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Old 08-06-2009, 05:51 AM   #1
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Planning started on a Disabled Explorers SMB

Well it is time to get serious about building a Sportsmobile so Disabled Explorers can take a wider range of disabled folks out for their first backcountry experience.
I am selling my FJ Cruiser and the loan paper work came back with a prelim approval so now to work out details on paper.

Andy-blackeye was nice enough to let me drive his rig at the recent Overland Expo and I think an EB with a Voyager top will work great for having plenty of space for wheelchair folks. The extended body will also give more floor space and storage room for all the gear.

The rig will be shown at SEMA so time will be a big issue, after that there are a few Accessiblity Expo's, outdoor events and other public venues to display. I also do presentations at rehab clinics and support groups.
SNB West has a white EB350 diesel in stock, and while I was thinking about the V10 it will be easier to go with stock on hand.

The basic idea is to show the disabled community that there are options beyond the mini-van most of them did their driver rehab training in. Many of the young vets coming back from overseas want to keep their active lifestyle and love of the outdoors.

For the interior layout I am looking at a modified EB70 with 3 captains chairs (the one behind the drivers seat is removeable with wheelchair anchors in the floor).
The biggest window possible behind the driver and long windows along the side. Gotta provide max viewing for those who won't exit the rig.
The wheelchair lift will mean no door mounted storage cab.
I think a gaucho along the drivers side will work for a lower bed and allow an aisle to access the rear of the rig anytime (more for my use than a chair user).

I am also looking into either installing the Norcold higher up or using an Engel style 12 vdc fridge (so that folks can reach down into the fridge) that might help with the issue of a fridge door opening against someones chair.

I have a propane fire pit so it would be great to have propane appliances & share the tank.

Sure grip hand controls should work fine with the Ford dash setup.

Rear AC is a must along with a generator setup to run it anytime.

Solar panels & extra house battery to run the fridge & electric lift without worries about dead batteries.

During the build process I will be making multiple factory visits to document the build and I am thinking it would be wise to add extra doghouse & body insulation along with running cables for the self spotting cameras, gps, laptop, scangauge, ham radio, cb and other goodies.

I am open to any and all thoughts from all of you as owners, especially since there are already a few disabled SMB owners here. I am a lower leg amputee so I don't need much but the rig will be used with a wide variety of disabled folks so all thoughts are important.

thanks and looking forward to joining the ranks
1 Leg Lance
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Old 08-06-2009, 08:09 AM   #2
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Re: Planning started on a Disabled Explorers SMB

Lance
I've said it elsewhere, but I'll say it again; Dynamat, or the equivalent, EVERYTHING!
We did the whole van including under the hood, and our diesel van is QUIET. Of course with the windows open, it becomes a diesel again...
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Old 08-06-2009, 09:00 AM   #3
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Re: Planning started on a Disabled Explorers SMB

I don't own an SMB yet, but my wife was a disabled amputee. When we bought a new car in Texas and had an "orthopedic modification", we paid no sales tax. At the time, Toyota even reimbursed the cost of the mod. A wheelchair tie down counts, as does electric parking brakes, etc. I think this is a TX state thing, not a dealership thing. I don't know what SMB TX will do, but there might be some savings there.
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Old 08-06-2009, 07:33 PM   #4
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Re: Planning started on a Disabled Explorers SMB

Be sure to get some wheelchairs to place them inside your layout. Some are bigger than others.

You might want to strap them down first to reserve the floorspace then add the other stuff. There are some pretty strict DOT guidelines for wheelchair tie down locations in moving vehicles. Accessible taxi and para-transit vans are required by law to have the proper tie downs. If you haven't already done so, I'd go take a good look at them.

It sounds like you will either have someone in 1 tie down location, or, someone can drive the van with a hand control. You will need a power seat base of some kind to assist in transferring from w/c to seat.

I use a wheelchair and transfer into the seat to drive. I always drive. I do not have tie downs in the back, except to strap down a heavy power chair, but there is never anyone sitting in it.

Maybe buy a fully equipped para transit van then take it in for SMB mods. Rather than adding accessibility features to a SMB.
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Old 08-06-2009, 11:41 PM   #5
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Re: Planning started on a Disabled Explorers SMB

Great tips...
I will be working with Norcal Mobility to make sure all the accessible mods are legal and correct. The plan will be to take the to the after the 4x4 part is done to have the lift installed so that we know it will work with the ride hgt.
I will ask them to place various chairs in when locating the tie-downs so those are installed before any interior goes in.
Great advice on the powerseat. I need to start looking at those. I was thinking of going with more of a racing style seat from Mastercraft so there is more lateral support when offroad...gotta find out if that is possible with a power base.

As a left below the knee amputee I like the hand controls since I can't left foot brake when off highway but other than that I don't need much in the way of mods. Everything we are doing is to give other disabled folks a chance to expereience the backcountry and find out if it is something they want to get into more. If so then they can outfit their own rig.

There is another group that is either quad or low function para's who say they just want to go camping once or twice a year and I am thinking it would be nice to take them out. As a RN I can handle any hygiene/care needs so they don't have to bring a caregiver (unless they want of course). They can sleep in the gaucho and I will either sleep in the upper area or a tent depending on who all is along.

I know I won't be able to meet the needs of everyone as there is such a wide range of mobility issues. That is why I am not looking at dropped floors (very expensive). This is mainly a showcase for what folks can do and to show that the backcountry is accessible with some forethought, training and desire.

Keep the great ideas coming.

I am thinking going with fabric instead of leather interior.

Quality inverter to make sure we can recharge any powerchair.

After a few more post I will update the original to reflect all the ideas.
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Old 08-07-2009, 10:28 AM   #6
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Re: Planning started on a Disabled Explorers SMB

Based on your hand control comment, have you considered equiping the van to be drivable by a maximum amount of people too?

Two considerations pop into mind: one, if something happens while you're out it ups the chance that one of your passengers can pilot the van safely. Two, that allowing your passengers to drive offroad, even for 100 yards may be a unique opportunity for them. Even if you don't want to do that right now, at some point you might.
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Old 08-08-2009, 12:22 AM   #7
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Re: Planning started on a Disabled Explorers SMB

Jage,
I absolutely want to get as many folks behind the wheel as possible!
My FJ Cruiser has Sure Grip hand controls and I have gotten a number of folks behind the wheel for their first offroad driving experience. It is way cool & part of the reason I founded Disabled Explorers.

As a left lower leg amputee I really don't need much as far as adaptations go, I do like the hand controls since I can't left foot brake but I can drive without even wearing my leg if needed.

The only thing that I don't think I will be able to afford to do right now is drop the floor. My hope is that it could be done in the future when I either have more money or ??

I figure anyone that can transfer to the power drivers seat and use hand controls is welcome to drive the rig after a bit of instruction, that way they can know if they are interested in buying a rig before money gets spent. I am looking into having the rig aval or rental/borrow but that depends on state laws, the IRS and a few other factors....but it would be way cool!

Keep any ideas coming.

I spoke with Alan at SMB West today and they will start soon on the 4x4 conversion then it should go up to NorCal Mobility for the lift, hand controls, tie downs and other mods...then back to SMB West for the interior...and all in time for SEMA! After that will be rehab presentations, taking people out 1 on 1, Ability Expos and more. Not to mention me working some serious overtime at the hospital to cover cost

I am especially interested in hearing about cabinet configuration, layout, sleeping setups, activities of daily life like cooking, hygiene and more....it is easier to design in solutions on paper than to make changes later.

I will be making a few treks out to SMB West during the build to document and install things like the 5 camera self spotting system, laptop & mount, graphics and such...

thanks again for all the thoughts and keep'em coming
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Old 08-08-2009, 12:43 AM   #8
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Re: Planning started on a Disabled Explorers SMB

This is what you want. If it doesn't swivel, it's no good to just about everyone who uses a wheelchair. Up, down, forward and back, 90 degree swivel. The swivel turns the seat to allow an easy transfer from a wheelchair. You can bolt on just about any style of seat.

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Old 08-08-2009, 09:02 AM   #9
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Re: Planning started on a Disabled Explorers SMB

Have you considered whether or not the transfer case shifters will be in the way of drivers getting into or out of the driver's seat, not to mention whether the driver's seat can rotate? Don't want to throw water on your ideas, it's just that now's the time to factor it in if needed.


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Old 08-08-2009, 10:19 AM   #10
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Re: Planning started on a Disabled Explorers SMB

Quote:
Originally Posted by DisabledExplorers
....I am especially interested in hearing about cabinet configuration, layout, sleeping setups, activities of daily life like cooking, hygiene and more....it is easier to design in solutions on paper than to make changes later.
Lance,

Sounds like a cool rig and a great purpose! We sort of have the same floorplan but inverted in the back. We did not opt for cabinet C on the goucho side, instead we extended the length of the goucho to 75" for extra space while sleeping and seating up to 4 adults.

A few advice I can give you is to get the flush-mount stove, it will increase your counter space immensely when not in use. The refrigerator placement is key. Unfortunately on ours, we can not open the ref when the goucho is converted into a bed. Its a bummer when you get up late night and want a cold bottled water and unable to get it because of the bed being on the way . The porta shower is also a great addition for our use. We used it during the winter when it was 30 degrees outside!

I will think of more....Ray

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