When we think of a vehicle for wheelchair mobility, we often think minivan. What if there was a different choice? A cooler choice? A 4WD choice with a V-8 engine? Turns out, it does exist in the form of this 2020 Chevy Silverado ATC wheelchair conversion.
This brand new and really cool gull wing door truck, 2020 Chevy Silverado with wheelchair conversion, belongs to self described “truck girl” Kristi Allen. She told us not only does she love her “beautiful black truck,” but she also didn’t see much choice between this truck and a minivan.
Her new Silverado replaced a 2006 Nissan Titan, also wheelchair accessible, after it was totaled in a car accident. The Titan had been good to her and while she was thinking about a new truck, the accident made getting a new truck a priority — plus the 4WD aspect is going to be a benefit during the winter months.
“My last truck was 2WD,” Allen said. “We usually just put sand bags in the back.”
This new 4WD truck will help alleviate that task, provide more confidence when driving in the winter as well as provide her more ground clearance, all things a truck provides over a minivan.
In order to enter/exit the truck, she uses three different key fobs for the various systems. First, the standard key fob from Chevy locks and unlocks the doors. Then, another key fob has a series of buttons to operate the lift moving her out of the vehicle and onto the ground in as little as 25 seconds. The speed is pretty important when you consider the cold winters of South Dakota! Finally, a third key fob operates a locking mechanism holding her chair in place.
Behind the wheel, she uses a special setup with a single lever for gas and brake. This lever can be overridden by pressing a button allowing for other people to drive the truck if needed. It is a pretty clever setup, which keeps the pedals operational unlike other systems, making it more difficult for other people to drive the truck. She also has the OEM seat that she can insert back into its original position for a non-wheelchair driver.
She started the process of shopping for a truck in June with the help from Jason Johanneson of R&R Mobility of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Allen found the truck she wanted, and R&R Mobility helped facilitate the rest.
R&R Mobility is the in between company working with Allen and ATC Conversions, in order to make sure customers like Allen get special modifications to fit their needs. The company also handled the transportation of the truck from the dealer to ATC’s plant in Indiana and back to South Dakota.
For example, the QLK-150 wheelchair lock down device was installed by R&R. This device allows Allen to be locked into the chair lift and prevents her from sliding backwards away from the steering wheel.
However, the bulk of the work is done by ATC Conversions. First, the company raises the truck 3 inches to allow for more clearance for the weight of the wheelchair and platform when entering and exiting the truck. Then, it cuts off the door pillar between the front and rear doors, welds the doors together as well as cuts into the frame to mount the new floor. Also, ATC Conversions installs the hydraulic pumps, lift and platform for the wheelchair to sit on.
For the doors, the conversion company adds weather stripping and additional weather proofing along the bottom of the door to keep the water out as well as to reduce the chances the doors will rust.
The door panels are also pretty interesting with no cup holders. This adaption means wider wheelchairs can fit in the truck even with the stock center console. The center console can also be swapped out if needed to allow for a wider wheelchair.
After everything is installed, ATC Conversions repaints the interior and the doors to match the colors of the truck.
Johanneson told us there are many options beyond just trucks.
“You see a lot of people like Kristi that don’t want to be in a minivan,” he said. “Minivans were the most adaptable. Manufacturers are starting to figure out (wheelchair users) want to be in a Chevy Traverse, a Ford Explorer.”
He added you are starting to see more conversions of SUVs even compact SUVs similar to how the automotive market as a whole is seeing more trucks and SUVs sales versus sedans and minvans. Plus, you get to keep the versatility of a pickup truck.
“It is an OEM truck that’s been lifted,” Johannsen said. “It is meant to haul, tow and they (ATC) want to keep all of that.”
Pricing for this conversion is more than $30,000 plus the price of the truck. ATC says it can deliver the finished vehicle in 4-6 weeks.
For customers like Allen, the long process of getting a new vehicle with the wheelchair accessibility can be nerve racking. However, one drive around the block and the smile on her face shows the reward is well worth the wait.
As one might imagine, the expense for this type of vehicle is quite high with the total price in the $70ks range. While Kristi Allen does work for the Paralyzed Veteran’s on the VA Campus in Sioux Falls, SD, this expenditure does have an impact on her budget. Anyone looking to help with this expense, can check out her GoFundMe page. Any support is appreciated.