GM Mobility steps up to the plate with Darrell Gwynn

GAINESVILLE, Fla., February 26, 2001 - Okay. So maybe Darrell Gwynn's Pontiac Montana doesn't turn a quarter-mile in 4.5 seconds. But nevertheless, whether he's at the racetrack or on the highway, you can bet that Gwynn appreciates the ...

GAINESVILLE, Fla., February 26, 2001 - Okay. So maybe Darrell Gwynn's Pontiac Montana doesn't turn a quarter-mile in 4.5 seconds. But nevertheless, whether he's at the racetrack or on the highway, you can bet that Gwynn appreciates the reliability of his custom-equipped minivan just as much as Mike Dunn appreciates the well-tuned Yankee Dragster he drives. GM Mobility, in conjunction with Pontiac, has supplied the NHRA team owner and former racer with a specially-designed Montana that comes complete with the exclusive GM OnStar Safety and Security System. "I love it and so does Katie, my little baby girl," said Gwynn. "She can watch Barney on television while we're driving down the road so she thinks that's pretty neat. Plus it's very accessible for me. GM Mobility has done a fabulous job with this Pontiac Montana, and having the OnStar Security System is very comforting when you're driving down the road with your family. "I haven't figured all the special features out yet, but there's everything from the domes going out automatically to the lights dimming instead of just going off when you shut the door. This is definitely a family van. It's very easy to use and figure out. You know, you're overwhelmed sometimes when you buy a new vehicle, but all the switches for everything on this Montana are within arm's length. My wife has also been able to adapt to it pretty quickly. I can sit on the passenger side, but I prefer to sit in the back with Katie." During a racing tenure on the NHRA Drag Racing circuit that has spanned three decades, Gwynn has experienced tremendous success as both a driver and car owner. As a competitor in Top Alcohol Dragster, he won 10 national events between 1980-84 including the 1983 Winston Series Alcohol Dragster championship. In 1985, the South Florida native made the move to Top Fuel. During his five-plus seasons in the nitro category, Gwynn won 18 national events, 140 rounds of competition, finished second in the Winston standings twice (1986, 1988) and in the top-five four times. In 1990 his driving career was cut short on Easter Sunday during an exhibition-run accident in England that left him paralyzed from the chest down and required amputation of his left arm. After an extensive and successful rehabilitation, Gwynn made the transition to car owner, and from 1990-92 his team won three national events. Mike Dunn came on board in 1993, and through the completion of last week's Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals in Phoenix, Ariz., the tandem had won 10 national-event victories in 23 final rounds to go along with their seven top-10 and four top-five points finishes. Their best years competing together produced three fourth-place finishes (1993, 1995, 1999) in the season-ending standings. In 2001, the Gwynn/Steinbrenner Yankee Dragster will make a full tour of the 24-event NHRA Winston championship circuit. GMC Yukon XLs will serve as support vehicles for the team, and Darrell's use of the custom-equipped Pontiac Montana will help to inform the public of the numerous opportunities GM Mobility has to offer individuals in similar situations. "The GM Mobility Program was set up to help people with disabilities to be able to drive or be passengers in vehicles," explained Elliott Benson, GM Mobility assistant brand manager. "For any new-vehicle purchase, if someone needs that vehicle to be adapted so that they can easily enter or exit the vehicle, we will reimburse the customer up to one thousand dollars towards the cost of adapting a new GM car or truck with the mobility equipment. Plus, we've got a few things that we've put in place that we think are really leading the industry in terms of making vehicles affordable and reliable. "The Ricon Corporation did the conversion on Darrell's vehicle. They lowered the floor 12 inches in the front-row and second-row area. They also put in a power ramp in the right-hand sliding door area. That enables someone like Darrell, who is a full-time wheelchair user, to be able to roll in and out of the vehicle. He's able to ride either in the second row or in the front passenger position since the two front seats are removable." To meet the needs of its target group GM Mobility has established specific guidelines for its conversion vendors in the areas of engineering and manufacturing. A customer can order a Chevy Venture, Pontiac Montana or Olds Silhouette with the intent of having it modified to be wheelchair accessible. It is then shipped directly from the GM assembly plant to Ricon Corporation for the conversion and then shipped back to the customer's dealership of choice. "They can order the vehicle without the second-row seats because they're normally not needed," Benson said. "We've also put in an extended-length body harness that runs the length of the vehicle so there's no additional cutting or splicing done at the upfitter. On top of all that there is a $570 credit to the customer for the materials that are no longer used in the vans. It helps lower the cost of attaining a van, makes it easier and less costly to modify, and most of all, makes the vehicle more reliable for the customer." So the next time you make your way to an NHRA national event, stop by and see Darrell, his wife Lisa, their daughter Katie, and their new Pontiac Montana and you'll realize why there's so much excitement these days about the outstanding work being done by the people at GM Mobility. And if you've got a little extra time to spare, maybe you can sit down and join them for an episode of Barney.

- Jeff Romack

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Dunn , Darrell Gwynn