Wounded Wheels will be closing the application process
for the give away of the Chevelle on September 1st 2015 at 5:00pm EST.
The Truth about Wounded Wheels
We discovered that the paraplegic vehicle modifications were far more complex and costly than we’d ever imagined. Donations didn’t nearly cover the costs of the build; however, with funding from the founder, we were able to complete a functioning prototype vehicle. Five months ago we began a social media outreach program to get the chartered 10 applicants to give the vehicle to. Once the recipient is chosen by an impartial board, the vehicle will be tailored to that individual and will meet all federal safety requirements.
As a result of massive positive feedback and requests for a more advanced design, quadriplegic modification research and development is also something we’ve begun and we’d love to help with. We fully understand that a typical minivan enabled for quadriplegic drivers are well into the six figures. We know we do not have the engineering department and multimillion dollar test budgets, however, we had hoped to build a working quadriplegic car to inspire larger companies with the funds to continue the effort. Our goal with quadriplegics was inspired by Thomas Edison. We didn’t necessarily want to build all the lightbulbs; we just wanted to show the world that one could actually work. Because we lack the multimillion dollar test budget I told the Pilot that I didn’t think we could release such an experimental vehicle and following vehicle manufacturers policy, the car would have to be maintained as a display or crushed but couldn’t be donated due to the extreme modifications we would have to do. Unfortunately, I trusted that he understood what I was trying to say and didn’t think that would be twisted into something negative. I would never under any circumstances want to literally crush such an inspiration.
The sad and simple truth is that since the Wounded Wheels program inception, sufficient funds have not been available to build even the first and simplest of vehicles, including the prototype Chevelle which had to be largely funded by the charity’s founder. This type development is expensive and challenging. Dan Short, the owner of FantomWorks, paid 100% of the labor and overhead as well as all of the engineering and design time.
The Chevelle prototype was drivable by August 2012 when the vehicle’s initial development was televised at the Khedive Auto Shriners’ Car Show as part of the FantomWorks television show, hoping to raise awareness and capital to build additional vehicles. At the time, Wounded Wheels still believed that the Chevelle-type paraplegic vehicle was the correct target vehicle. Now in 2015, after three years of very diligent fund raising, sufficient funds are still not available to complete even one production unit.
After three years of fundraising and still lacking funds to continue the next prototype development, Wounded Wheels decided that the prototype vehicle, which had been displayed and shown for fundraising purposes, was not being used in its best and highest capacity. In February 2015, Wounded Wheels posted on its website and social media that the prototype Chevelle would be given to a qualified service member who might need a powered-chair vehicle. The IRS requires that the items gained through nonprofit donations be given to recipients in a fair and impartial process. Wounded Wheels had established by founding charter the procedures for awarding cars would be via an Active Duty Service Member board which would convene upon sufficient applicants’ submissions. To maintain complete impartiality, no Wounded Wheels board member would be a voting member of that board.
In February 2015, the Wounded Wheels Board of Directors decided to maintain an equitable and impartial selection process, a minimum of ten potentially qualified applicants were required to convene the Active Duty board. As of July 4, 2015, only five potentially qualified candidates had submitted applications for the Chevelle. Wounded Wheels continues to use social media and the website to garner applicants for the vehicle and requests that any knowledge of qualified applicants be submitted to Wounded Wheels via the following link www.woundedwheels.org/applications
Coincidentally, Dan Short and FantomWorks spent thousands of dollars on advertising and was even awarded “Best of” in 2012 for restoration shops in Hampton Roads, but FantomWorks stopped advertising in the Virginian Pilot due to extremely high advertising costs, ineffective Virginian Pilot marketing as well as a significant decline in Virginian Pilot circulation (losing over thirteen thousand newspaper viewers for the Sunday edition alone in just one year). The Virginian Pilot has also gained a reputation for attack sensationalism lately in their failed attempt to raise circulation. It may be simply ironic that when Dan Short and FantomWorks refused to continue advertising in the Virginian Pilot, despite repeated aggressive sales campaigns, the negative story was written. We would like to say thanks to our countless supporters who have recently increased their support and written us thanking us for our efforts. Many state that this typically negative attack from the Pilot is encouraging them to support us even more.
Wounded Wheels will attempt to develop a quadriplegic-capable car if development funds can be gathered within the next year. If not, Wounded Wheels is in danger of collapsing as attacks by the newspaper are costly and will force us to divert badly needed funds from development. Developing accessible cars is impossible without sufficient donor support. A quadriplegic accessible car will cost over $200K, of which only $32K exists in the Wounded Wheels bank account as of this document’s date. Funds to date have only paid for materials with 100% of Engineering, Research & Development being paid by the founder himself but the founder admits that he cannot continue to fund it himself.
A restored muscle car modified to allow a powered wheelchair driver’s entry/exit is approximately $100K plus. This includes, modified doors, floors, vehicle lift and lowering systems and a highly modified drivetrain. The electronic equipment that will allow the driver to operate all vehicle systems including but not limited to the accelerator, brakes, steering, climate control, doors, windows, radio, wipers, etc., and the integration of that equipment is another estimated $100K plus. Much of this work must be contracted out as only the electronic systems’ manufacturer can install them. Wounded Wheels further understands the extensive vehicle modifications may affect vehicle crashworthiness. Therefore, this prototype vehicle may never be delivered to a service-disabled veteran, but rather it will serve as a prototype test and demonstration vehicle only. If you find the Pilot’s article, you will appear that I WANT TO CRUSH the car when the point I was making was that once modified until safety certifications could be completed, it would not be legal to give away. This is the exact same procedures General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler have when developing prototype vehicles.
UPDATED 8 JULY 2015
Today Senator Warner weighed in on the issue and has ordered an IRS investigation. We welcome the IRS into the organization.
We at Wounded Wheels do acknowledge that when the Virginian Pilot and Senator Warner teamed up against us, we’re in a no win situation. The idea that we have held onto for 3 years and have worked for has come under such severe attacks that, in all honesty, we’re not sure where to turn.
Wounded Wheels staff fully acknowledges that mass production of vehicles for all service-disabled veterans is far outside current program funding realms. Wounded Wheels did believe that we could outfit a limited number of cars as funding was available and deliver them to our service men and women.
Wounded Wheels was hoping to complete a quadriplegic-capable prototype and was hoping to encourage vehicle manufacturers both domestically and abroad to develop vehicles that can be adapted to the needs of our service-disabled veterans in large numbers. Based on the attacks and inadequate funding available, the goal of the prototype development may no longer be possible.
Neither Dan Short nor FantomWorks has ever or will ever make one dime of profit from Wounded Wheels. However, neither Dan Short nor FantomWorks by themselves have the expendable funds to continue research and development for a non-profit organization. Dan Short’s intent on developing Wounded Wheels, a non-profit organization, was to give back to those wounded veterans who have given so much for their country. Sadly, the non-profit organization’s slow start has been grossly manipulated and misinterpreted by small, vindictive people who ignore the truth and relish foul rumors. We at Wounded Wheels and FantomWorks would love to know just how many hours either Mike Hixenbaugh (the author of the article) or Jeff Reece (the editor) have donated of their time to try to build a better life for veterans or how many thousands of dollars they have provided in support. Hopefully Wounded Wheels will serve as an inspiration to other vehicle and equipment developers to honor our deserving service-disabled veterans.