Being disabled shouldn’t keep a person from doing what they love, especially if they love the outdoors.
That isn’t the official motto for Trac Fabrication, but it might as well be. The western Pennsylvania-based company, founded in 2012, builds all-terrain tracked wheelchairs bearing a design strikingly similar to tanks, which makes sense, considering 70% of their customers are veterans.
TracFab’s chairs can handle just about any terrain, thanks to their tough exterior and the company’s implementation of tank track technology. The treads are stronger, more versatile, and far more durable than typical chair wheels, providing riders a heightened sense of freedom and independence. And that’s the point.
The company was started by two cousins, David Kennedy and Ben Ridenbaugh, who wanted to help their grandmother get around easier on her scooter in rural Pennsylvania after the device kept getting stuck in the rain or snow. It didn’t take them long to figure out that the tracked chairs were a big hit in veteran communities.
“Once Ben and David realized these machines would be the ideal tool for veterans they had even more incentive to perfect them and provide them the gift of outdoor mobility,” TracFab representative Zach Frankenburg told Task & Purpose. “We’re proud to assist our veterans and allow them the freedom they have earned through their service to our country.”
This attitude stems from the homespun culture TracFab has sustained since its founding, which emphasizes values of respect, independence, and a connection with the outdoors.
“We never forget the people we work with or their stories. We keep this close to our heart,” Frankenburg said. “Each and every build — every bolt we tighten, every weld we apply to the frames — serves as a reminder of the cumulative impact we can have on a proud community of servicemen.”
Each chair’s frame is forged out of steel and comes with removable footrests and wheelie bars, which make it easier to transport. The latest designs are by far the sleekest, sporting full-color LCD screens, medical grade joysticks, and a multi-axis shooting platform to secure a rifle or crossbow. They also come in both gas and battery powered models, and are available in 10 different colors.
TracFab is now partnering with several armed forces charities, like The Independence Fund, which provide physical and emotional aid to wounded soldiers. In the end, Frankenburg says, these are more than just chairs — they’re tools to bring people together.
“We’ve provided at least 350 chairs to veterans, all of whom have some kind of support network of friends and family,” he said. “There’s nothing like the feeling of delivering a chair and seeing wives, husbands, children, parents, and friends there waiting. It’s a special, emotional experience for everyone involved.”
Given its national reach and polished product, it’s hard to imagine that TracFab has only been around for four years. But they’ve come a long way since they built their first chairs powered by homemade electronics, and have big plans for future customizable four-wheeler and chair models.
Frankenburg keeps it all in perspective, though: “Our message has never changed. No matter the vehicle or the person we’ve built it for, we’re here to give people freedom beyond the pavement.”