First Car for Disabled Diggers (Gus Keown)

9 August 1949 The Tumut and Adelong Times

The first double amputee above the knee in New South Wales, if not in Australia, to try out the device which enables a legless man to drive a motor car with full efficiency is Gus Keown, of the 36th Battn., A.I.F., a native of Tumut who suffered the loss of both legs above the knee in the fighting at Passchendaele in November, 1917.

Gus is in partnership with Jim Kennedy, also a limbless Digger, in a kiosk business in Martin Place. Gus took delivery of his first car, specially adapted for a legless man to drive, in January, 1924.

He covered 50,000 miles in this car before he turned it in, and about the same distance in each of the six cars which followed. He is now driving his eighth car, purchased in 1947. 

Driving by a legless man is made possible by a simple, safe and serviceable variation of the foot control, which mainly consists in transferring the clutch control to the driver's shoulders when in the sitting position, and the necessary pressure easily operates the clutch. 

The brake and throttle controls are worked with the left hand, while the steering is done with the right. The shoulder pressure can be exerted at will. 

So well contrived is this patented device that the action becomes as automatic as foot control, and quite as easy. 

Perhaps no other Digger was more grievously wounded than Gus, and, a few years ago, he had to undergo an operation in Prince of Wales Hospital for the removal of an eye, which was pitted with shrapnel, and its state was affecting the sight of the other eye. 

A stout fellow, Gus, whose life is a story of the victory of mind over matter.