Henno Ellis’s eyes light up as he describes his love for an active lifestyle and tackling the great outdoors. He tells GAVIN MYERS why the Ford Ranger is the ideal vehicle for him
Ellis has always led an active life. Originally a commercial diver, his job took him to the country’s oceans and rivers of Africa. But it was a diving accident in 1999 that left him – then 23 – as a C6 complete paraplegic. Now his Ford Ranger 3.2 Wildtrak helps him lead an active life.
“I had a bakkie before I broke my neck and I wanted one again, but couldn’t have one because it needed to be automatic. I then found out that the Ranger was one of the first new-generation bakkies with an auto,” he explains, adding that there’s so much more to the vehicle that makes it ideally suited to his needs. “A big thing is that it has electric seats, which helps me easily position the seat to get in and out of the vehicle.” Because of the Ranger’s height, it is necessary for Ellis to completely lower the seat to climb in. He uses a home-made, non-slip plank to bridge the gap between his chair and the driver’s seat.
“Getting in is the only difficult part,” says Ellis. “I don’t usually use a plank with a normal car, but I made one for this car because of the height and distance in. It takes some work and it looks crazy, but I do it.”
Ellis’s can-do spirit has even resulted in him fabricating a special tool that allows him to easily remove the wheels from his chair. Once the wheels are off he puts them and the chair on the back seat.
“My fingers are paralysed. People have seen the tool and think it’s brilliant,” he laughs.
The conversion to the Ranger is minimal as well. “Even though my hands are paralysed, I don’t have any additional devices on the wheel to help me turn it. It’s personal, I don’t like things like that,” he says.
The only indication that the Ranger has been converted is a push-pull hand control mounted underneath the steering column by Easy Drive Systems.
Although this vehicle is only really used on weekends and for holidays, Ellis puts it to full use.
“It has a lot of space to load and pack into – I always take extra wheels (for the chair) with me, for example. The interior is like a car. It’s a vehicle we can drive down to Cape Town and back and can go off-roading or reach far-out places. It’s nice to have a bakkie that can go everywhere,” he adds.
“This is a fantastic vehicle – it looks windgat! It ticks all the boxes … it has everything that I need.”
As we conclude our meeting, Ellis mentions the updated, facelifted Ford Ranger introduced at the end of last year. His eyes light up. There might soon be another Ford in his driveway.