Blind mechanic gets thrill of a lifetime driving an AMG GT R in the desert
Bart’s Automotive & Towing is a third-generation family business in Alsip, Illinois. Bart Hickey and his son Brendan run the repair shop in the blue-collar community outside of Chicago. Bart’s father taught him how to wrench on cars, which he’s been doing for 30 years, and he passed the knowledge on to his own son.
Unlike Brendan and his grandfather, though, Bart has never driven a car, that is, until now. That’s because Bart Hickey has been totally blind since birth. Now, Brendan has teamed up with Mercedes-Benz ti give his father the thrill of his life—behind the wheel of a Mercedes-AMG GT R supercar.
Bart Hickey’s disability hasn’t stopped him from having a full life with a family, a career, and hobbies. Bart doesn’t just work on cars—he’s got a passion for them that goes back to childhood. The family’s shop sponsors an annual car show at their facility, and Bart goes over every car. Running his hands along the flank of a vintage Mopar sedan. Smelling the upholstery. Checking the aspect ratio of a Hemi ‘Cuda’s bias-ply tire by feel.
Bart has long dreamed of being able to drive a car somewhere where it would be safe to do so, where there are no obstacles, boundaries, or other vehicles, perhaps out on the Bonneville Salt Flats. A satisfied man, actually driving a real car was one thing on his bucket list.
Brendan’s a good son. He spent five years trying to help his dad fulfill that dream, sending out email after email to any and every company that he thought might help. Finally, Mercedes-Benz came through, in a big way. They provided Brendan with a bright green Mercedes-AMG GT R to bring to Bart’s Automotive & Towing’s annual car show. As Bart was admiring it, Brendan handed him a card, embossed in braille, inviting Bart to take the $160,000, 577-horsepower two-seater for a spin.
Well, more like a straight line drag race than a spin, on the dry lake bed of the Alvord Desert of Oregon. The prehistoric lake bed’s flat silt surface is 12 miles long by 7 miles wide, with no obstacles, perfect for a blind man’s drive.
Hickey made the most of it, too. After a Mercedes representative showed Bart how to find the controls by feel, Brendan got in the passenger seat, they belted up, and accelerated quickly down the lake bed.
How quickly? 124 miles per hour. It’s hard to say who had a broader grin, Bart or his son.