Radial-powered pickup makes an LS swap look mundane

Jay Leno is no stranger to custom, one-off builds. His garage full of such creation that were designed and built with little practicality – all parked next to meticulously restored historical vehicles and factory-fresh examples of timeless classics. None of them are more grandiose or nonsensical than this 1939 Plymouth pickup truck.

It’s powered by a 757 cubic-inch, seven-cylinder radial engine lifted from a 195 Cessna seaplane from the late 1940s. Both the truck and the plane sat in Gary Corns’ salvage yard in Colorado for nearly 30 years before he dreamt up this unseal concoction.

He decided to marry the radial engine with the pickup and cover every square inch with a period aeronautical theme. The result has this Plymouth pickup looking like a WWII-era bomber. Corns and his volunteer team of friends put the project together over several months working after hours on Wednesdays. Bare metal skin with rivets make the truck look like an aluminum aircraft, compete with roof-mounted windows, hand-painted warning signs, and red and green signal lights.

The Jacobs radial engine sends roughly 300 horsepower to the rear wheels via a heavy duty V-drive from a boat. A massive belt from a supercharger connects the V-drive to the engine’s output shaft where the missing propeller would attach.

Sadly, cooling is a major issue with the engine. Restricted airflow and a small reservoir of engine oil keeps its run time under 15 minutes before it begins overheating. Still, that’s plenty of time to enjoy this outrageous radial-powered pickup. There’s no doubt this project makes a small-block Chevy engine swap seem like child’s play.

Be sure to turn up the volume and enter full-screen mode. You’ll want the full experience with this 26-minute video.

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Why It Matters

Jay leno has always been attracted to outlandish builds like this, so it’s not surprising to see this caliper of one-off creation roll into his garage. Not only does the project look awesome, it showcases the ingenuity and skill its builders had when piecing this pickup together. It’s not like the local auto parts store carried parts for an early 1940s airplane engine – much less the hardware to make an engine swap possible.

Now, if Corns and his crew could solve the cooling issue so it could be driven more than 15 minutes.

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