This aerial themed 1939 Plymouth Pickup belongs to the Corns family. The family has a long history that involves airplanes. When Adam Corns, one of the family’s younger generation, was only 13 years old, he got into an accident when he was riding a stunt plane as a birthday present. Fortunately, Adam was not hurt and walked out of the crash. This did not lessen the Corns family’s love for cars but after the incident they preferred to enjoy it on the ground with cars rather than planes!
At age 27, Adam Corns together with his brother Eric, and parents, Gary and Alice, runs a salvage yard located in Englewood, Colorado. Since 1959, Alice’s family has owned the salvage yard and now the whole family is really engaged in collecting cars and other weird junks. Most of the time, when something that interest the family, it will usually go to their project pile rather than going into the crusher. And because a lot of awesome stuff comes into their yard, the project pile has really built up. “We have a group of friends who come by on Wednesday nights, and instead of playing poker, we build cars,” Alice said, and Gary says that if you want join them, you only need 3 simple things: “Love cars, bring beer, and have a sense of humor.”
When you see the Corns family’s 1939 Plymouth Pickup, you’ll now that they are a very fun family. The pickup has a scared, raw-steel body that has been outlined with rivets and you can clearly see the airplane radial engine up front. Most may not believe it and thinks it’s all just for show but then Gary started the engine, you’ll hear the wheeze that usually comes from a radial engine on airplanes. After a short while, smoke from the engine and completely covers the Plymouth.
This used to be just an ordinary Plymouth pickup that Gary bought from a customer for just a few hundred dollars which then went into their project pile for 30 years. Gary was not sure what to do with it but knew that it has potential. One day, my dad said we needed another project,” Adam states. “He went over to an airplane wrecking yard and the next thing you know, this 1950s seaplane shows up on a trailer, and he says we’re going to use the 300hp Jacobs radial engine for the truck. Growing up around metal, you never question if it will work, you just start welding.”
Before they started the build, the Corns made sure that the aircraft engine was still alive. One of their customers offered his radial-engine run stand to check if the engine was still working and surprisingly the engine still has some life in it. “It fired up and we couldn’t believe it!” Gary said. They then looked for a single-barrel updraft and they found a new one in eBay. Everything was set and they started the build.
The family put a lot of work into this build and most of the time they were still working until dawn. The pickup’s body was removed and striped the chassis to bare metal. The top was cut, the back was rounded, and over a thousand hand-bucked solid rivets outline all of the raw-steel panels of the pickup. The original framework was replaced by the custom tube chassis which had a longer front hood to accommodate the seven-cylinder Jacobs radial.
The aircraft engine was originally made to power propellers and it took a lot of innovations to direct its power into the Turbo 400 automatic transmission and a narrow Franklin quick-change rearend. Amazingly, they did this using only scrap parts or hand built in their shop. The propeller shaft was attached to a custom cogged pulley that goes down a boat V-drive that has a 3-inch Kevlar power belt. A custom driveshaft is channels from under the V-drive flange to the transmission that has a unique assemble built from a 1970 Chevelle pinion and other Ford bearing that powers the 12-inch torque convertor. “In the end, the transmission thinks it’s connected to a small-block Chevy,” Gary said.
After everything was put into order, the 1939 Plymouth aircraft themed pickup is ready to hit the streets. In the exterior, aircraft lights and pitot tubes are placed. In the interior has leather aircraft seats, and dual steering yokes and aircraft themed gauges on the hood. A shotgun starter was also hand built into the console for the added effect. In the early days, radial engines were started using blank shotgun shells that to produce enough pressure to start the engine. Although this pickup is started with a more modern method.
The Bonneville Salt Flats was one of Corns family’s goal for this build but unfortunately the race had been canceled more than once. They are still hopeful that they will be able to go to Utah. For now, the 1939 Plymouth “Air Radial” has been featured around several shows and has earned numerous awards. In fact, they received an invitation for a reality show that will revolve around the Corns family business. They even have fans from the aviation community. “A former CEO of Cessna saw it and liked it so much he brought me parts and signed the console. A VP at Lockheed Martin asked me to explain how we put it together. We must be doing something right when a rocket scientist is asking us how it works.” Gary said.
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