Fallen trees and downed power poles sometimes require going through a ditch to maneuver around. Debris and/or high water require adequate clearance. Sometimes, there isn’t even a road. Sometimes we turn around and the road we were just on has transformed into an obstacle course. A coating of hail can make for slippery traction.

Storm Chasing 4Runner

Before my I purchased the 4Runner, I had 2 different Jeeps, and a GMC Envoy. The 4Runner by far has received the most investment in modifications. I know it will hold great durability and value.

At a young age, long before I was interested in off-road vehicles, I grew interested in weather. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I became interested in storm chasing. In 2008, at the age of 17, I went on my first big chasing trip. We drove from to Kansas from Illinois and spent a week chasing tornadoes. After that, I was hooked. I enrolled in the University of Oklahoma in 2010 to study meteorology and earned my degree in 2014. That educational experience only took me deeper into chasing, because I could see all of the classroom and textbook knowledge unfolding in the field.

Storm Chasing 4Runner

My wildest storm chasing adventure was in 2013, during the El Reno, OK tornado on May 31st. We got caught in the outer circulations of the tornado, and a barn was destroyed in front of us, sending flying debris into my car. My windshield was shattered, a hay bale tossed into my car, destroying my front end, and all the paint wiped off the passenger side of my car. It was both a horrifying and humbling experience.

I’d love to do go off-roading with my rig. So many times I see other Toyota owners who drool over my ride and ask if I go off-roading, and I have to let them down! I’d love to go somewhere super remote and scenic, like Utah, climb over some rocks, and get to some places that nobody else could really get to!

Storm Chasing 4Runner

You can follow Brandon’s Storm Chasing adventures on social media:
Twitter/Instagram btsullivan91

More Photos!

[flickr set=72157675343892491]

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