When Dan Distler’s life took an unexpected turn that required him to use a wheelchair for mobility, he tried not to let that slow him down. However, one area that he found lacking in accessibility was the classic vehicle hobby. Unlike most antique vehicle enthusiasts, who restore a vehicle simply because it’s a make and model they like, Dan had to find a vehicle that would meet his particular needs. He located a 1960 Ford F100 Model 82 panel truck with great potential and got to work. Dan designed and customized everything, both inside and out. The rear bumper drops under the truck to get out of the way of the wheelchair lift that loads and unloads Dan’s wheelchair with him in it. Inside, the driver’s seat rotates and slides back so that Dan can transfer out of his wheelchair into the driver’s seat. He rotates under the steering wheel and then operates the accelerator and brakes with hand controls. Everything is computer-controlled and activated with a key fob. Once Dan had all of the necessary mechanisms in place, it was time to make the outside look good, too. He wanted to pay tribute to his grandfather and father, who both worked for the Railway Express Agency, a company whose roots go back to the Pony Express. The project lasted four years. The colors are all correct, the signs are all hand-painted, and the number on the front bumper is an actual Railway Express Agency porcelain truck number. Dan has applied for patents for his designs and hopes his work might help other people who are in wheelchairs. He said, “Just because life throws us curves at times we should never give up on our dreams.”
John & Shirley Sponholtz have been involved with old trucks for over 20 years. Shirley was editor at Wheels of Time for 12 years before going out on her own and starting Old Time Trucks magazine in 2004. John is an avid photographer who enjoys taking pictures of odd and/or rare trucks (he provides most of the pictures for this article and their magazine). John & Shirley, who are from Richmond, Indiana, have been regular contributors to 10-4 Magazine since 2006.