A disabled Marine veteran has received a very special gift…a free car!

“I thought it was a prank,” said Robert Iaulualo of Chula Vista. “I was in shock. I even teared up a bit.”

Iaulualo does a weekly commute from San Diego County to Los Angeles to see his two-year-old daughter, Azariah. With his 11-year-old car unable to reach freeway speeds, the former Marine had to rely on public transportation or the generosity of friends to make the journey.

But thanks to the good folks at Caliber Collision who volunteered their time,  Iaulualo received a salvaged Nissan Sentra that was provided by Allstate,  in the nick of time. His 2008 Mitsubishi Galant, with over 200,000 miles, decided enough was enough. The care died. For good.

Part of a Recycled Rides program begun in 2007 by the National Auto Body Council,  Iaulualo is one of about 300 people to be awarded refurbished autos this year. He was nominated by San Diego-based Support The Enlisted Project (STEP).

STEP assists junior active duty enlisted members and recently discharged enlisted veterans and their families in Southern California facing financial crisis achieve long term financial self-sufficiency through counseling, educations and grants to alleviate critical near term obligations.

“It’s not a question of who could use a new car, and who could benefit. If we gave a car, this to this person, would it change their life?” said Tony Teravainen, STEP co-founder.

Iaulualo plans to make some extra money driving for Uber.

Behind the scenes is the National Auto Body Council’s recycled rides program.

To learn more about the program, which has given away 1,700 cars, visit their website.