Ice Rod Rita Promotes Auto Recycling
PHOTO BY KEVIN MOHATT
When Ice Rod Rita first sauntered across the salt flats of the Bonneville Speedway, onlookers weren’t clocking her time. They were admiring her lime-on-ice exterior, her Tiki wood siding, and her appropriately named “salt licker” blade. In other words, she was less hot rod and more ‘party waiting to happen.’ Margaritas, anyone?
While this unlikely hot rod was not breaking any land speed records, she was indeed fulfilling the mission for which she was conceived. Ice Rod Rita is a mobile billboard for the automotive recycling industry, according to creator Gary Corns and his wife, Alice, of Colorado Auto and Parts in Englewood, Colo.
“It is definitely getting some attention,” said Alice, a longtime recycler who was born into the industry. “People look at it because it’s unlike anything they’ve ever seen. It naturally creates conversations about why we did it and what it is. It’s that whole recycling, reusing, renewing, reimagining, and recreating to show that you don’t have to buy new when used will do.”
Ice Rod Rita is the third such vehicle created by Colorado Auto and Parts. While past projects have involved the Corns’ two sons, Alice credits Gary with the artistic inspiration. Their first effort, a 1956 Ford Vanette, made waves with its interior resembling a B52 bomber. The second, a Plymouth Air Radial Truck, took it to the next level. The vehicle, made from a 1939 Plymouth and a Cessna airplane engine, vintage airplane seats and a cockpit dash, was featured on Jay Leno’s Garage as well as the cover of Hot Rod magazine.
“I’m crushing all day long,” said Gary. “I get bored so I just think of different things I can do with all this scrap that people are just throwing away.” He also literally dreams of ideas. “I wake up a lot of nights, so now I have a notepad by my bed.”
For Ice Rod Rita, Gary started with a Zamboni, one of a pair that he bought at auction. At the time, he didn’t know what he would do with them, but he knew it would be something creative. He found inspiration in the Bonneville Salt Flats located northeast of Wendover, Utah. The area is known for motor sports and is the location for the Speedway. “At Bonneville, you’re on hundreds of miles of salt, and it looks just like snow,” explained Gary. “It was the perfect place for a Zamboni. Instead of a hot rod, we would build an ice rod.”
He chose a Margarita theme for the makeover into Ice Rod Rita. Over the period of six to eight months, Gary worked on her around his work schedule. He took parts from a fire truck, adding the part that raises the ladder to each side of the vehicle. He cut off the top of the Zamboni to allow for additional seating. Then when Walmart got rid of 20 of their semi-trailers, he took the wood out of them and fashioned benches. He had a friend paint a giant Margarita glass on it, and they also added the Colorado Auto and Parts logo. There’s a refrigerator system on board that keeps the margaritas cold—because this vehicle can actually serve the treat for which it’s named. Alice likens it to “an ice cream truck for adults” and notes that they’re already getting requests for special appearances.
Ice Rod Rita officially made her debut at the Bonneville Speedway on Saturday, August 10, 2019, at a top speed of 9 mph. She’s already become an internet sensation, drawing thousands of views on the Colorado Auto and Parts Instagram page.
Will this get people excited about auto recycling? “I hope so and I think so,” said Gary. “I have people who have come from Australia, Sweden and a couple of other countries to visit us in Colorado and see the vehicles that we’ve built.” A couple from Sweden noted that it was on their list of “must-see” attractions in the states.
Prompted by their success with unusual builds, the Corns’ family has built a new shop, which they’ve dubbed the Junkyard Chop Shop. “People think of a chop shop as cutting up vehicles, maybe in a negative way,” said Gary. “That’s what we do every day. We cut them up and make cool things out of them. You build this stuff out of a junk yard and it just comes to life.”
As for the next project on the list, Gary is working on a ‘38 Ford Coupe with a 9-cylinder radial airplane engine in it. “The car’s from the yard here,” he said. “We had a company out of Oklahoma give us a $50,000 engine; we just had to pay the $400 freight. All they want is their name somewhere on the vehicle because they know it’s going to go crazy.”
However, the “crazy” builds do have a higher purpose. “Being able to hopefully try to educate people about auto recycling is our goal,” said Alice who has worked in the industry for four decades now. “It’s amazing how many people still don’t realize that auto recycling is even an industry. We want to get the word out that people can use used parts and save money.”
The Corns do their part by displaying the vehicles at their business and putting them on social media. As for Ice Rod Rita, Alice notes that it could follow the same viral trajectory as the truck.
“We hope that someone will call us when they need a taillight because they remember these unique builds, and that’s what it’s all about.”