One Awesome Machine
The Plymouth Air Radial Truck
Colorado Auto & Parts
The best ideas seem to just happen. Like, who would have planned to pair an automobile and an airplane and build something completely different? Gary Corns, of Colorado Auto & Parts in Englewood, Colo., that’s who. The thought came to him while he was digging through a local airplane salvage yard for a completely different project - customizing the company’s 1956 Ford Vanette. The van, used as a rolling billboard for the company, has a tricked out interior that looks like an airplane interior. But when Gary saw a 757 seven-cylinder Jacobs engine from a Cessna airplane, he knew what his next project would be - a hybrid of automotive and aeronautics engineering, the Plymouth Air Radial Truck, or P.A.R.T.
“Why be normal?” said Alice Corns, owner of Colorado Auto & Parts, about the one-of-kind classic truck that’s decked out with an airplane engine and features. “This is something Gary designed in his head.”
The truck is a 1939 Plymouth that the Corns already had in their full-service yard. In fact, the Corns have about 300 classic vehicles at their facility. Alice said the build is a way to bring attention to their used classic inventory and how recycled auto parts can be used to restore them. Gary, along with his and Alice’s sons Eric and Adam, built the Plymouth Air Radial Truck over a year and a half - exclusively using recycled parts.
“We didn’t spend any extra money on it,” said Alice. “We took what we had here. We’re showing people you can use the original parts for classic builds.”
The body of the truck is bare steel, wiped down with Gibbs automotive penetrating oil to protect it. The truck also has vintage airplane seats, a cockpit dash with gauges and LED illuminated door panels, to name just a few of its features.
“Gary would create the interior pieces on cardboard and then we’d have a friend, who’s a machinist, create it,” Alice explained.
The truck doesn’t just look good, it also runs. The engine is driven by a v-drive and blower belt. Alice commented that there was a lot of talk about how the P.A.R.T. was just for show and wouldn’t run, but Gary and his sons proved them wrong. In fact, video of the truck - tearing up tread in the parking lot - can be seen on the P.A.R.T.’s Facebook page or its Instagram account.
It’s those videos and photos, posted by the guys during the build process, that helped get the word out about the truck. Every Wednesday night Gary and his sons would stay late at the business to work on the truck. Alice said they eventually got the idea to use the Periscope app to stream their work. Once the video was up, they started to get followers from around the world. Charlie Johnson, the former CEO of Cessna even stopped by the business to see the P.A.R.T. Alice said he was totally taken with the truck, adding “It’s amazing what this truck does for people.”
“It kind of has its own cult following now,” she admitted. “It has taken on its own life. But it’s still about recycling and renewing. We want to show people you can still get the original part.”
The Corns have taken the truck to several car shows, including the Rocky Mountain Auto Show in Denver, Colo., the SuperNationals Car Show in Albuquerque N.M. and the Lone Star Round Up in Austin, Texas. It was during this visit to the Austin show where the P.A.R.T. caught the eye of Hot Rod Magazine. The truck is slated to be a feature in the magazine’s July issue. That’s great exposure for the Colorado Auto & Parts because spreading the word about recycled auto parts is their most important goal.
“We’re trying to educate people what we do here,” said Alice. “It’s not always easy to educate people about our industry. It’s been very exciting.”