Finding a getaway vehicle
We have the will to outlast everything!
Let’s face it, not everyone has a retreat. Some of us, because of our jobs, lack of money, or peculiar professions, cannot move now to our favorite retreat. This retreat may be a piece of land we have purchased in anticipation of moving, or it may be an area that, in a general emergency, would be unoccupied. But how will we get there?
We must take into consideration such conditions as traffic and bad roads. The answer to this dilemma is an evacuation or getaway vehicle. Before discussing what type of vehicle is best suited as an escape vehicle, let us discuss what type of vehicle is not. It is not a custom terrain vehicle with ten wheels and armor plating. It is not a custom modified Corvette with a blower on the engine that looks like it just came out from the Mad Max movie set.
What a survival vehicle is, is a simple, practical, easy to repair and maintain vehicle. The purpose of this article is to show you that the average person can search for, evaluate, purchase, modify, and maintain an escape vehicle. It will also retain its original role as a vehicle that can be used for everyday transportation, an important cost-saving measure in today’s economy.
Logically, the simplest vehicle to maintain is one that was built simple, unfortunately, quite some time ago. In my opinion, among the best vehicles for this job are the 1972-76 Chevrolet Blazers, Ford Broncos, and Jeeps.
The main reason is that they do not have electronic ignition, which may be damaged by nuclear or solar electromagnetic pulse (EMP). Obviously, newer model vehicles may be the only choices available. Age, damage, and rust may make the older vehicles unavailable in your area of the country.
If a newer model is your choice, you should look for those with an engine model option package without the electronic ignition or keep an extra “black box” in an EMP resistant Faraday bag.
A must-read: EMP Attack Survival Guide for 2020
When selecting a vehicle, thought must be made to the availability of an after incident parts supply. Vehicles with long parts ordering times will be almost impossible to repair, after an emergency.
All car manufactures have forgotten about their older models, and today’s cars have compact engines in almost all their vehicles that cannot be accessed without the help of an experienced mechanic. So the alternator or carburetor that you need may come out of someone else’s abandoned station wagon.
When selecting your getaway vehicle, you can look to three basic sources:
1) used car lots,
2) friends and family,
3) online advertisements.
Buying from a used car lot has one basic disadvantage. The used car dealer knows how much the vehicle will bring on the open market. Notice, I did not say “how much the vehicle is worth.” Used car lots want to maximize their profit; therefore, the major consideration of a used car lot owner is appearance. The motor of the vehicle may not necessarily smoke or have a leaky transfer case, but if it did, it would not affect the price much.
Friends and family can be very good sources for a vehicle. The price will be right, and usually, they will let you know the major problems of the vehicle upfront. The best way to purchase a vehicle is through online ads. You can pick and choose which ads to reply to, based on your budget.
You can go by and look at the vehicle with no obligation. You will find a better selection. And the best part of the deal is that since the seller put up the ad and you want to purchase a vehicle, you can usually come to a fair and equitable price. It is easier to haggle price with this seller than with a used car dealer, or a friend.
There are several points to remember when you visit the seller to see the vehicle.
First, go during the day. You need plenty of light to look at the vehicle closely. Believe me, it is very difficult to check a vehicle in the dark, with a flashlight. Second, allow yourself plenty of time to check out the vehicle. Sometimes it is just as important to establish a rapport with the seller, and this can take time. Third, wear old clothes. Crawling around underneath a vehicle can be very hard on good clothes. You will want to also check underneath the hood. Fourth, do not buy the vehicle after you visit it for the first time.
Go home, and evaluate the weak and strong points of the vehicle, then decide. When looking under the vehicle, there are several major things to check for: engine, transfer case, and transmission leaks; body and motor mount damage; and major rust perforation. Minor rust is not a problem because it can be easily repaired by the average home mechanic. But, major rust can be dangerous, and it is a problem that the average person cannot tackle by himself.
Next, start the vehicle and let it warm up. Are there any leaks? Does the engine smoke? Is it overheating? Better to stay away from these vehicles because all of the above could be signs of major problems. Is the engine squeaky clean? Watch out, this means steam cleaning to possibly wash away any evidence of leaks.
After the engine has been warmed up, take it for a test ride check for sluggishness, hesitation, and excessive smoking when accelerating. When changing gears, check for a clanking sound from a manual transmission and slippage from an automatic. These can be signs that the previous owner was a hot-rodder.
The preference in transmissions is largely psychological. Both types have their strong points and weaknesses. Manuals save gas, but people seem to tear out more transfer cases and axles with them. Automatics save the drive train and are less tiring to drive, but the mileage is not as good as for manuals.
If you are purchasing a four-wheel-drive, while on the test ride, stop and engage the transfer case and lock the hubs. Does the 4WD engage? Does the transfer case or the transmission clank or whine? If they do watch out for major repairs.
Ok, so now you have found your weekend project. The vehicle is within the price range you set for yourself, and there seem to be no major problems—time to haggle.
Now that you have gone and taken care of the legal formalities and are driving your new baby home, resist the temptation to stop by a local 4WD shop and fill the back of the vehicle with parts. Drive home, park, and try to get your priorities for repair straight before ordering the parts you think are needed for your getaway vehicle.
Here comes the hard part, making the list of repairs based on priority. Start with the repairs that make the vehicle a reliable everyday vehicle. Are the hoses good? Do the oil pan or valve cover gaskets leak? Are the oil and filter in need of a change? Points pitted, or plugs carbon fouled? The radiator needs to be flushed and repaired? These are repairs that even unknowledgeable car owners can perform with simple instructions from basic car care books or online videos.
Since you may turn your getaway vehicle as one of your main sources of transportation, more involved repairs had better be scheduled on off-days, such as weekends and holidays. But, to shorten the time for these repairs, try to obtain factory repair manuals for your vehicle, oftentimes you can find these online with a lot of digging. If your vehicle is too old, your best bet will be to contact old car enthusiasts or forums that deal with this type of hobby.
Regardless of how you find them, these manuals will explain in detail with pictures on how to repair almost all of the parts in your vehicle. Obviously, major engine or transmission rebuild is beyond the ability of most people but, you can perform rebuilds of smaller items, such as water pumps, alternators, carburetors, starter, and brakes.
Related article: Four-Wheel Driving Guide For The Smart Survivalist
Major rebuilds such as the engine, transmission, and transfer cases are better left to the professionals. But, careful evaluation of the vehicle before purchase will minimize the chance of needing a major rebuild. The specter of rust threatens almost every older vehicle in the United States. On the coasts, the salt-laden air is the main source. Everywhere else, it is the rain, snow, and salt on the roads during the winter.
The idea is to keep rust under control. Repair these small spots before they become big spots. Believe me, body filler is easier to work with than it looks. Paint should be applied to prevent rust, not to dazzle your friends. Primer has a way of keeping your vehicle average looking and above suspicion. No comic book camouflage, please. If you have the vehicle painted, use a basic earth tone. You do not want to call attention to yourself.
Modification to make the vehicle more rugged comes next. Again the simpler the modification, the easier it is to repair. Resist the temptation to get monster mudder tires on aluminum rims and a 4-inch lift kit. At the worst possible time, the huge tire will give out, and where can you get a replacement without ordering one?
If you do find one or stockpile them, can you change one of those huge tires with a crowbar without breaking the aluminum rim? Better to stick with basic off-road tire and steel rims.
What if you need extra clearance? I am a firm believer that 4-inch lift kits are made by companies that sell drive train parts. It is unbelievable the strain lifting a truck 4 inches will put on the universal joints, axles, and differentials, if you feel that you need a little bit of extra clearance, try a 2-inch lift kit. They seem not to wear out components any faster than stock height, and they use standard shocks on 2-inch lift kits.
Accessories that come in handy are the aftermarket bumpers, roll cages, and shields. These bumpers are made from a 3-inch pipe and are very sturdy. They can come in very handy for protection and pushing abandoned vehicles out of your way. A roll cage will protect the driver and occupants during wrecks and rollovers. The shields fit on the front and rear axles, transfer case, and gas tank. These keep the truck from being damaged when traveling over rocks, trees, and through ditches.
What if your bug-out area is beyond the limit of your gas supply? Or maybe you are like my wife and just like to carry extra gasoline. 4WD accessory shops can specialize in both add-on and replacement tanks that range from the stock 21 gallons to the oversize 50 gallons. Even if there is not an application available for your vehicle, the shop can probably point you in the direction of a custom tank builder.
While you are at the 4WD shop, check on other items that may be useful: dual front and rear shocks, special seat belts, dual battery systems, winches, etc.
Finally, on the trip away from the city, you will need to know what is ahead. Since your phone may not have a signal due to various reasons, a good radio is your best bet to stay informed. There are several radios that will fill this requirement. Now there are various models you can find on the market, and it all depends on your preference. Whatever you pick, make sure it covers the standard civil defense frequencies. A unique addition to an AM radio is a converter that allows you to hear your favorite shortwave band on the AM dial.
Other good sources of information include scanners, CB radios, and amateur radios. Scanners will allow you to listen to civil defense, police, and tire frequencies, which are always a good source of information in an emergency. CB and amateur radios allow you to communicate with other vehicles and base stations. The FCC allows anyone to operate a CB but requires testing to use amateur radios.
Recommended article: Crisis Communication Advice – Ditch the cell phone (or not?)
The main idea that I am trying to get across is to think about your getaway vehicle and your parts purchases logically. The successful outcome of this endeavor will be a vehicle that is practical, serviceable and does not scream survivalist. Also gained will be the ability to repair your own vehicle, and the confidence you receive will follow you to other endeavors of self-sufficiency.
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I would also make a case for a Chevy Suburban. Has quite a bit of cargo room, and after destination is reached or found, can be used as a ‘base camp’, especially nice if winter or rainy season is underway. A ‘steel tent’ of sorts. Women in particular would appreciate the privacy afforded by this.
Thanks for the well written article.
Lots of good advice for shopping for a used BOV. For my two cents, I much prefer a manual transmission. I’ve never had a problem with a (manual) transmission or clutch in 40 years of driving six different vehicles with sticks. OTOH, I’ve known many friends who’ve been stranded with failed automatics or hit with big repair bills to fix them. Your earlier advice about seeking out simpler machines applies to transmissions too. One can avoid burning out a transfer case by not driving foolishly. Even then, a failed transfer case means having only 2WD, not stuck with nothing.
and per your ‘last word,’ yes, avoid looking like a prop from Mad Max. It’s not only a needless expense (to try to look like that), it just tells the unprepared and unscrupulous that you’ve probably got stuff worth stealing.
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Finding a getaway vehicle
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