MASSILLON, OHIO - To travel through 100 mph winds and softball-size hail, tornado chaser Tim Samaras, star of the hit television show "Storm Chasers" on Discovery Channel, needed a dependable truck he could drive into the eye of the storm. So he turned to leading truck cap manufacturer A.R.E. to help him create the ultimate tornado-chasing vehicle: The A.R.E. TWISTEX Probe.
The TWISTEX Probe is a 2008 GMC Sierra 3500 outfitted with A.R.E.'s Deluxe Commercial Unit (DCU) Series truck cap and numerous aftermarket accessories designed to increase the vehicle's functionality in severe weather. Samaras is the principal investigator for TWISTEX - a Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling in-near Tornados EXperiment team that measures wind speed, direction, temperature and other variables to help meteorologists understand why twisters form and how they become so powerful.
"I started scientific storm chasing about 10 years ago when I developed the next generation of tornado probes that our team deploys into the path of oncoming tornados," Samaras said. "Because these instruments weigh more than 400 lbs. each and measure about 3 feet high when stored, a traditional truck cap wouldn't work. We needed a durable shell that could keep this equipment safe, so we enlisted the help of A.R.E. who manufactured a 44-inch tall truck cap specifically for our needs."
A.R.E. also retrofitted the DCU truck cap with side toolboxes to fit Samaras' smaller probes and customized it to accommodate a 1,500-lb. Tommy Gate Lift Gate on the rear of the truck. Manufactured from .035 aluminum, the DCU features Strattec(r) lock cylinders in folding t-handles on all doors for added security, as well as Suspa(r) gas props on all doors.
"We are very excited to partner with Samaras to develop a rugged, highly efficient truck that his team can use to chase tornados across the Midwest," said Bryan Baker, director of marketing, A.R.E. "The TWISTEX Probe and our Deluxe Commercial Unit truck cap have been completely coated with Line-X Spray-On Protectant to shield it from intense weather and hail damage."
In addition to the cap and spray-on liner, a variety of accessories have been added to enhance the truck's overall functionality, including Pilot Automotive aluminum floor mats; laptop holders and accessories from Jotto Desk; a Hellwig Products suspension system; the Warn Industries Power Plant HD with winch, air compressor and grill guard; Luverne Grip Step side entry steps; a back-up camera and LCD monitor from SPAL USA; Goodyear Silent Armour tires; auxiliary lighting from Hella Automotive Lighting.
A.R.E. dealer Suburban Toppers (Denver, Colo.) installed the truck cap for Samaras, while Line-X of South Metro (Littleton, Colo.) provided the spray-on liner application and Mastercraft Truck Equipment (Englewood, Colo.) installed the Tommy Gate and other equipment.
Samaras is currently using the A.R.E. TWISTEX Probe on tornado-chasing missions from the team's home base in Colorado all the way to Texas, Indiana and even Canada, covering nearly 30,000 miles in the next two months. Footage from these trips will be featured in Season 4 of "Storm Chasers," which premieres this fall on Discovery Channel.