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Devoted dad from Bury St Edmunds finishes adapting Mini van for disabled son 10 years after buying it





A devoted dad who was inspired by the Popemobile to adapt a Mini so his disabled son could own his first car has finally completed the project 10 years after he first bought the car.

Robin Middleton, 43, decided to purchase the £600 classic Mini chairman van after seeing it on eBay, and made it his mission to convert it so his son Charlie, 14, could have it as his first car.

Charlie has used a wheelchair all of his life after he was deprived of oxygen for several minutes at birth.

Robin and Charlie Middleton with the van. Picture: SWNS
Robin and Charlie Middleton with the van. Picture: SWNS

He also has Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy, and has to depend on Robin and mum Cheryl for everything.

This means he will never be able to have his first car - so Robin decided to help him get one.

The striking vehicle resembles the car Popes have used for decades for protection when being driven through crowds of worshippers.

Robin adapted a Mini chairman van. Picture SWNS
Robin adapted a Mini chairman van. Picture SWNS

Over the last 10 years, Robin has adapted the van so it can fit Charlie's wheelchair in, and now he been able to go out in it.

He said: "I just saw the van come up on eBay.

"I had gone to several Mini shows before and as we have a Ford Transit van that is converted, we would have to go in that and then go around the shows.

Charlie with the van as it was being converted. Picture: SWNS
Charlie with the van as it was being converted. Picture: SWNS

"But then I really wanted Charlie to be able to do what everyone else can.

"I supposed to a certain degree, you can take things for granted as you can sort of turn up and be there with the cars.

"I just thought it would be a nice thing to do, so he can be a bit more of a part of it and have his own little car.

Mum Cheryl, dad Robin and son Charlie. Picture: SWNS
Mum Cheryl, dad Robin and son Charlie. Picture: SWNS

"I just saw it one evening on eBay and just thought it would be absolutely perfect.

"I've always have had Minis and been well into the Mini side of things, and I just thought it would be a nice thing to do."

Robin said that 'straight away you could tell it was a lot of work to do' but now it is finished, he is relieved.

Charlie helping dad Robin convert the van. Picture: SWNS
Charlie helping dad Robin convert the van. Picture: SWNS

He said: "It was a bit of a spur of the moment thing to a certain degree, but I thought surely we can do something to make it nice for him and get out and about."

Robin, from Bury St Edmunds, added: "I did it in bits and pieces, just when I could afford all of the panels so I properly started it four years after I bought it.

"A good friend of mine is into Minis as well, so we passed it between us for a little while so we could try and ease it along really.

The van will be able to fit Charlie's wheelchair so he can go out in it. Picture: SWNS
The van will be able to fit Charlie's wheelchair so he can go out in it. Picture: SWNS

"I was spending all my evenings and weekends trying to get it finished, so I dread to think how many hours it took to actually do it - it's certainly been a lot.

"It is just such a nice feeling to get it finished, and now I'm looking forward to being able to get him out to one of his first shows, it will be lovely.

"It will be fantastic - I just don't know what I'll end up doing with myself after this one has finished."

Charlie also loves the van, and when he went out on his first trip, he was 'smiling' and 'definitely enjoyed it',

The married-dad-of-one said: "We was keen to let Charlie have as much choice as possible, so we got him to choose the colour of the car and bring him out with me when I was building up some frames."

Robin added: "Charlie has been in the van, and we've had about four trips out now.

"I've done several Minis for family members, so we got them altogether so we could go on a little run and that was lovely.

"We had only done around seven or eight miles, just around the little village we live in, just so we could get him out for a little drive in it.

"He was definitely smiling and he definitely enjoyed it which was lovely.

"It was quite a big relief for me when it was done.

"From the offset, I said if I could get him to one show, then that would be more than worthwhile, and it is lovely to see him finally in the car."