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Sweet Ride! | Butera's Place
Sweet Ride!

Sweet Ride!

I can’t tell you how much I love this new car! 

In the past, because I need to use a big, heavy power wheelchair, the only vehicles that I could comfortably ride in were large vans that had been converted for accessibility.  I’d have to buy a regular Ford Econoline (Dodge or Chevy vans would work also, but I preferred Ford), and then take it to a conversion company to get the floor lowered and a wheelchair lift installed.  Not only would this be expensive, but making these necessary alterations would inevitably compromise the structural integrity of the vehicle.  The large hydraulic lift that was needed to raise me into the van was heavy and would weigh down one side, throwing off the balance.  Not only was it heavy, but it was noisy; the rattling noise that it made while driving was sometimes deafening.   Also, due to its size, it would block my view, making it was difficult to see much outside of the passenger side.  And because I was confined to the center of the van, it was not only difficult to see out of any other window, but it made it hard to talk to whoever was driving.  On top of all of that, it always bothered me that this was my only option.

Recently, though, when it was time to look for a new van, Laura and I wanted to find something different.  Of course, our first priority was to find something that was practical for me, but Laura also wanted to try to find something a little smaller and easier to drive when I wasn’t in the van and it was just her and the kids.  Not so easy to do.  We looked at mini vans, but because of my height and the size of the chair, most were too small.  Even if I could somehow get in, I couldn’t sit up straight, and I felt like I was crammed in.  Even the mini vans that I did fit into didn’t have much more room for storage; when we travel, we need to bring a shower chair, lift, and other paraphernalia needed for my care in addition to our normal luggage.  It looked like we were still stuck with the large conversion van…

Then I saw it… last February I was at the Abilities Expo in Atlanta with my friends Dan and Dave.  Dave and I had just finished checking out the new mini vans they were displaying.  I was actually kind of excited because I found one that wasn’t that hard to get into, and was a little roomier than others I’ve seen.  That’s when Dan came up to me and said, “You’ve got to see this!”  I followed him to the back corner of the Expo center to the MV1 display.  I never saw anything like it before.  It sort of looked like an SUV, but not quite.  It wasn’t a Ford, or a Chevy or Dodge.  It wasn’t a Chrysler, Honda, or Toyota.  In fact, it wasn’t made by any car company that I ever heard of… and it definitely wasn’t a van.  At first, I was skeptical.  I thought, “This thing isn’t going to work… even if I can fit in, it looks expensive.”  When I voiced that thought, Dan just said, “Forty-two grand.”  I looked at him like he had nine heads.  No way!  The mini van I just looked at was over  sixty-four thousand!  This can’t be right.  Then, the gentleman who was showing it asked me if I’d like to get in.  There was no lift, but a ramp like the mini vans I looked at… but different; it looked longer.  The gentleman, whose name was Orlando, told me that it can be two different lengths:  either a long (1:6 slope), or a short (1:4 slope) deployments.  Snazzy!  Orlando then told me that the ramp can be deployed manually or automatically, but he couldn’t show me the automatic deployment because his battery died from showing it so much the previous day.  “OK, red flag,” I thought.  “Poor battery life, and if you want the automatic ramp, you probably need to pay more.”  But Orlando assured me that it was only because he has shown the ramp deployment hundreds of times and the automatic ramp was part of the package.  I also noticed that the opening looked bigger than that of any other vehicle I’ve seen.  So, I mustered my courage and started to back my wheelchair up the ramp.  When Orlando asked me why I wasn’t going up forward, I told him how this is the way I have to do it because of my height and the length of my chair… I have never been able to get into any vehicle by going forward.  Even though he told me that he’s seen people my size and my style chair do it, I just couldn’t believe him… I was to find out later he was right.  Anyway, I proceeded to back in, and found that it was pretty easy; much roomier than anything else I was in.  Amazing.  I pulled into the passenger space and started feeling really good about it.  I had ample head room and didn’t need to sit in a semi-reclined position.  Also, I could see… everything.  The windshield wasn’t as sloped, giving someone of my height more visibility.  The more I saw and heard, the more I was falling in love with it.  It’s built from the ground up, specifically for wheelchair accessibility; no conversion necessary, which means no structural issues.  The ramp stored under the floorboard for more room.  It was American made by a new company called Vehicle Production Group (VPG).  There was tons of storage space, and a whole lot of leg room for the backseat passengers.  I was thinking, “This could just be it…

So, I go home with all the pamphlets and brochures about it thinking, “Now, only if Laura will love it.”  She takes a first look at the literature and says, “This looks pretty cool.”  YES!  So, of course with both do more research:  we went to the website, www.vpgautos.com, and read all about it.  I asked my brother Angelo to test drive one at a dealer near him in Jersey, and he felt it was really solidly built and was a nice ride.  So, when it got a little warmer, Laura and I decided to go to Orlando’s dealership to test drive one.  Now, from past experience with buying a vehicle for myself, I know the deal.  I can’t go on the test drive… I have to wait for the accessibility conversion, which has to wait until after I buy it… so, when I can finally feel how it rides, I better like it, because I’m stuck with it.  Knowing all this, I was expecting Laura to take the drive while I waited at the dealership.  Imagine my surprise when Orlando opened the door and put down the ramp for me to get in.  “Are you serious,” I asked?  “What about the tie-downs?”  Everything was ready… no customization needed.  Between Laura and Orlando, they even talked me into going up the ramp forward.  I hardly needed to recline to get through the entry way.  Incredible.  Laura loved it, I loved it, and a few weeks later, it was delivered to our driveway (we actually could have driven it off the lot, but we had the optional jumper seat installed).

As I stated in the beginning of this post, I can’t tell you how much I love this car.  We’ve owned it for close to a year now, and I couldn’t imagine riding in anything else.  Being able to sit up front like a big boy and actually see where we’re going is awesome.  Being able to have an intelligible conversation with Laura or whoever else is driving without having to yell from the back is invaluable.  It’s quiet; no more rattling wheelchair lift.  Laura loves the size; it’s big enough to feel safe, but smaller than the old van so she feels more comfortable driving it.  We can actually fit into parking garages now that we don’t need to worry about an 8-foot clearance.  I even feel safer because of the restraint and seat belt system that seems to work so much better than other ones I’ve used.  Since owning it, the whole family has driven to Pennsylvania and back, and to Florida and back (adding my mother-in-law), and were able to travel comfortably and store everything we need in back with room to spare.  And it is always funny to us about the looks and comments we get.  It’s a good looking ride, and different enough that we’re always being asked about it when we are out and about.  My favorite comment was one that Laura overheard; a young boy was telling his father, “Look at that cool car Dad, it looks like a Zombie Apocalypse machine-gun car!”  Now isn’t that all the endorsement you need?  If not, just let me say this:  if you need to use a wheelchair or other mobility aid, and you need a new vehicle, get the MV-1; you will be so happy you did!

Posted in The Quad's Clan on Jan 20th, 2013 by George

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