The open road, motoring experience is best when shared with friends. Mark Korczyk knows this quite well.
The Algonquin resident has quite an unusual seatmate keeping him company when cruising together in their 1954 Chevrolet 3100; a blue and gold macaw named Niki.
"He really enjoys the ride and comes with me to all the cruise nights," Korczyk said. "He loves all the attention he gets when we park."
While Korczyk has cared for his crowd-pleasing fowl for 21 years, he found the Chevy hauler during the summer of 2009.
"I had been looking for an older pickup and narrowed it down to a Chevy from 1950s. I really liked the unique body style," he said. "This design was only used in '54 and the first half of '55."
After he stumbled upon an online listing for the Florida vehicle, he was there the very next day, ready to make an offer. "As soon as I saw it, I knew this was the one. I really liked the originality of it -- solid rust-free body, strong engine and original interior."
Despite its stellar condition, the truck was not perfect. "Right away I could see there would be some minor work," Korczyk said. "It had been many years since the restoration and had sat for a while."
However, all of the original body sheet metal was intact and rock solid. "The truck has received a repaint and is not the original color."
The factory Thriftmaster 235-cubic-inch six-cylinder was still underhood but was in need of some bolstering. To ensure optimal operation, Korczyk went ahead and replaced the ignition coil, fuel pump and some other engine peripherals to make sure it ran well.
"It wasn't hard. It's so easy to work on," he said.
New leaf springs and shocks were mounted on the underside of the 3100 while the speedometer was rebuilt and some instrument lights replaced. Four-wheeled drum brakes are mounted at the corners while an optional heater and defroster keeps the two occupants toasty during chilly weather driving.
From all appearances this truck looks straight out of 1954, yet there is one modern tweak. Korczyk installed a reproduction radio that looks stock but has modern technology.
"There are also subwoofers under the seat," he said. "In addition to Niki's singing, I gotta have my tunes."
A three-speed manual transmission with column-mounted shifter isn't ideal for longer jaunts but it doesn't deter the auto-loving pair.
"I've had the truck up to 70 miles per hour and she's fine. It's an older vehicle with thinner tires and no power steering or brakes. You just have to be mindful of the limitations and extra braking distance."
That extra effort is well worth it when Korczyk heads out with his feathered sidekick. "People love the truck but even more so when they spy Niki. We've become quite well known together. The kids always have a smile when they see us," he said.
Korczyk and Niki regularly head to the Barrington, Cary and Algonquin summer cruise nights but they aren't afraid to take longer voyages. "Niki will tag along with me on longer trips in my daily driver. He's driven with me to visit my sister in Indianapolis."
At the end of the day, Korczyk realizes racking up the miles is not about showing off or being well known.
"More than anything, this truck is a pure joy to drive. I'm old fashioned and I enjoy the sheer pleasure of getting in something as simple as this," he said. "And being able to share the experience with Niki and those we meet makes it even better."