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Mark Ray poses with his "plane car" on Thursday, May 2, 2019, at Flex-Fab, Inc., where the former Cumming resident had part of the work done on his 32-foot-long vehicle. Ray markets the plane car as a viral advertising machine to area businesses. - photo by Brian Paglia
When Mark Ray parks his plane car along a busy road, there’s a good chance it’s going to attract attention.

And on a recent Thursday morning on Castleberry Road, it did just that.

The Roswell resident pulled his 32-foot-long vehicle into the parking lot of Flex-Fab Inc., the metal fabrication factory on Castleberry Road in Cumming where Ray’s plane car all came together. A slight breeze gently spun the propeller on the front. The vehicle’s tail rose 12 feet high.

Ray’s plane car is hard to miss. But, then again, who would want to miss it?

Not the white van that slowed to a crawl while its passengers gaped as it drove by (then turned around and passed again just a couple minutes later.)

That’s exactly the kind of reaction Ray hopes to get from his plane car. 

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Mark Ray had a GMC Sierra 2500 pickup truck attached to a 1974 Cessna Ram 421B to create his "plane car" that he markets to businesses as a viral advertising vehicle. - photo by Brian Paglia
The novelty vehicle isn’t new territory for Ray. A car enthusiast, he had a boat car built in 2015 in Cumming, then sold it and had a new one built that he still owns and drives; it’s been featured on NBC 15 times, Ray said.

And Ray’s current plane car isn’t his first. He had a small three-seater built in 2017, which he eventually sold.

Soon after, Ray wanted another, and this time a bigger one. He knew just what to do: he went to a salvage yard in Griffin (the same one used for filming in the Blank Panther movie, Ray said) and found a 1974 Cessna Ram 421B gutted and with its wings cut off, and then he bought a used GMC Sierra 2500 pickup truck and had the body, sides and bed removed.

Ray brought both vehicles to Flex-Fab where they cut off the bottom of the plane and fastened it to the truck using metal posts. Then he took the vehicle to another shop to have the interior done with hardwood floors and comfortable cloth seats from a used Toyota Sienna minivan.

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Mark Ray found the 1974 Cessna Ram 421B airplane that he used to make his "plane car" at a salvage yard in Griffin, Ga., just months after it was used to film scenes of the movie "Black Panther." - photo by Brian Paglia
The novelty vehicle is designed to be a viral advertising machine, and the idea is simple: Ray sells sections of the plane’s exterior for advertising, then drives the plane car around metro Atlanta and makes stops at high-traffic locations, particularly retail centers during the week and car shows on the weekends. People gravitate to the vehicle and take pictures with it, which they post to their social media accounts, and suddenly the plane car — and all its advertisements — spreads on the internet.

Ray spends about 30 hours a week driving the vehicle, he said, in cities like Alpharetta, Cumming, Milton and Roswell, to name a few, giving exposure to the dozen or so advertisers he works with.

“I’ll pull into a shopping center, like the Oscar Mayer wienermobile, cars will come off the street. You’ll hear them screeching,” Ray said. “They get their kid out, they’re posing in front of it. They’re taking pictures all over it asking a thousand questions.”

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Mark Ray's 32-foot-long "plane car" comes with most standard luxury features in modern vehicles, like air conditioning, a stereo system and a backup camera. - photo by Brian Paglia
Ray’s plane car has pretty much every standard luxury feature of a modern vehicle, like air conditioning, a stereo system and a backup camera, but some items were modified to the plane car’s idiosyncrasies. Brake lights and turn signals were installed on the plane’s tail wing, and the windshield has one large wiper instead of two.

Ray also consulted with local and state law enforcement agencies to ensure the vehicle would be street legal.

When the plane car was completed in 2018, it didn’t take long for it to get attention. Ray remembers the day a driver pulled up next to him at a red light and tried to talk to him, which was difficult since plane windows don’t roll down. Ray signaled for him to call the number on the vehicle. It turned out to be the owner of The Flying Biscuit Cafe, the Atlanta-area breakfast chain restaurant. 

“He said, ‘We gotta be on there,’” Ray said.

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Mark Ray's 32-foot-long "plane car" was made using a 1974 Cessna Ram 421B airplane and a used GMC Sierra 2500 pickup truck. - photo by Brian Paglia
Ray has also been followed all the way to his house once. It was the owner of Area 51’s Aurora Cineplex, the movie theater in Roswell. 

“He said, ‘What’s the best spot on the plane?’ I said, ‘The tail.’ He said, ‘I’ll take it,’” Ray said.

The plane car has also been featured on the YouTube series, “Ridiculous Rides.”

Ray now has a handful of advertisers, but he has visions of turning the plane car into a full-fledged enterprise with more advertisers, maybe even more plane cars. 

“I want everyone to see this thing,” Ray said.