Above is my 3,100cc engine in the 601. The installation now has about 50 hours on it. The only trouble we've had is with the gaskets of the flanged VW style exhaust. This exhaust modification is frequently used in sand rails in California. Although some of the land based shops are quick to recommend it, my dynamometer and flight experience suggest that it's barely worth the effort on a hot rod engine like our 601's, and certainly not worth doing on a standard Corvair powerplant. A blown exhaust gasket is serious business in an engine; it's not just carbon monoxide, it can burn wiring and cause vapor lock, and if it's bad enough, start a fire. The Corvair's standard exhaust system is virtually immune to blown gaskets. The Corvair's overlapping tube design gets my recommendation. If someone advocates the VW stacks on the Corvair, simply ask them if they've flown both and tested both on a dynamometer - my comments are based on being the only person who has done so.
This is a Lancair 320 airframe that was damaged by a nosegear failure. The airframe was not economical to repair for the prior owner. With some horsetrading, it ended up in our possession. I'm tucking it away in the rafters of the hangar for future use. Grace Ellen has always wanted a fast but simple two-seat aircraft. A long-wing version of this airplane with fixed gear and a Corvair might prove to be a very fast, efficient airplane. This is a good indication of how much we believe in Corvair engines. I'm going to be working in aviation until my last day on this planet, and I plan to build an awful lot of airplanes between now and then. Virtually everything we dream up focuses on the Corvair.
Whobiscat mopes inside the hangar during Hurricane Ophelia, above. Although it never came ashore, it caused torrential rains in our area for a week. It kept Gus and I from flying up to the KR Gathering in Illinois. This is the cat's favorite spot in the hangar. She was crabby about staying inside for a week. Last year, the cat was out all night during the peak of Hurricane Frances. I found her the next day, very clean and fluffy. This year, it wasn't as difficult to force the cat inside during bad weather.
Above is a set of fully modified Corvair heads packed inside a 60-quart plastic container. They're wrapped in plastic and then carpeting, sealed with expanding foam, and the lid is zip-tied on. These heads came to our shop to have the low profile intake pipes welded on, and the plug holes time serted. We've found that this is the best way to ship them back. Although it adds a little expense, it protects them and doesn't take long to get them in the mail. We have a number of pairs of heads to do right now, but we're knocking off an average of one set every two days in addition to all the other orders.
The back of Grace's 1965 Greenbriar on the way to the Post Office. This was Monday morning, and the back of the van is filled with the weekend's output of parts. If you were one of the customers with a backordered Rear Accessory Case, you should have it by now. We're now 100% caught up on these, and we have components to do 30 more in the shop. The past few days, we've been pouring effort into Distributors, and they should be 100% caught up very shortly. In preparation for Corvair College #9, we had the laser cutter produce 40 more points plates, which we received yesterday. These will be turned into exchange distributors before the College. Simultaneously, we're working on Oil Pans.
With the discussion of crankshafts, some people have been left with the false impression that the Corvair engine is not tough as nails. Here's great visual evidence of how robust and brutally strong the Corvair is. The cylinder head above was removed from a Corvair van which was driven many, many miles with a very poorly running engine. Keep in mind that the bottom end of this engine did not throw a rod, jam up or cease to run. It was driven all the way back to the owner's house. I cannot think of another automotive engine that I've seen this heavily damaged which continued to run. Take a good look at a Rotax engine and honestly tell me if you think it would still rotate with damage like this. By the way, this van was equipped with forged pistons. The owner had lost the fan belt and continued to drive it anyway.
Notice above that four valve seats on this head are no longer in place. This did not happen in a millisecond. The extensive damage shows you that the engine continued to run and pound the little bits to rubble inside it for quite some time. In this photo, the squarish chunks driven into the head are a broken up valve seat. Note that none of the valves dropped their heads.
Both the valve seats in the above cylinder have been beaten into the ports, yet the engine continued to run on the other bank of cylinders. While your engine will obviously never look like this inside, it is a very desirable characteristic of aircraft engines that they be able to sustain some damage without complete failure. The next time somebody points out to you that a Corvair engine is slightly heavier than a VW, Jabbaru or Rotax, tell them that you accept this because there are robust qualities to the Corvair that you appreciate. This is not the only example of land-based engines I've seen like this. It just happens to be a fairly good representation of the engine's damage tolerance.
Above, Gus and Dave run Dave's Wagabond engine on the dyno. Although the engine was previously done and running, as seen at Sun 'N Fun 2003, Dave opted to tear it down and modify it to our most current configuration. Thus, he discarded the rear starter that had flown on my Pietenpol for years, and switched to a Front Starter and welded on, low profile intake pipes. The engine has one of our Deep Sump Pans, and our Rear Oil System. Since Dave works in our shop, it's important that his own airplane represent how we teach builders to convert engines. Just last week, I spoke to a builder whose engine was configured with a rear starter. In one minute on the telephone, I detected a major flaw in his modified oil system. Although I pioneered rear starters, and three-hose oil systems, very few people accurately followed the details of this work. A simple mistake, like running the three-hose lines from the rear accessory cover and not the oil cooler flange, produces an oil system guaranteed to spin a rod bearing in cold weather. Builders can simply avoid this trouble by following our lead and using our Front Starter and Rear Oil Systems that we fly every day. I'm not against people exercising their creativity; it's just time and time again people who modify the engine are not taking into consideration all the ramifications. Respect my 15 years of experience on this. I'm not smarter than you, I've just made many of these mistakes already years ago. You needn't repeat them.
Above is engine #15 for the year. This belongs to 601 builder Bill McMannus of Florida. Building complete engines is only about 10% of our work. The bulk of our time is in direct support of people working on their own engines. In some cases, like this one, we build and test run the complete engine. Bill was in love with the idea of roller rockers, so this was one of the very few engines we built this year equipped with them. It adds about $1,000 to the cost of the engine. Much of the time is spent redeveloping the pushrod geometry and having custom parts made. I have more flight time on roller rockers than all of our customers combined, and my opinion is they are not worth having. People frequently ask about the engine for sale on our Web site. The engine in the photo sold long ago, but we have since built, test run and sold many clones of it. If you're one of the few builders who would like one of these engines, please call me on the hangar line, (386) 478-0396.