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Bleeding purple: the purple truck


At Gonzaga, everybody bleeds purple, whether it’s materialistic or through the spirit at sporting events, but there’s one family that bleeds more than others, and that’s the McKinnon family. They own the old 1950s Chevrolet purple pickup truck that comes to many events. 

 The McKinnon family is from Bethesda, Md. and currently has two children at Gonzaga, senior Tommy McKinnon and freshman James McKinnon. Their older brother also went to Gonzaga, and an older sister went to Holy Cross. The truck was initially owned by Tommy and James’ grandfather, who bought it in the 1970s, although he hardly ever used it.

“[The truck] basically sat in his garage in his Georgia log cabin for 30+ years forgotten; then, he passed away, and we found it sitting there,” Tommy said.

His dad wanted to revamp and fix it so that it could be restored and drivable again. He took it to a shop where it ended up getting filmed for the TV show “Junkyard Empire.”

“There’s actually an episode on’ Junkyard Empire’ about my dad and the revamping of the car,” Tommy said.

McKinnon truck in the shop for the show “Junkyard Empire”

The car was restored at the auto shop and then painted purple in dedication to Tommy and his sibling’s high schools. The car then started to come to events once it was completed in 2014.

“Back in the day when our family was new to Gonzaga, we would do as best as possible to try and bring it to every big football game. For me, it made it to a few of the soccer games,” Tommy said. 

The truck has been a staple of Gonzaga events and is a new take on bleeding purple. As the McKinnons pass through Gonzaga, the truck still might come to main events but not as much to athletic games. The McKinnon family used the car as a way to represent someone’s memory and support a place, as well.

“This truck means a lot because it serves as a memory of my grandfather; I’m glad our family decided to give it a new life after it was originally forgotten,” Tommy McKinnon said.


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    Harry Geib, SJMar 3, 2023 at 7:32 pm

    Thanks, Oliver, for the article about your family’s Gonzaga purple truck. I’ve seen it a number of times and I always wondered about the history of it. And thanks to your family for sharing it at so many Gonzaga events!