With its sliding double-door driver entry, military-inspired custom camouflage paint and the automatic raising and lowering of the body – the concept mobility SUV unveiled by BraunAbility and West Coast Customs is not your typical wheelchair accessible vehicle.
And that is exactly what reality television’s West Coast Customs and accessible vehicle manufacturer BraunAbility wanted, just in time for the 4th of July celebration.
With the turning over of the tricked out Ford Explorer’s keys to Wounded Warrior Lance Corporal Mike DeLancey as part of a reveal event filmed by West Coast Customs, BraunAbility hopes to open the door to a new era of innovation in accessible vehicles.
“There is a whole new mobility market emerging,” said Kevin McMahon, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing at BraunAbility. “This vehicle was originally built in tribute to Americans like Lance Corporal Mike Delancey who have served our country, but it’s also a revolutionary concept. We hope it will change how people everywhere think about mobility transportation.”
While the tricked out Explorer may have been the most anticipated moment of the day, DeLancey received another surprise – this one quite emotional. When DeLancey was shot while on foot patrol in Haditha, Iraq, the first Marine to come to his assistance was Sergeant Michael Guynes, who had served with him in Afghanistan and Iraq. “I heard the words ‘DeLancey’s down’ and I came out from cover and held on to my little buddy,” recalled Guynes. “I put pressure on the wound and looked into his eyes and told him over and over ‘You got this buddy, you’re fine.”
Guynes, whom DeLancey had not seen in seven years, was presented as a surprise guest to help take off the camo tarp covering the secret West Coast Customs build. “I was shocked,” said DeLancey. “He’s my brother, and always has been. To see him and hug him and punch him in the shoulder – that means more to me than anything else today.”
Sergeant Guynes, fellow Wounded Warriors, veterans, government officials, sponsors, family and friends were on-hand when DeLancey finally got to see his new ride. The Pinnelas Park native and Wounded Warrior Project volunteer could not stop grinning. “It’s just incredible, it blows my mind,” said DeLancey, who has dedicated his time to helping disabled veterans since a sniper’s bullet took away his ability to walk. “This vehicle shows exactly what I tell the guys coming back from war with critical injuries: just because you’ve been injured doesn’t mean you have to change or settle for something that’s not you.”
Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports, HP and Environmental Rail Solutions helped fund the concept car nine months in the making. Presented by West Coast Customs host Ryan Friedlinghaus, the SUV includes the following special features:
- Wheelchair accessible driver’s area to allow for easy entry and exit
- Door opens automatically together, exposing a wheelchair platform surface
- Vehicle automatically lowers for wheelchair access and then raises to normal driving position
- An HP Elite Pad 9000 which operates the accessibility functions remotely
- Custom wheelchair complete with an HP Elite Pad 9000
- 42 inch widescreen HP LCD monitor with Bowers & Wilkins sound bar for major tailgating
- 22” KMC Gloss black brushed accent wheels
The SUV will be featured on the West Coast Custom show this fall on Fox Sports (check local listings).
Friedlinghaus, owner of West Coast Customs, noted the importance of the shop’s work for the Wounded Warrior Project. “We have worked on hundreds of vehicles over the years, but this project is one of the most important our shop has ever done because it could help change the lives for thousands of American heroes.”
Sam Schmidt, co-owner of Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports said, “There has not been a truly unique and creative design introduced in the mobility industry in 30 years. This fantastic mobility concept SUV is a mission accomplished.”
BraunAbility, based in Indiana, has not set an exact timetable for a production model. “We are not going to rush this. It is too important for the industry and it is too important for our customers that are calling for a combination of style and function,” said McMahon.
|Watch the reveal with Wounded Warrior Lance Corporal Mike Delancey and Sam Schmidt >>|
BraunAbility is the largest manufacturer of wheelchair accessible vans, ramps, and wheelchair lifts worldwide and enables people with physical disabilities to regain mobility and lead active and independent lives. The Indiana-based company was founded by Ralph Braun, who was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at a young age and unable to walk by age 15. Ralph was motivated by his disability to invent the world’s first electric scooter (the Tri-Wheeler) and wheelchair lift (the Lift-A-Way) in his parents’ garage. Word spread and demand for the product increased, resulting in the birth of Save-A-Step Manufacturing, which ultimately became BraunAbility. The company offers the most diverse line of vehicle platforms in the industry. For more information, please visit www.braunability.com.
About Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports:
Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports (SHM) fields the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car driven by Simon Pagenaud in the IZOD IndyCar Series. The partnership, comprised of former racing rivals Sam Schmidt and Davey Hamilton as well as sponsor Hewlett-Packard, enabled Simon Pagenaud to capture 2012 Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors and a fifth-place championship finish in his first full season of IndyCar competition. Pagenaud and SHM scored their first IZOD IndyCar Series victory at the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix in 2013. Pagenaud is joined on-track by teammate Tristan Vautier, rookie driver of the No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car.
About West Coast Customs:
Headquartered in Corona, CA, West Coast Customs was founded in 1993 by Ryan Friedlinghaus. West Coast Customs is known by car enthusiasts as the premiere high-end modification shop that can transform any vehicle into a work of art. West Coast Customs is not only known for building cars but delivering dynamic television content to a wide range of viewers. Owner Ryan Friedlinghaus and his shop have been doing exclusive custom builds for the MTV show Pimp my Ride, TLC’s Street Customs, Street Customs Berlin and now on his new show West Coast Customs. Ryan and his crew are world-renowned for their extreme vehicles, outrageous features, and next level designs.