Friends plan off-road wheelchair for ill friend

Patrick Gouldsbrough
July 15, 2021

Three Selby engineers have set themselves a target of creating their severely disabled friend an off-road wheelchair, so he’s able to hold his wife’s hand on the beach - all while regularly documenting the process on YouTube.

Gaz Rowntree, Ben Styles and Steve Bell began the scheme at the start of June after a spontaneous conversation with their friend, Brian Spencer. Brian suffers from a muscle-wasting condition that has caused a loss of movement in his legs and most of his torso. On a day-to-day basis, Brian has to use a wheelchair to get around and only has select feeling of his neck up, which massively impacts his life.

During a conversation with Gaz, Ben and Steve over some drinks at the end of last month, Brian, a former engineer by trade, mentioned that the thing he misses most is walking on the beach with his wife. Despite first believing this would be a pipe-dream and impossible to create, the three engineers combined their thinking and set to work. After coming up with several prototypes on paper, the team of engineers then thought it would be fun to document their every movement on camera and turn the project into a short-film series. The first episode of the show came out on June 18, with more expected to follow as the trio of engineers progress with the off-road wheelchair project. So far, Gaz, Ben and Steve have got numerous prototypes, but they have just one problem - trying to prise themselves away from idea creation long enough to start building the prototypes.

Gaz said: “We knew this project was going to be a big one and also an emotional one. We want to do it for our friend, and it’s the most important thing I’m currently doing with my life. Time is also of the essence, which adds issues. Because of Brian’s muscle-wasting condition, we have time constraints. “We started to sketch ideas and prototypes at the end of June but trying to get engineers off the writing pads and into making something is a problem in itself. “We have a good team, and we all have different areas of expertise in engineering. We must get this done for our dear friend, and the second it’s in production, we need to work against the clock.” After releasing their first episode of the off-road wheelchair project, Gaz has revealed that the team have ‘all but finished’ the second episode - which has been captured by talented camera operator, Coley Farrar.

Despite starting on some prototypes, Gaz, an electronic and software engineer, admits the whole project will be very much “trial and error”. He added: “We’re going to make as many prototypes as it takes to get Brian on that beach and holding his wife’s hand. “The main issue at the moment is trying to get Brian out of the way while we’re building. Because of his engineering background, he’s always coming up with ideas and comments, and we have to be like ‘this is a project to help you, and we’re going to do it for you.” To watch the first episode of ‘The Making of Brian's Special Chair’, visit

Gaz Rowntree, Steve Bell and Ben Styles work on the off-road wheelchair. (01-07-46 SU)

Share this article