Car Built For Wheelchair Drivers

"It's the first car built specifically for wheelchair drivers," says Robert Appley, vice president of the FAM-CAR Corporation, manufacturer of the new FAM-CAR for the handicapped.

FAM-CAR is built around the frame of an Oldsmobile Toronado. Use of a car body, rather than a van, gives the FAM-CAR a lower frame for easier access in a wheelchair and much larger windows for better viewing, according to Appley. "And," he adds, "a Toronado has a ride no van can match. For many wheel-chair drivers, such as those with multiple sclerosis, that's impoartant."

The FAM-CAR is completely accessible to those with limited dexterity. A driver needs only the use of both hands to enter the car, lock the wheel chair in place and drive.

And, unlike most such vehicles, the FAM-CAR is not a converted car - it's totally built over, from the frame up, into a vehicle tailored specifically for the handicapped.

Appley cites these advantages of the FAM-CAR over existing "converted" forms of transportation:

--Features a ramp rather than a typical elevator, which sometimes requires assistance for use.

--Rides as smooth as a car. This is important since the wheel-chair bound person remains in the chair, which isn't as soft riding as regular seat cushions.

--FAM-CAR has excellent visibility. Features oversized windshield that lets chair-bound driver, who sits higher than normal drivers, see easily.

--Caters to persons with a wide variety of upper limb impairments. For example, the brakes can be applied easily with just a touch from one finger-no matter how fast the car is traveling, Appley explains.

The FAM-CAR is not just for the handicapped. There are regular seats in the back and a seat can be installed on either the driver's or passenger side.

The first FAM-CAR prototype was built around the Toronado because of it's front-wheel drive (no hump down the car's middle). However, Appley, who did most of the actual building on the car, says any mid-size frontwheel drive would work equally well. And, something less than 400 cu. in. would get better gas mileage, he notes.