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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My G.O.O.D. Vehicle, by Matt M.

In considering my Get Out of Dodge (G.O.O.D.), plans, I decided to focus on determining the proper vehicle to acquire. My first and biggest concern is the fact that I have a large family. While our retreat is little more than a camp site at this time, I have decided to focus this article on the trip there rather than the buildup of the actual retreat. I am not a trained mechanic but I have worked on cars throughout my 22 years of car ownership. I am by no means an expert at anything survival related. I am a student of survival and this is what I have learned in the last year in my search for the best way to get my family from here to there. I trust the survival blog readers to grade me appropriately and correct my lack of knowledge.
My vehicle requirements are the following:
Seating Capacity for Nine
Counting my wife, myself, my two boys and my five girls we have nine people to plan for. The youngest is seven and the oldest is 17. Obviously, this makes things both expensive and complicated. With a family of nine bugging out on foot or on bicycles is much less likely to succeed than it would be for two adults.
Expedition Capable
Our retreat is over 400 miles from our home. I think it will be very likely that the highways between these locations will become parking lots, or worse, they will have barricades and roadblocks used for stealing from travelers. I began to look at alternative routes from the standard highway paths that I normally use. I explored frontage roads, city streets, service roads and back roads. I also asked the question, “Why not go off road?” In my search, I have learned that the off-road community has been doing this for years. They call it going on an “Expedition”. Not the Ford SUV of the same name but a combination of camping by night and driving off road trails by day. They travel without roads and this is exactly what I wanted to learn. My local off-road club has scheduled expeditions. These created the perfect experimental environment for me to figure out off-road routes to our retreat and the tools I need to execute my plan. This means that I must have a proper 4-wheel drive vehicle modified to drive off road. I will also need many good paper topographical maps of the areas that I may have to drive through.
It is important to understand that the off road community has categorized dirt trails. They range in difficulty by class from one to nine; with one being a well cared for dirt road nine being cliffs and ridiculously difficult terrain to cross. I think it is reasonable to target my vehicle with a class two/three as a requirement.
EMP Resistance
As I searched for the correct vehicle, I made sure I was ready for one or more Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) events that could affect my initial trip and any traveling I may need to do afterwards. This survival blog has helped me understand just how real this threat is. The main concerns along this line of thinking are threefold.
The Carrington event of 1859 – Activity on the sun caused an EMP-like event here on earth. The current solar activity is expected to last the next few years and could produce another similar event. Now that our society is much more reliant on unshielded electronics, it would be far more catastrophic.
The EMP effect of a nuclear weapon – If a nuclear blast occurs miles in the sky it will have a similar affect upon our unshielded electronics.
A bad guy makes an EMP weapon – If a terrorist type or some other bad guy builds an EMP bomb and sets it off from a balloon or a plane over my relative part of the planet, then I will have to deal with the same consequences as the two items above.
This requirement places a difficult task in my path. I must obtain sufficient vehicles for my family and supplies and it must be either a hardened newer model or one that predates electronics. Therefore, if possible, it must be pre-1980 to be sure it does not rely on electronics to function.
To add further complication it is also worth noting that depending upon the strength of an EMP any magnetic sensor or solenoid may also be damaged should such an event happen. This means that even if I had selected an older model I would have to keep a spare solenoid in a shielded container and the right tools and knowledge to replace it in any location.
Fuel Storage Solution
My retreat is over 400 miles away from my house. This means that I need extra fuel or a fuel depot along the route cached some place safe. I am assuming that buying fuel along the way will not be possible.
Bullet Resistance
I do not know if things will be bad enough for people to start shooting at us but if they are, I need to be ready for that as well. Protection for the family, the fuel and the engine would be ideal.
I cannot have my vehicle stick out like a sore thumb while in the wilderness. The vehicle should be an appropriate color for the terrain I expect to drive through. I also do not want to stick out like a sore thumb in the middle of suburbia or in the city either so I need a solution for both.
My Solutions are as follows:
For my solution, I did not find any pre 1980 four-wheel drive vehicles for sale so I selected two identical 1999 Ford F-350 crew cab diesel one-ton pickup trucks that have been modified to address the requirements listed above. This will allow a maximum of six people plus their gear per vehicle and since I have nine people this allows me to have room for more gear in the cab since I only need four or five in each cab. I am also not thrilled with the turning radius of this truck but it appears I will have to make due. Having two identical vehicles allows for interchangeable parts. If one of the vehicles tips over or gets stuck, the other can assist with the recovery.
1. Transfer flow 98-gallon auxiliary fuel tank. This allows me to travel more than 2,000 miles without stopping for fuel.
2. Four inch lift with enhanced shocks. This lift and shocks allow for bigger tires and a reasonably low center of gravity for optimal off road capability. Keeping the truck lower than four inches would provide a lower center of gravity but does not allow for off road clearances. Lifting the truck further displaces the center of gravity and provides little real gains in ground clearance.
3. Fender cutout and flares for the oversized tires.
4. Six 37 inch tires, Wrangler MT/R with Kevlar. Two of the tires are left as spares. These are very tough tires for off road and are very resistant to puncture.
5. Six Rock monster bead lock rims. These are military grade rims. With these rims the tires can be inflated as little as 8psi and will hold the tires onto the rims. This is great for getting enhanced traction on dirt, rocks and sand.
6. Portable tool kit and JWR's standard list of items for the G.O.O.D. vehicle.
7. Backup IDM – injector drive module wrapped in anti-static bags and aluminum foil for EMP hardening.
8. Backup PCM – Power train control module wrapped in anti-static bags and aluminum foil for EMP hardening.
9. Backup Camshaft sensor wrapped in anti-static bags and aluminum foil for EMP hardening.
10. Backup turbine shaft speed sensor wrapped in anti-static bags and aluminum foil for EMP hardening.
11. Two bed spare tire mounts to hold the tires on their side and minimize bed space used
12. Camouflage vinyl wrap – This allows for removable camouflage so that I can keep the typical civilian look in the city and become as invisible as possible in the wilderness.
13. Ten rolls of electrical tape – This allows me to cover all of my reflective trim on the vehicle that the vinyl wrap does not cover. From bumpers to rims the reflective metals become black.
14. Bullet resistant boxes – These are mounted to protect the original and auxiliary fuel tanks. I have used 3/16 steel plates welded together. Although I do not think they are bulletproof they still provide some protection without adding to much weight to the truck.
15. Bullet resistant helmets and plate carriers for each family member - With so many kids it seems I am constantly trying to balance fitting this gear on the kids while trying not to torture them to much with it. This solution is not really strictly vehicle related, but it is the vehicle solution that happens to work when you are outside the vehicle as well.
16. A Warn winch with 20,000 lb. capacity - If the truck is tipped over then it should be able to self-recover with a little luck. The rule for winches is to get one that is rated with at least twice the capacity as the weight of the vehicle.
17. A 40mm ammo can - to store all of my aluminum-foil wrapped [Faraday-protected electronic] backup parts.
18. Stock tools upgrade - upgrading the stock tire changing tools by replacing them with a tire iron and hydraulic jack gives me a lot more confidence. Adding a torque wrench is also required with the proper size socket for your lug nuts.
I believe this solution satisfies most of the requirements. Now the plan will be for me to determine how many different off-road routes I can map out on my topographical map. I will do this by going on expeditions between my home and retreat before I actually need to. I have to work on training all of the driving age family members to drive off the road including knowing appropriate tire pressures and maneuvering. I still have not come up with a good solution for bullet resistance on the engine and I am not sure to what extent I should plate the under carriage. Is the threat of an IED a realistic one in our country?
Ford has made it very easy to buy the dealer shop manuals, both in electronic and hard copy. I have purchased the three volumes in hard copy. I think they are a great investment.
My opinion is that this is the quickest most cost effective solution to my requirements. I look forward to hearing what the readers have to say.
Good luck everyone and may God be with us all.