Beyond Grille Guards: Building a Zombie Survival Vehicle

Phase 1: Choosing the Platform

For parts 3 and 4 of our countdown to the best TV show to ever take place in the great state of Georgia, The Walking Dead, we’re going to virtually build the ideal Zombie Survival Vehicle, or ZSV. 

Sam Elliott
Visual Aide For Reading Voice Over

If you’ve made it as far as Rick and crew, you’ll be guiltily nurturing the hope that humanity will actually pull through this, that the walkers will eventually die off and the remnants will rebuild.  And in that day, when the TV flickers back to life, you’ll see a car commercial, probably with a voiceover by Sam Elliot (unless he was infected, which is impossible, because he’s Sam Freakin’ Elliott), and he’ll say something like this:

“During the dark days, it wasn’t just a car.  You didn’t use it to go to work or on vaction.  It was a refuge.  A weapon.  A home.  A friend.  It helped you forage.  It was there when you found your family.  Introducing the all new 20** [make] [model].  For the brighter days ahead.”

And despite all the marketing butter, he’ll be right.  A vehicle will be absolutely essential to making it through the outbreak.  That’s why you should build yours now, before everything goes to crap and you have to put your mailman down because he wants to chew on you.

So where do we start?  Let’s evaluate the factors.

The Environment

Rick wakes up from his coma and finds himself in a Georgian wasteland.  There are no operational communication networks.  No mail, cell service, phone lines, or internet.  There are no running utilities.  No water, electricity, gas, or sewage.

Roads are clogged with stopped cars and bodies, and possibly an airplane here or there.  Most buildings are empty, and no businesses are open.  The military, police, and all other government entities have collapsed.

Seasons progress normally, but there will be no related services, like snow removal.  Of course, snow removal isn’t going to be a problem around Atlanta.  (This eliminates my first and perfect ZSV, a plow truck with a high-sided salt bin out back.)

Natural predators will eventually multiply, but the main threat will of course be…

The Enemy

Walkers are slow, weak, and dumb, but they do have three chief advantages.  First, there are a great many of them.  Pack enough of them together and you’ll collapse with fatigue before you kill them all.  Second, one bite kills.  You can’t let them get close.  Third, they feel no pain.  A gunshot, however powerful, won’t stop one unless it’s in the head.

The Walking Dead
Thankfully, that’s about it.  They have no use of weapons or tools (save a rock one of them used in season one), they don’t strategize, and they lack the basic motor skills to climb.  On top of that, they’re technically starving to death.

Unfortunately, the Walkers aren’t the only enemy.  Living humans can be just as cruel when threatened, and you’ll meet plenty of those, just as Deputy Grimes does.

The Vehicle

So what ship will you use to navigate these deathly waters?  Well, to start with, it should probably be something you can afford to own and use now.  Few of us have the means (or space) to keep a plow truck around.

The car should be simple and easy enough to maintain that you can learn it yourself.  You can’t waste precious time and calories trying to figure out which of your Bugatti Veyron’s ten radiators is leaking.    It should also be reliable.  Sorry, Alfa fans.

It should be easy to fuel.  Notice I didn’t say fuel efficient.  Gas is everywhere – every stopped car will have a tank of gas, and nobody will arrest you for siphoning.  Your main problem will be shelf life.  Untreated gasoline will destabilize in 1-2 years.  Fuel stabilizer will help, but only for a while.

Your ZSV should be as quiet as possible.  The Walkers are drawn to sound.  Loud mufflers are awesome, but you should try to keep your main vehicle on the DL.

The Walking Dead
It should have heaps of torque.  Horsepower is good, but torque will save your life.  Remember that the walkers’ chief threat is the pack.  You may have to plow through that whole pack on a single run.  This is why four-wheel-drive is also essential.  It’s going to half your chances of getting stuck on a slippery mound of not-quite-dead guys.

It should also have high ground clearance, since you want to go over the threat and not under it.  Acceptance of lift kits is a must.  A higher hood will also increase the chance of zombie head injury, so you’re actually killing them, rather than just snapping their legs.

The Conclusion

I would choose a Ram 3500 Diesel.

Yes, it’s an oil-burner, but remember what I said about torque.  Aside from zombie-mashing, you might need to tow a camper full of refugees or ram a gate.  And the 2013 3500 with its bulletproof 6.7 liter Cummins has eight hundred and fifty pound feet of torque.  Heck, it even has 385 hp.

Then there’s the fuel availability.  You’re thinking that gas will be so much harder to find, as there are very few diesel cars and stations.  That’s true, but prevalence isn’t the only factor.

Dodge Ram 3500 Diesel
Due to America’s unique relationship with diesel, we only use it for huge vehicles, which means that when you find some, you’ll likely find alot.  That equates to less time punching tanks or setting up siphons and more time watching your back.  Semi fuel tanks are bigger than most of your car.  I also picture diesel stations as retaining more of their stock during the mayhem of the outbreak, when most gas will be quickly depleted.  By the time the diesel runs out, you’ll have already set up your entire biodiesel operation.

And one more thing: get one with air conditioning, because you don’t want to be rolling down the windows unless you have to.

We go a little crazy when picturing zombie cars.  We plate them in armor and festoon them with weapons.  But you don’t need armor when your enemy’s coming at you with their fingernails.  Just some sheet metal.  And you don’t need chainsaws on your bumper when your bumper is a weapon itself.

All that said, there are some significant modifications our 3500 will need before it’s ready for the field.  Let’s just say the Governor had the right idea with his grille guard.  A grill guard is never a bad idea.  Or a power programmer.  Yeah, there are alot of truck accessories we could add.  We’ll cover those next week.

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