Braun Corp. - 1972-present - Winamac, Indiana (formerly Save-A-Step Mfg. Co. 1963-1972)
Braun Corp is not related to Braun Industries, Inc., although they both convert vans and minivans into invalid cars and ambulances. Go to the Braun Industries page for more information on the Lithopolis and Oakwood, Ohio firm.
In 1962, Ralph Braun built the first "Tri-Wheeler" in his cousin's farm shop. Numerous requests from other wheelchair users led to the founding of Save-a-Step Mfg. Co. in his parent's garage the following year. Shortly thereafter, Ralph equipped an old Postal Service Jeep with a hydraulic tailgate lift and hand controls: The first accessible vehicle was born.
In 1972, Ralph incorporated the firm, becoming the Braun Corporation. Ralph's original Tri-Wheeler and Lift-A-Way wheelchair lift laid a solid foundation for the company's growth in the seventies. Ralph and his dedicated team of employees continued to improve on the Lift-A-Way's design and new commercial accounts set the stage for rapid growth. Dodge vans were the platforms of choice for Braun throughout the 1970s and 1980s although other chassis could be converted at the request of the customer.
In the summer of 1979, a fire swept through the firm's Winamac manufacturing facility and corporate offices. The challenge of the eighties would be to literally rebuild from the ground up and investment in state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment led to phenomenal growth throughout the eighties. New product introductions strengthened Braun's position as the industry leader.
One such product was the Brougham, a funeral car conversion that first appeared in 1984 on a Dodge Caravan chassis. The first conversion was sold to the Cawley & Peoples Funeral Home in Marietta, Ohio and featured a stretched tail-end.
In the early years of the Dodge Caravan, Braun was probably the best known firm doing minivan funeral car conversions, along with First Car in Minnesota, Barron in Lima, and Collins, among others. After the introduction of the Grand Caravan, Braun's conversions were of a less permanent nature, allowing the vehicle to be returned to stock configuration for other uses; and that change was probably influenced by the success of Barron's tail stretch Caravan conversions using a bolt-on tail extension.
Unfortunately they're no longer doing hearse conversions. Their current lineup centers on their wheelchair accessible minivans that were introduced at the same time as the Brougham funeral car. The Entervan is a high-quality Chrysler or General Motors minivan that has been remanufactured by Braun to offer unparalleled ease of access for wheelchair and scooter users. The floor has been lowered and the van equipped with an automatic door and lightweight ramp for easy entry and exit. An optional kneeling system lowers the rear suspension, decreasing the slope of the ramp even further when deployed. This is a fantastic feature for manual wheelchair users. Front seats are removable, enabling wheelchair users to drive or ride passenger.
The Daimler-Chrysler Corp. approves the Entervan conversion process and visits the manufacturing plant on occasion to monitor changes. Each completed Entervan must also pass the same rigorous tests for safety and reliability to which all Chrysler products are subjected.
Braun also manufactures wheelchair lifts that can be installed in any full-sized van, paratransit vans or school bus. The Vista lift's platform is large enough to accommodate most wheelchairs and scooters. Additionally, the lift can be used in vehicles without raised doors or tops, which means a better fit in a consumerís garage. Braun also offers complete transit van conversions on Ford, Dodge and GM chassis with a variety of seating arrangements and lift options.
As a major reseller of Chrysler and General Motors products, Braun Corp. also operate Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep and Chevrolet-Pontiac dealerships in and around Winamac.
Still under the direction of their founder, Ralph Braun, the Braun Corporation has been a leading manufacturer of mobility products for over 30 years.
© 2004 Mark Theobald - Coachbuilt.com, with special thanks to Bernie DeWinter IV.
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