Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Custom Truck Solution


Hit Show
A few weeks back, I wrote about accessible trucks through a company called ATC.  That was the macro, turn-key, assembly line style conversion.  This week I want to shift gears, pun intended, and give you a taste of the micro.  In growing popularity, TV shows featuring a crew of people customizing cars and trucks is taking over.  Shows like Top Gear, Overhaulin, Monster Garage and Counting Cars are all centered on creating your dream vehicle.

Andrew Kuster
Andrew Kuster
In that same vein, meet Andrew Kuster and Rocky Homestead Lifts of Mountain Grove, Missouri.  Andrew became paralyzed when he was helping a friend move and a gun inadvertently discharged.  The bullet struck him in the neck and his life was changed forever.

Now Andrew had been a farm-boy and a mechanic his entire life in Missouri.  He now found himself depending on others to help him get around which was a tough pill to swallow.  Longing for independent living, he began searching for solutions to give him back some measure of freedom.  The minivans that are widely available for wheel-chair bound drivers aren’t exactly suited for the Ozarks.   After quickly growing tired of being driven around, and having micro switches on vans going out, he decided that what he needed and wanted was a 4-wheel drive vehicle.

Andrew Kuster
Outdoorsmen
His father being a licensed mechanic began to help him design and tinker with an old 1979 Chevy pick-up truck.  After cutting it, reconfiguring it and fabricating the necessary systems, Andrew did indeed have a viable, running, dependable work truck that was 4-wheel drive.  In fact, it is still in use today…amazing!

The downfall was that they designed it as a rear entry vehicle.  In other words, he used a lift to get into the bed of the truck and then entered the cab via an entrance in the back of the cab.  This was great until it snowed about 4 months a year.  Back to the drawing board!

Rocky Homestead Lifts
Rocky Homestead Lifts
Remember, these are men who have been around farming equipment, backhoes, bulldozers and the like.  They arrived at a concept that actually falls right in between two of the most popular truck solutions out there.  They cut the entire side of the cab off of a Chevy Suburban like an SVM vehicle.  Next they inserted a hydraulic lift in it like the ATC vehicle.  You know, like one of the hydraulic actuators on a backhoe, like nothing you have ever seen on a vehicle.  The lift is powerful enough to pick the entire car off the ground (Suburban weighs about 5,000lbs).  The hydraulic pieces are never going to have an issue of lifting you and your chair regardless of weight and they are designed to last 10 times the life of the vehicle.   This is where Andrew’s design begins to jump light-years ahead of anything out there to date.  They have kept this attitude into every conversion they have done.

Once converted, the vehicle gets you in or out in about 14-22 seconds!  The modern SVM Truck takes almost a minute to cycle one way in comparison.  Who wants to wait 45 seconds to load or unload?

JA Fabrications LLC
Non-Accessible Customized Truck
At some point you have asked the question, where were you going with all the custom car shows earlier?  Glad you asked.  Andrew has partnered with a guy named Grady who owns JA Fabrications LLC.  These guys are right out of one these shows.  You have Grady, who after taking the shop over from his dad went a completely different direction with the business to a customization shop.  Next in the crew is Colby, the comical guy who does electronics and sound.  Then there is Doc, who is the imaginative fabricator/mechanic.  And lastly you have Cory, who is the detailer/mechanic and motorcycle maniac.

Andrew provides the design to fit the wheelchair to the vehicle and these guys provide the magic.  How imaginative you ask?  One customer recently requested a wheelchair accessible truck that would also allow him to scissor-lift above the level of the cab in his wheel-chair so he could deer hunt right out of the truck!  The sky and money is the limit…really!

JA Fabrications LLC
Another Custom Ride
So by now you are likely wondering how long, how much, etc., right?  The process looks something like this.  First step would be to determine what you need or what you want.  This entails getting the dimensions of your chair and understanding the vehicle you want to convert.  A standard conversion on a Chevy truck or suburban is $17,500, which sounds like a lot but is in fact less expensive than other retail conversion specialists.

The conversion takes about six weeks to two months.  Extra stuff like Easy-Lock systems, hand controls, etc. are all extra but can be installed on site.  They do not mind working on older model trucks which may save you some money.

Although they are only located in Missouri at the time of this article, you can still get your conversion through them.   For a reasonable fee, they can pick up your vehicle, convert it and then deliver it back to you.  The fee depends on where you are located so just give them a call.  As an example, it recently cost someone $1300 to have their vehicle picked up from Maryland round trip.

In the unfortunate event that a fix is necessary, all the parts can be replaced through their shop.  Repairs can be done by your local mechanic shop with a call to Andrew’s guys, which is nice.

So there you have it!  Good luck on your next vehicle.  May it be a 4-wheel drive that can get you into the woods, lake or beach.

2 comments:

  1. Impressive. That was something new to learn. I was collecting information on Auto Hydraulic Lifts. Thanks for sharing. Keep exploring.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Melissa! You may want to check out one other article I wrote on the same topic - http://www.handicappedoutdoors.com/2015/04/trucks-for-mobility-impaired.html

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