I know there have been other chase vehicles which have gained more notoriety and are more elaborate. But, for those of us in the University of Kansas Atmospheric Science Department in the early 90's, it was hard to top the "Rodness-Mobile." Just how did my vehicle acquire the name "Rodness-Mobile"? To unlock that mystery, you first must understand the antics of the Rodney D. Young Insurance Agency, in Kansas City, MO, who were notorious for their corny commercials. In one of their more hilarious spots, one character was portrayed as an ancient Egyptian lady, who was pulled over by local law enforcement and ticketed for going "5 paces in a 3 pace zone." ["I'm such a bad girl!!" she exclaimed.] And who came to her rescue? The Rodney D. Young Insurance Agency! Remember though, the characters were the ancient Egyptians; therefore, in the context of this commercial, it was the "Rodness D. Youngess" Insurance Agency! Somehow, yours truly obtained the nickname "Rodness D. Youngess", or Rodney D., or Rodness, or simply, "RDY" for short...and it caught on with my fellow meteorology students. Therefore,̀since I owned this wonderful van which we used on chases, it was soon dubbed the Rodness-Mobile. Simple enough, right?
The Rodness-Mobile (hereafter, R.M.) was a dark blue 1977 Ford Van with a "3 on the tree" manual transmission. It was equipped with just the bare necessities for chasing:
1. A Bendix/King mobile amateur radio, and
2. Lots of room!!
It had a rusty appearance, a loud exhaust system, and the seals around the passenger side door occasionally let water leak in, as an unfortunate Matt Foster found out in Alva, OK on 8 March 1992. Despite some of the structural woes, it was a highly-dependable, always-entertaining, gas-guzzling vehicle! Its likeness was displayed on the back of our 1992 KU chase team t-shirt, which I partially designed. [See photo below]
The R.M. truly earned its wings when it withstood the big Lawrence hailstorm of 26 March 1991. It was a non-chase event for me, but the R.M. held up well in the parking lot of my residence hall. Meanwhile, in an adjacent parking stall, a practically brand-new Honda CRX took a beating!!
It would get its "15 minutes of fame" on 15 June 1992. The Weather Channel sent out a team, including OCM Jeff Morrow, to "Mount Oread" to report on the activities of our chase teams. The last sequence of video shows our team leaving campus, heading west to what would become the monster HP storm near Beloit, KS. Other memorable chases which tested the R.M.'s integrity included the aforementioned chase to Alva, OK and near Sioux City, IA on 16 May 1992. It performed brilliantly as well on Labor Day, 7 September 1992 near Ottawa, KS. See StormTrack, Sept/Oct 1996, Vol. 19, no. 6, page 10, for the details of this chase.
The R.M. "turned over" 200,000 miles in October 1992. (Not bad for a vehicle which never had any major repair work done to it! However, not more than 2 weeks later, while just a mile from work, there was a loud POP! and a huge puff of smoke, and the R.M. was officially retired. Despite its passing, it lives on in memory among those KU chasers who were fortunate enough to have been passengers.