Armed with just a $3 ironing board, an $800 wheelchair from Gumtree and plenty of creativity, an “eccentric Englishman” living in Ulverstone has managed to invent his own version of an electric wheelchair.
80-year-old Tony Earle and his wife Sally have been taking walks together along the Leven River for the past two years, with Mr Earle pushing his wife along in a wheelchair.
“I had a stroke two years ago,” Mrs Earle said.
Mrs Earle has been living at the Mount St Vincent Nursing home ever since, and takes nearly daily trips out with her husband.
Mr Earle said the idea to modify her chair had hit him one day after a particularly taxing walk.
“We sat in the conservatory of our home awaiting the special pickup van to take her back to the nursing home and, as usual, I was totally exhausted,” he said.
“We discussed the possibility of getting her an electric wheelchair and I wondered if there was such a thing that could be controlled by the carer.So I Googled it.
“There was nothing.”
Without missing a beat, Mr Earle decided to take matters into his own hands.
The former renovator and estate agent said it hadn’t taken him long to find the chair on Gumtree, some piping from an ironing board at the local tip shop, an extra set of handles and a friend to help weld.
“We call it Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” he said.
“The amazing thing is, I sent a pictures of Chitty to my brother-in-law in Guernsey, and he sent back an article from the Guernsey Press … Their paper showed a bloke who had just done the same thing, I was amazed!
“But this bloke had been spending seven years on his. I did it in five hours.”
He said he barely needed to push the chair, which could now move about 8 kilometres an hour.
“If I got a pair of roller skates it would pull me along,” he said
“Sally doesn’t have to do anything, I can drive it from here.”
His wife interrupted.
“You silly bugger, I’m the better driver.”