Home-Built Hero: Old U.S. Navy Truck Gets New Life As Boat Puller

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All enthusiasts have different names or ways to describe their vehicles. “I like to say that this is a Navy truck that retired as a boat puller,” explained Corlen Charnell, of Graham, Washington. “I bought it in 2012, and it had to wait for me to finish another project before I could start on this one. In January of 2014, Corlen started pulling this ’56 Chevy apart, and he added new cab parts, fenders, doors, bed, and hood.

This is one of those builds that makes you stop and stare for a second. There are more custom touches on this truck than can be counted, and unless you've got a list in front of you, you'll never find them all.

Corlen built this 1956 Chevy truck as a multipurpose vehicle. It’s a show -worthy, and a tow vehicle. It features a 6.0-liter LS1 engine, and dyno’d at 400-horsepower to the rear wheels.

LS power sure looks good between those vintage fenders.

“When I built the truck, I had everything running just fine with the OE fuel injection system, but I was relying on other people to do the tuning,” Corlen explained. “The other thing I learned was that the computer in the dash was getting interference and not working quite right.” That’s why he made the switch to the Holley Terminator EFI system. “It’s easier to tune,” he said.

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“The truck thinks it’s a 2007 Chevy Silverado,” Corlen said. The rest of the drivetrain is just as impressive, and features a TCI Streetfighter 4L60E automatic transmission and a 12-bolt Yukon positraction rearend with 4.11 Richmond gears. No corners were cut, and no concessions were made during the course of the build on this boat-pulling Chevy.

The two-tone color with the white wrapped around the cab is gorgeous.

The suspension has also been upgraded, and features an ’81 Camaro front suspension with quick-ratio power steering, and a rear suspension out of a 1969 Impala that features Spohn Performance trailing arms. The build sits on 18-inch U104 mag wheels with disc brakes all the way around. It’s designed to roll, and stop, just as well as it drives, whether it’s on its own or pulling a boat.

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When Corlen bought the truck, he had a pretty good idea of what he was going to do with it. “I knew I was going to hot rod the hell out of it,” he explained. “I used to have a blue boat that I pulled with a blue truck, but then I got a red boat. This looks really good pulling that boat.”

Obviously, beyond the custom drivetrain work, the truck has been completely customized inside and out. It now features a front valance with integrated LED driving lights, a rear valance with integrated LED backup lights, a double-panel tailgate, a hidden trailer hitch, rear fenders widened by 1 1/4 inches, and a backup camera aimed at the trailer hitch. It also features a frenched-in power antenna, rounded corners on the doors, a modified firewall for engine fit and air conditioning plumbing, and custom wiper arms with modern mono-blades. All of that is only part of what’s been done to the outside.

The tailgate is double walled, so if anything slid back and knocked into the gate, it would just dent the inner panel and it would be a much easier to repair.

The inside is also heavily customized and features interior door panels from a 1962 Chevy that have been refitted to the ’56, Honda Oddessey leather seats, custom recessed front and rear speakers, and shoulder harness seatbelts mounted to the cab. The dash has been modified to accept a touch screen radio with the screen for the backup camera, a Vintage Air Gen IV heating and cooling system, a custom, lower dash extension with A/C vents, a modified glove box, Dakota Digital VHX instruments, and intermittent wiper controls. The dash, firewall, and engine covers were modified/made by Corlen, and then painted by Scott Bennette of Custom Body in Spanaway, Washington.  “I also really need to give credit for the body work and paint to Doug’s Classic Restoration in Yelm Washington. His team did the work in a four month period to get it done before the summer boating season,” Corlen said.

Corlen did an impressive job building a multi-purpose vehicle that’s ready to tow and show. We love seeing old trucks like this get treated to a full rebuild and still get used for their intended purpose: hauling loads and pulling trailers.

Here are a couple of in-progress shots of Boat Puller. That frame is cleaner than most cars.

What do you think of Corlen’s boat puller pickup? Would you tow something with this? Tell us about it in the comments below. Do you have a badass classic that you use to tow a vintage boat? A vintage trailer? We want to know about it. Send us some pictures and the story so we can consider it for our Home-Built Heroes segment.

About the author

Kyler Lacey

A 2015 Graduate from Whitworth University, Kyler has always loved cars. He grew up with his dad's '67 Camaro in the garage and started turning wrenches at a young age. At seventeen, he bought his first classic, a '57 Chevy Bel Air four-door, and has since added a '66 Plymouth Valiant and '97 Cadillac Deville to his collection. When he isn't writing for Power Automedia, he's out shooting pictures at car shows, hiking in the forests of the beautiful Pacific Northwest, or working on something in the garage.
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