Introduction: Wheelchair Mystery Machine Costume

I designed this project for people confined to a wheelchair. I am not but I was inspired by other wheelchair accessible costumes and I wanted to explore the possibilities.


Lots of cardboard and cardboard boxes


Hot glue

Cardboard screws (optional)


Paper mache glue

Light blue, green, orange, teal and black paint (mystery machine colors)


Utility knife

Tape measure/ ruler

A small scale prototype could be useful

Step 1: Get the Dimensions.

Measure the width of the wheelchair. Then measure the height you would like the van to be. Make sure you take into account that there needs to be a bit of head space. The length of the van should be about twice the length of the wheelchair. Make sure to measure the wheelchair from the end of the toes to the end of the handles. Lastly, measure the diameter of the wheels. This will help with cutting out the wheel wells.

Step 2: Making the Sides of the Van.

Grab a large sheet of cardboard. It needs to be tall and long enough to capture the dimensions. You can also glue pieces of cardboard together to make a large enough side panel. Then draw the side profile of the van. This is where a prototype might come in handy. You can also look up pictures of the Mystery Machine to get an idea of the shape of the van. It is curved in the back and slanted and pointy in the front. After it is drawn, cut it out using scissors or a utility knife.

Wheel wells and window:
You want to make sure that the wheels on the wheel chair go down farther than the bottom edge of the side panel by a few inches so that it isn’t dragging on the ground. Use a compass or trace the wheel of the wheelchair (making sure to have the tire 3-4 inches lower than the edge) to outline where the tires should go. The front tire needs to line up with the wheelchair tire so make you measure the distance it needs to be from the front. The back tire is not as important so use your digression to decide where to place it. After you have an idea of where the tires are going to go, draw the wheel well. The wheel well should be a couple of inches away from the tire to create a small gap. Lastly draw a window. Make sure that it does not go below the armrest or past the backrest of the wheelchair. You may need to have someone hold up the side panel while you sit in the wheelchair to mark where the window should go. Then cut out the window and the wheel wells.

After you completed the side panel, you can trace it onto another large sheet of cardboard and cut it out so that you will have both sides of the van done.

Step 3: Attaching the Sides to the Wheelchair.

Get a cardboard box (still assembled) that is about 4 inches wider than the wheelchair. Cut holes in the box where the handles of the wheelchair are. Slide the box onto the handles. I also used a ratchet strap to secure the box to the wheelchair. Then use hot glue to attach the side panels onto the box. If you’re having a hard time getting the sides to stick, use cardboard screws to secure the sides if you have some available. (I 3D printed mine at our school)

Step 4: Assemble the Front, Top and Back.

You will need a few cardboard boxes or pieces that are the same width as the cardboard box from step 3. Break down the box if you haven’t already done so and cut along one of the seams so that you have a long, flat piece. Then hot glue the flaps of your cardboard piece onto the inside of the side panel of the van. Continue this process until you have covered the front, top and back of the van. I left a small gap at the top of my van so that someone wouldn’t have to crouch if they were pushing the wheelchair and so they would be able to see.

Step 5: Cut Out a Windshield.

Draw the shape of the windshield. Make sure the bottom and the top of the windshield line up with the bottom and the top of the side windows. Leave a couple inches of trim along the sides. Then cut it out using a utility knife.

Step 6: Paper Mache

This step is important because the paint won’t stick to tape that was left on the cardboard. Paper macheing will also smooth out corners or cover any gaps in the cardboard. I used paper mache glue and ripped up strips of newspaper to go over tape, edges of the van and to cover a few gaps that were left in between pieces.

Step 7: Painting

First I used a grey primer to coat the entire van. You must allow this to dry before starting on the primary colors. I used a hairdryer to speed up the drying process especially over the areas I paper mached. Then I painted the entire van light blue. Once that dried, I drew the designs and details that were going to be painted in green. Once the green was dry I drew the flowers and the letters for “The Mystery Machine” and painted them orange. To give the van detail, I used teal paint to outline a door and to outline the designs which really made them stand out more. I also painted the inside of the van black to cover the messy cardboard and give it a clean look. You can also paint the headlights onto the front of the van.

Step 8: Tires

Cut out 4 circles that are the same diameter of the tires on the wheelchair. Then paint them black. Paint a paper plate green and add an orange flower. Once it is dry, glue it onto the center of the cardboard tire. Then use zip ties to attach the cardboard tire to the spokes of the wheel on the wheelchair. For the back tires, hot glue the top of the wheel to the inside of the side panel.

Step 9: Cutting a Door for Easy Access

On one side of the van, cut from the bottom of the window all the way down to create a door that can swing open for easier access. To close the door once you’re in the wheelchair, use clamps or binder clips to secure it together.

Halloween Contest

Participated in the
Halloween Contest