Making tracks


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Making tracks

Group of Newton men win uphill battle to develop more powerful motorized scooters.

Written by the Hutchinson News by John Green

NEWTON - When Lloyd Wolf’s mother started having problems getting around, he explored buying her a motorized scooter. But he wasn’t real happy with what the local market offered.

When he brought up the issue with a co-worker at Mid Continent Industries of Newton, the co-worker also complained about a family member’s inability to get certain places.

Mid Continent is a small, 15-person company that manufactures grain cleaning and testing equipment.

But Wolf, his boss, Glenn Wells, and sons Darren and Steve, thought maybe they could build a powered chair that would truly allow people to go anywhere they want.

"This grain equipment is fairly seasonal," Glenn Wells said. "We were trying to figure out something to fill in the valleys when we hit upon this idea."

Several of them traveled to a trade show in New Orleans to see how most motorized vehicles were being built, Wolf said.

"We didn’t think there were many scooter manufacturers in the country," Wolf said. "Mercy, there’s bunches of them. On the plane coming home, we thought we needed to change our way of thinking."

They decided to try tracks - like on a bulldozer or tank - instead of wheels, to make it an all-terrain vehicle.

Thus, Trac About was born.

"Our problem was trying to find the equipment in the size we needed with the power we needed," said Wells, who moved his company to Newton from Sedgwick County in 1990.

"We needed a lot more power than most of them do, since we intended to do more," Wells said. "The other big problem was keeping the tracks on. We’ve got that pretty well whipped."

The tracking solution was accomplished with specially made wheels and tires. The tracks are made in Indiana, Wells said. The wheels are made at Trac About, while the solid tires are molded by a Great Bend company. The vinyl-covered seat also is locally made, at another Newton company.

Jennifer Nabb, a member of the rehabilitation team at Health-E-Quip in Hutchinson, said Trac About’s concept "sounds like a good one," though she believed many of the scooters manufactured today will run in the grass, go over curbs and even maneuver in sand or mud "as long as you’re not talking extremes."

But an ability to handle extremes is exactly what Trac About’s creators had in mind.

"They’re not going to tear this thing up," Wolf said. "We’ve tried that. We’ve been all over, going through all kinds of stuff."

Controlled by a joystick that can be operated with a single finger, and powered by a 24-volt battery, Trac About’s IRV2000 features three running modes, a zero turning radius and the ability to climb up to a 30-degree incline.

The machine weighs about 400 pounds, which is slightly heavier than other scooter types, Wolf said. But it will carry a 300-pound person "through mud, snow or sand."

"There’s a lot of people out there who haven’t really been out in the garden in a long time," Wolf said. "This will get them there. If they have a little problem walking down to their pond, this will get them to the pond. If someone just wants to ride it, they can ride it."

The normal running mode is the half-track, which will maneuver smoothly over sand, grass, ruts or gravel, Wells said. The full-track mode will move through snow or mud, keeping an individual mobile year-round. The final, three-point mode minimizes track contact, allowing the machine to be used indoors without scuffing floors.

IRV2000 stands for "individual recreational vehicle," Wolf said, noting the equipment is actually classified as a recreational vehicle.

As such, the equipment is not certified by the Food and Drug Administration for use by handicapped individuals. That means its purchase does not qualify for medical reimbursement through Medicare or Medicaid.

"We’re not targeting the handicapped market," Wolf said. "This is for people like Glenn’s brother, who can walk but can’t walk very far."

Medicare-eligibility is something the company will probably seek later, Wolf said. Patents on the design are still pending.

"We’ve kept it under wraps for almost two years, testing it and what have you," Wolf said.

Eventually the company hopes to set up distributorships and dealers, Wolf said, but initially they’ll market it locally through newspaper advertising and word of mouth. They’ve also set up a Internet web page at 

"We’re not interested at this moment in selling our first one in California," Wells said. "We’d like to get it out locally so we can learn. After we get a few more ideas from users, we can build another version."

Trac About, Inc.

Newton, KS 67114
(800) 458-8616

© 2001, Trac About, Inc.