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Hand-Controlled Jeep: A MN Man’s Ultimate Power Wheelchair

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(credit: CBS) Liz Collin
At 15 years old, Liz Collin made her broadcast debut covering...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Gaylord area man is gaining some notoriety for driving an off-road-rigged Jeep using only hand controls.

Jesse Honl appears in the July issue of Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road, a national magazine dedicated to four-wheel-drive vehicles.

And just a few pages in, under the “Readers’ Rides” heading, is a photo of Honl driving his highly modified 1979 Jeep down a steep pile of boulders.

While there is nothing unusual about a rural Minnesota guy driving his Jeep for fun, there is something unusual about Honl’s Jeep. It has a Chevrolet V-8 engine that runs on propane instead of gasoline, the axles are from a heavy-duty truck, and the tires are huge — 42 inches in diameter.

But the really unusual part of the Jeep is its driver.

“I, ah, was in a car accident about ten years ago, and I ended up breaking my neck,” Honl said.

That means Honl drives his Jeep using hand controls. His brother, Bert Holn, helps him get into his Jeep, because Honl can’t use his legs.

Once he is behind the wheel, Honl uses race-car seat belts to stay in position, and he has to tie his left leg to the door, so it won’t hit the steering wheel or brake controls.

Honl wants to remind everyone to always use seat belts: he was not belted the night he was injured.

In his Jeep, the right hand controls the brake and gas and the left hand controls the steering wheel.

Honl says his Jeep is the ultimate power wheelchair. It allows him to reconnect with nature.

“For me, it’s a way to see something I can’t see from a wheelchair,” he said. “There is scenery that I would never be able to see if it weren’t for this Jeep, so it’s a very good feeling when you get back on a trail.”

Honl said that when he’s in his Jeep, no one can tell he’s in a wheelchair.

“Get in it and you’re just one of the guys,” he said.

Honl likes to ride in the Iron Range off-road park near Gilbert, Minnesota.

Honl supports Crawl for the Cure, a Jeep event that raises money for MS research. You can learn more about the event here.

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