Willow Gale: 2006 Ford E-450, ELF

Published January 26, 2006 in issue 0504 of the Hook

"I had a '68 Mustang convertible," says Willow Gale, "and there's not another vehicle that can compare."

Well, sure, but did the Mustang offer an onboard satellite system for web-surfing and a live connection to the card catalogue at one of Virginia's top library systems? Did the Mustang offer an on-board electric generator? And could America's classic muscle car offer front wheel drive, a diesel engine, or weigh 14,000 pounds? No, no, no.

Outfitted by Farber Specialty Vehicles of Columbus, Ohio, this ride even includes a skirt to keep mud from besmirching this beauty, whose sides sport an image of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

"This is luxury," says Gale, the bookmobile's supervisor, whose former ride was a 1991 school bus with heaters scattered around the back of the bus. "I now have a sound system– plus heat and air-conditioning in the driver's part."

As for visitors, they get bright lighting to check out potboilers from Danielle Steele, Scott Turow, and Sidney Sheldon– not to mention several hundred books for kids.

So what's ELF? It stands for Extra Low Floor, and among the attributes of this converted limousine are a retractable ramp and wide aisles to make life easier for wheelchair users and others with mobility issues.

Gale probably won't have any mobility issues in the captain's chair. "This one," she says, "just drives so smooth."

Willow Gale