LANCE GREATHOUSE HONORS HIS BROTHER (AND HELPS THE DISABLED) BY FORGING SPECTACULAR CUSTOM WHEELCHAIRS OUT OF SPARE PARTS. MACHINE-GUN FLAMETHROWER, ANYONE?
IN 2003, BRENT GREATHOUSE was diagnosed with a rare variant of Parkinson’s disease. He passed away a year later. In the interim, having witnessed his younger brother progressively lose his mobility, Lance Greathouse built him what he calls an “edgy” custom wheelchair — and noticed that people began paying less attention to Brent’s ailment and more to his cool hardware.
After Brent died, Lance, a Benco Dental service technician based in Phoenix, poured his grief and resolve into Wheelchair Labs (cofounded by him and his wife, Janis), which retrofits old electric wheelchairs and gives them to those — children, military veterans and others — who can’t afford them. Other chairs, though, he builds into extravagant vehicles that look like something out of The Force Awakens.
The Greathouse family has long been a hive of tinkerers. Lance and Brent’s father, who worked for the Arizona Department of Transportation’s equipment division, transformed his garage into a test lab where his sons could learn the ins and outs of machinery, electrical work and more; the brothers joined forces on more than three dozen custom-car projects over the years.
Today, Lance’s own garage is a madcap hangar for deliriously oddball wheelchairs and other bits of rolling thunder — imagine Willy Wonka’s factory as built and maintained by the Hell’s Angels, essentially. “I really kind of just take things and piece them together,” Greathouse told the National Geographic TV show Mad Scientists. “I take things I find, and I make new things out of ’em.”
Among his creations are an assortment of all-terrain vehicles adorned with skulls and various armaments, as well as a wheelchair made from the passenger seat of an F4 training jet. The pièce de résistance, however, is “Dr. Strangelove” — a six-foot-tall electric wheelchair that shoots fire from two .50-caliber machine-gun barrels mounted on the armrests. “It gets so loud,” Greathouse told National Geographic, “that I have to shut the garage, or people think I’m really shooting a machine gun in here.” Brent Greathouse, wellspring of an admirable cause (and some of the world’s wildest personal transit), is surely proud.
To learn more about Lance Greathouse’s
Wheelchair Labs, or to make a donation,
please visit WheelchairLabs.org.