The body of a mini truck that is over 70 years old and the engine of a sea plane that stopped flying in the 1950s. These two were used by a four-member family in the US to build an extraordinary truck. The love for trucks runs in their family and once they were smitten by airplanes too, the idea for the unique truck took birth. The family waited for the dream truck not a few years but decades. And, once you see the performance of the Plymouth pickup truck powered by a radial aircraft engine, you will agree that their wait was worth it.
The Corns family
Before talking about the wonder truck, one should know the family first. Only then one will be able to understand how they came upon the crazy idea of combining a truck and an airplane. The Corns family consists of Gary Corns, wife Alice and kids Adam and Eric. After their marriage, the garage owned by Alice's family was taken over by Gary and Alice. Their love for vehicles had prompted them to do so. They were conducting experiments with the vehicles in the garage when the 1939 Plymouth truck appeared in the scene.
Gary bought the truck for $500 in the beginning of the 80s. Though he fell for it in the first sight itself he didn't know what to do with it. None of the spare parts of the truck were available then. For the next 30 years, it was parked in the garage unattended. But when another guest entered the garage, the retirement life of the truck came to an end. The guest was a 1950 model Cessna sea plane that Gary bought in 2009. The radical idea of fitting a plane engine into the truck was what encouraged Gary be bring the plane to the garage.
Grounded plane and a dead vehicle
Even Gary’s children were wondering how to use the plane's engine in the truck. However, Gary handed over this specific task to Adam and Eric. Soon, they set aside all their scepticism and went about their task. They completed their work in about one-and-a-half years’ time. The trickiest part of the build was pairing an automotive tranny to an aircraft engine. They had to remove the front half of the truck's bonnet to fit the engine. Besides, they had to increase the height of the remaining part of the bonnet. But these were just cosmetic changes. The real changes were related to fitting the engine inside the car.
Parts from boats too
The sea plane's 300 hp engine was equal to a small windmill. The seven-cylinder engine is designed in such a way that it works like a propeller. The main challenge was how to adapt it for usage in the truck. Airplane engines are designed to turn propellers. The V-drive propulsion system came to their aid and they decided to use the V-drive of boats in the truck. The V-drive is a propulsion system for boats that consists of two drive shafts, a gearbox and a propeller. The V-drive system is linked to the propeller shaft through a conveyor belt.
They used spare parts of several vehicles during several stages of the work. Most of the parts were available in their garage itself but some were sourced from outside. For example, the pinion was sourced from a 1970 Chevelle. They decided to go with the Chevelle pinion because it is longer. The bearings for the 12-inch torque convertor are from Ford. So not only the truck body and seaplane engine, several parts were used for the rebuild. Another important aspect that played a key in the completion of the work was the friends' gatherings that happen on Thursdays. Gary's friends who come together on Thursdays also pitched in with the rebuild. Hence, the Thursday gatherings were a big help for the Corns brothers who had set aside only a little time in the mornings for the work.
While the work was progressing, everybody had a doubt - will the project succeed. They are particularly worried if the body of the old truck could handle the 300 hp of power. But the successful test run of the truck put to rest all their concerns. It starts with the grunt of an aircraft and the truck literally takes off. Today, at any event that showcases modified and non-modified trucks, the Corns family's 1939 Plymouth is a guest of honour.
It was in 2015 that the truck was unveiled after its makeover. Since then the truck has been covered by every auto magazine and TV channel in the US. Even today, if you take the top 10 truck brands in the world, most of them won't have 300 hp engines. Hence, it can be said without doubt that this 1939 Plymouth is one of the most powerful trucks in the world.