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I recently heard eccentric commentator, Ben Stein, lament on how much he loves his Cadillac, closing with the point that he has no connection to Cadillac, that he just loves the car more than is likely morally or ethically appropriate.

I confess that while I have little in common with Ben Stein, I am in a similar situation with loving an automobile, where I have a Rollx wheelchair conversion van that I adore - and like Ben Stein and his Cadillac, I have no connection to Rollx, and I just love my van more than is likely morally or ethically appropriate.

My Rollx van is admittedly a bit flashy, a tad fancy, and overall extravagant for a simple wheelchair guy like me, I suppose.  But, in many ways, the cliché that you only live once is true, and few things I've ever owned have ever brought me so much pleasure as my Rollx conversion.

My Rollx ride is monochromatic black, and when I say monochromatic black, I mean it - black trim, black door handles, black tinted windows, everything black.  It's Depeche Mode black.  It's Jonny Cash black.  It's James Bond black.  It's the kind of black that makes me feel like a movie star, rock star, and gangster all at once - cool cars have a way of doing that, even when you're a guy approaching middle age who uses a wheelchair.

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Like a teenager watching too much of MTV's "Pimp My Ride," I still can't get over the pure coolness of Rollx' full-length ground effects.  Other van conversion companies only use ground effects along the 10" lowered floor midsection of their vans, making for inconsistent bodylines.  Rollx, however, continues the ground effects all the way to the rear bumper, maintaining a trick, raked look, front to back (plus, Rollx flares the ground effects behind each wheel, all but eliminating road grime from splattering body panels).  On top of the ground effects, Rollx lifts the suspension for added ground clearance, so the overall stance of the van from top to bottom, front to rear, is increased, giving it a more substantial form that not only sets it apart from standard minivans, but also from other conversions - it looks more along the lines of an intrinsic, overall body aesthetic than simply trimming a dropped-floor van conversion.

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Having come from a van with a manual, foldout ramp, I find the accessibility of my Rollx rig life changing.  "Like 2001 Space Odyssey," I press a single remote button, and the door opens, the ramp comes out, and the van lowers, welcoming me to my own personalized shuttle - it's all a bit magical to me no matter how many times I do it.  I know it's simplistic, and maybe idiotic, but the fact that my van does what it does so eloquently, impresses the heck out of me, more than cell phones or flat-screen TVs or any other high-tech gadgetry.  I mean, sure, I understand that motors drive my van's automatic doors, the ramp operates via a chain underneath the floor, and the van lowers via an actuator.  But, there's still magic to it - that is, the ability to have a vehicle that is exclusively designed bow and cater to one's wheelchair is as cool as a car can be, at least from where I sit.

Relating to wheelchair access, I've found that Rollx' in-floor ramp is among the least cumbersome and most foolproof of any ramp system.  In trying other van conversions, I found that the competitors' in-floor ramps featured awkward transition lips at the top of their ramps, exacerbated when the van wasn't kneeled or on absolutely level ground.  Rollx, however, matches the lip and ramp angle across the range of potential angles of use, so there's never transition issues, optimizing access for 6-wheel power wheelchairs and manual wheelchairs no matter where you park.

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The in-floor ramp, itself, operates by a very quiet internal chain system that, beyond periodic lubrication, requires no maintenance.  Because in-floor ramps travel into the floor, I've heard some users over the years voice skepticism, as they're not sure such a seemingly complex system is as reliable as a folding ramp.  However, in my assessment, an in-floor ramp is a portrait of simplicity and reliability, where there truly isn't much that can go wrong with it - it's merely a one-piece ramp on rollers, driven by an industrial chain.  For failure modes, Rollx builds in a mechanical release, so the ramp can be manually operated, but what's more impressive is that they wire a back-up switch directly to the ramp, so even if the master system electronics aren't working, you can still power the ramp by itself.  

On the inside, my Rollx' interior is fitting of its namesake - exceptionally well finished, functional, luxurious.  Throughout, Rollx produces an OEM-quality interior - you can't tell where the factory and Rollx interiors merge, with aspects like top-grade carpeting and molded finishing panels avoiding the types of conspicuous modifications seen on conversion vans with lower aesthetic standards.  One simply can't tell by the finishes that it's a converted van - it's that impeccable of an interior.

As a family guy, roominess and flexibility is vital to me, and I've found Rollx' conversion among the most functional of any.  The in-floor ramp doesn't obstruct the passenger door, allowing full use by kids and passengers.  When I'm not in the van, my family has no conversion aspects to work around - it fully functions as a typical minivan.  In the cargo area, the spare tire is recessed below the rear deck, as are the system's electronics, so behind the rear seat is completely clear, allowing us to carry a full load of groceries and gear (unlike many conversions that use the cargo area for the spare tire and electronics module, robbing valuable cargo space).  

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In the center interior, I have full access from my wheelchair to the entire width of the rear seat - I note this, in particular, because the latest round of converted import vans restricts access to the rear seat by narrowing the floor width in front of it, dramatically hampering access.  I'm always tossing jackets, folders, and groceries on the back seat from my wheelchair, as well as sometimes transferring onto it, so having full access contributes to functionality.

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Up front, the rollout seats are impressively easy to remove, allowing me to switch from a passenger seat to a wheelchair station in about a minute.  I never minded riding in the middle of a van, but it's so much more integrated to be able to ride in the front passenger position when wished, and with the seats' single-lever release, it's a breeze switching out to full wheelchair use.  

Now, while I go on and on about how terrific my Rollx van is, it has had its flaws.  Specifically, after taking delivery, it began creaking, moaning, and groaning somewhere in the rear suspension - the type of noise that you know is going to be a bear to diagnose and resolve when it pops up in a new car.  To Rollx' credit, they lived up to their at-home warranty service, promptly, responsibly, and patiently addressing the issue, with virtually no inconvenience to me (because Rollx conversions are purchased manufacturer-direct, service is through Rollx' field staff, or at service centers like Midas or a shop of the customer's choice).  In my region of the Northeast, Rollx has a terrific on-call field staff that simply services my van at my home, making for unbeatable service support.  I don't know of any car dealer - from van conversions to luxury cars - where they are on-call to service your vehicle at your home or office, but Rollx does exactly that, servicing my van wherever I am, with a single phone call.  What's more, when Rollx had to take my van to a shop overnight to address the issue, they picked the van up from my driveway, leaving me a loaner van in exchange.  Surely, I was frustrated by the noise issue, but I know that issues can arise in any product, and Rollx' response and service was truly astonishing and inspiring to me as a mobility customer service guy in my own practice.  I certainly could have bought another brand conversion, but I now know that I couldn't have bought better service.

With all that said, among the best parts of owning my van is in how people react to it.  Sure, it's a minivan, but its rake, ground effects, and blacked-out facade set it apart from your average family ride.  I've taken my Rollx from pumpkin patches to Presidential events, with people from all backgrounds drawn to the coolness of the van, and it's always a conversation starter, sometimes a jaw dropper, often a show stopper.  Folks are eager to ask me about it in parking lots, and glance over at it on the road.  And, as a wheelchair user who sometimes attends formal events, it's simply reassuring to have an accessible vehicle that somewhat fits in with valet and VIP parking sections, where my "handicapped van" isn't too out of place among luxury sedans and SUVs.

Indeed, I think you get the idea that I love my Rollx, admittedly to a fault, where maybe my compulsion toward caring for it - like the fact that I added heat to my garage simply so we can keep my van detailed during winter - goes a tad too far. Yet, as I tell my wife, my Rollx van is about the coolest thing I've ever owned, and how could a wheelchair guy like me not fall in love with such a wicked set of wheels?  

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Published 11/06, Copyright 2006,