Hand-Controlled Rhino UTV Built for Paralyzed Racer

Sep. 19, 2014 By Scott Rousseau
With the use of hand controls, Brad Meinzer can still tear it up in the dirt in spite of his injuries.

We all face challenges in life, some more than others, but it’s in the DNA of most hard-core off-roaders to always try and get back up whenever we get knocked down. By its very nature, our sport isn’t for wusses, and whether the hurt is physical, spiritual or financial, the true off-road warrior always finds a way to tough it out and keep moving forward.

There’s no question that Sun City, California’s Brad Meinzer possesses just the kind of soul we’re talking about. A former desert racer, Meinzer suffered a crash in 1998 that changed his life in the blink of an eye while he practicing for an upcoming race. The effects were severe and permanent, a broken T3 vertebrae in Meinzer’s back rendering him a paraplegic for life. What followed was a long recovery period and attendant soul-searching that comes with trying to deal with the hows and whys of such a life-altering injury.

Brad Meinzer’s Rhino is special on many levels. In addition to being a kick-ass custom UTV, it’s also a therapeutic tool for Meinzer, who has suffered paralyzing injuries not once, but twice, during his life.

With the help of former AMA National Motocross Champion David Bailey, Meinzer found a new competitive outlet by competing in triathlons, but he never lost his need for speed, and with the help of friends Sal and Mario Garcia, Meinzer built a mountain bike-style downhill wheelchair and began competing in it. Life was good, and Meinzer was undefeated for four straight years before another crash while competing did even more damage to his spine and caused him to lose even more mobility.

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Most people have a tough time handling one devastating event in their lifetime, but now Meinzer had to deal with two, going through the healing process all over again. All you can say about Meinzer is that it’s hard to keep a good man down for long.

The key to this Rhino’s utility for Meinzer lies in this custom-built Parapros Racing lever, which features a twist throttle and a push-to-brake function.

The buildup of this Rhino came about after Meinzer came through his second recovery from a spinal injury. He says it was all about getting back and socializing with his friends—some of the best therapy there is.
“With all my friends going to the desert and mountains, I wanted to build something that would allow me to go with them, and I wanted something that would able to handle it reliably,” Meinzer said.

The STI HD Alloy wheels on Meinzer’s Rhino are shod with 26-inch STI Outback tires, which perfect for grabbing traction in a wide variety of terrain.

After shopping around, Meinzer decided that a UTV would work well, and he purchased a 2008 Yamaha Rhino with the intent of adapting it to suit his special needs.

“When I got my Rhino, I turned to Jay Clark [of Jay Clark Enterprises] to help me get all the trick stuff I wanted for it. Then, I had Parapros Racing dig into the motor. I never really intended for it to take it this far, but I guess things got out of hand!”

Meinzer’s dash looks like something straight out of a Class 1 buddy. Equus gauges, a Lowrance GPS and PCI Race Radio are all part of the mix.

That would be an understatement. Meinzer started with a stock Rhino, but what he ended up with would be welcome on the starting line at just about any top-level UTV race. This is one Rhino that has been built to charge full speed ahead regardless of how rocky the terrain is. Come to think of it, that makes sense; Meinzer is built that same way mentally.

Parapros Racing wasted no time in building Meinzer a hot engine, using parts obtained through Clark’s list of sources, including Hot Rods, which manufactures a stroker crankshaft and rods for the Rhino. Up top, a Cylinder Works big-bore kit stretched the displacement of the Rhino’s four-stroke single-cylinder motor to 778cc. The power curve is enhanced with the addition of Hot Cams Stage 2 cams designed along with porting by Parapros Racing and throttle body mods by Injectioneering. On the software side, a Dynojet Power Commander directs the ECU to the Dragonfire ignition’s spark curve along with the fuel curve to provide lightning-quick throttle response and smooth power at any rpm or load. Air is routed into the engine via a custom Looney Tuned airbox, while the spent exhaust gases are efficiently routed through an FMF Racing Dual P-Line exhaust system that sounds as great as it works. All that power is routed through a custom clutch with overdrive weights from JBS Performance. More power means more heat, so Meinzer fitted his Rhino with Fluidyne radiators and CV4 hoses to keep things cool during extended drives.

A full custom rollcage was built for Meinzer’s Rhino by Parapros Racing. The eye-searing paint scheme is from StreightEdje, while the Soltek lighting is from Baja Designs.

The chassis of Meinzer’s Rhino bristles with trickery, too, using a veritable who’s who of established off-road suppliers to build a machine designed for extreme duty. Parapros Racing reinforced the chassis and fabbed up a custom roll cage for the Rhino as well as a custom spare tire mount. Parapros also provide a custom tie-rod kit and custom quick-steer rack and pinion system. Out back, Summers Brothers heavy-duty axles address one of the weakest links Meinzer found during testing, broken rear axles. Fox Shox are at all four corners, with Parapros Racing shock limiter straps controlling the droop whenever Meinzer finds a big jump to fly over—which is quite often. What goes up must come down, so Meinzer made sure to add a host of Pro Armor skid plates, bumpers and other armored accessories to take the punishment of hard driving.

All powder-coating on the machine was done by Out-N-Back Powder, while StreightEdje came up with the custom paint scheme for Meinzer. The whole thing rolls on STI HD-Alloy Wheels and super-aggressive STI Outback tires that measure 26 inches in diameter. Meinzer’s Rhino stops as well as it goes, thanks to 220mm Brembo disc brakes from QTM.

Fox Shox reside at all four corners of the Rhino, with limiting straps from Kartek utilized to control the suspension droop over rough terrain.

In addition, Parapros assembled a cockpit that would be suitable for a Class 1 unlimited buggy. It includes Aggressor custom seats from Twisted Stitch, a Momo steering wheel with a CV4 quick-release hub, PCI F5021 radio with headsets and an intercom and a Lowrance GPS system. The headlight and shifter knobs are billet items from Pro Armor, while other billet items, such as the side mirrors, rearview mirror and grab bar ar from Black Rhino Performance.  A&C Upholstery customized the inside panels of the Rhino’s Prestige Motorsports suicide doors. Come night time, Meinzer relies on Soltek LED headlights and spotlights from Baja Designs to get him safely back to camp. Just in case, Rotopax cans are used to carry extra fuel and water. 

Parapros Racing went to great lengths to make Meinzer’s Rhino work for him, even going so far as to build him a custom wheelchair that slips right into the Rhino’s bed and locks down for safe keeping.

But the coolest part of this whole rig lies in the throttle and brake system. Let’s not forget that Meinzer is paralyzed—he doesn’t; he just doesn’t cry about it.

Meinzer has gotten very comfortable with the hand controls on his Rhino, allowing him to enjoy a sporty ride with friends on just about any trail.

“Now being paralyzed I needed a good hand control system,” Meinzer said. “So, with the help of Sal at Parapros Racing, we started in on a good plan. We worked and worked and came up with a ‘push for brake and twist for throttle system.’  We mounted it on the right side in between the shifter and the emergency brake. After testing we came up with the perfect hand control system. Then after further testing we found that a faster steering system would help. We tried a few different steering systems before we found a 2-to-1 steering rack from BMW that works really well. Let me tell you, with me only having one arm to steer, it helps a whole lot.

Prestige Motorsports makes the suicide doors fitted to Meinzer’s Rhino. The inside of the doors boast custom upholstery inserts by A&C Upholstery—a nice touch.

Meinzer is quick to acknowledge that he couldn’t have finished his Rhino without the help of friends like Jay Clark and Sal at Parapros Racing, but he sure knows what to do with it once he gets behind the wheel. Watch him rip down a fire road, back it into a turn or fly over a jump, and you wouldn’t know that Meinzer had any physical issues at all. When it comes to inner strength, he’s Hercules.

It’s a good thing, then, that Meinzer’s Rhino is built so tough.

SOURCE LIST - Brad Meinzer's Yamaha Rhino
Frame re-inforced
Custom Spare Tire mount
Shock limiter straps
Custom hood mounts for quick release
Mill spec toggle switches
Custom wheelchair made to fit in bed
Custom Quick Steer Rack N’ Pinion
Custom Tie Rod Kit
Fire extinguisher –Mount
Custom Roll cage
Engine Assembly
Custom Porting
Custom Made Hand Controls
Parapros Racing
(951) 544-0882

Silver Carbon Fiber Console
Goblin Off Road/Parapros Racing

Power Steering
Billet seat latch
STI Wheels and tires
Hot Cams Stage 2 cam shaft
Hot Rods +5mm complete stroker crankshaft
Cylinder Works Big Bore kit
Rocky Mountain ATV/MC
Throttle Body Modifications & bore
Custom ignition/CDI
Dragon Fire

Tires front – STi Outback 26x9-12
Wheels – STi HD Alloy
Tires – STi  Outback 26x11-12
Wheels – STi HD Alloy
Power Commander PC III and V
Dynojet Research, Inc.
(800) 992-4993

Fuel mapping with SS Header
FMF Racing Dual P-Line Mufflers
FMF Racing
(310) 631-4363

Steering Wheel Quick Release Hubs
CV4, Inc.
(800) 874-1223
Radiator hoses
Front over sizes brakes Brembo 220mm rotors
Long travel suspension & Fox Shocks
Headsets & Intercom F5021 mobile radio
Rhino rear armor set
Billet Headlight Knob
Billet Shifter                 
Billet Tailgate Latches
Pro Vault Billet Ipod Protector
Steering Wheel Mount for Pro Vault                   
Front Bumper
Front skid plate
Rear skid plate 
Rhino front armor set
Pro Armor
BRP PIAA Horn Kit, Custom Dual Battery Setup
Black Rhino Performance
(619) 561-5000
Agressor Custom Seats
Twisted Stitch Inc.
[email protected]
(714) 773-0233
Soltek LED Headlight Driving & Spot
Baja Designs, Inc.
[email protected]
(760) 560-2252
Fluidyne High Performance Radiators
(800) 358-4396
Custom Airbox
Looney Tuned
(707) 485-7438
Rhino Suicide Doors
Prestige Motorsports
(951) 695-2720
Powder Coating on Bumpers/door frames
Out-N-Back Powder Coating
(714) 981-9313

Custom Paint Job
(951) 858-7993
Upholstered inside door panels
A & C Upholstery
(951) 928-5498
Steering wheel
Rear axles 300M
Summers Brothers

Front axles
Chrome Moly 

GPS - Lowrance

Custom  coil

Custom clutch with overdrive weights
Custom secondary clutch set up
JBS Performance

Extra Fuel and Water
All OEM Yamaha Parts
Rocky Mountain ATV/MC

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