BraunAbility and West Coast Customs Unveil Concept SUV for Wounded Warrior

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The tricked out vehicle was presented to a young Wounded Warrior who was surprised by the fellow Marine who saved his life when he was injured.

BraunAbility's new concept vehicle -- an accessible Ford Explorer.

“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.”

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.

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 7 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 and 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 and HP helped fund the concept car more than a year in the making. Presented by West Coast Customs host Ryan Friedlinghaus, the SUV includes the following special features:

  •     Accessible driver’s area to allow for easy entry and exit
  •     Door opens automatically, exposing a wheelchair platform surface
  •     Vehicle automatically lowers for wheelchair access and then raises to normal driving position
  •     Custom wheelchair complete with an HP Elite Pad 9000
  •     42 inch widescreen LCD monitor for tailgating
  •     22’’ Gloss black brushed accent wheels

The SUV will be highlighted on a West Coast Custom show this fall on Fox Sports.

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, “BraunAbility and our sponsors sought out West Coast Customs because we wanted to radically change how people think about mobility vehicles. 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.

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Megan Wegner
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