Larry Jenkins, a man I owe a lot to.

Builders.

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Above, in our Oshkosh tent with Larry Jenkins.  In 1989, Larry was an instructor at Embry-Riddle, president of EAA chapter 288 (Daytona Beach) and a RV-6 builder. He went above and beyond to encourage students to become home builders, including inviting them to meetings and to his workshop. It took Larry’s extraordinary optimism to believe that a significant number of converts could be made. I can’t answer for other students, but speaking for myself, my path in aviation was illuminated by this man, and I remain most grateful for it.

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Knoll Family Pietenpol

Builders:

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A great moment in life: after 12 years of building, Lynn Knoll, flanked by his sons, brings his 2700 cc Corvair/Pietenpol to Oshkosh. In the forground, legendary EAA journalist Mary Jones gets their photo and story.

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3.3 Liter Corvair, a Smooth Power House

Builders:

Dan and Rachel Weseman, the SPA/Panther people, Will have their flying 3.3 liter (3,300 cc) Corvair on display at Oshkosh 2016.  This displacement Corvair is achieved by using an American made billet crankshaft with a 5/16″ stroke increase, along with the large cylinders of a 3,000 cc Corvair. The engine has had more than a year’s development and testing, including extensive ground runs, professional dynamometer testing, and now flight testing, conducted on a Panther airframe. The engine has proven to be an outstanding powerhouse with very smooth operation.

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Above, Dan Weseman’s #.3 Liter Corvair getting dressed out with baffling just before it was installed on a Panther airframe. The best way to understand this engine in a nutshell is this: It is lighter and more compact than a Continental O-200, yet dynamometer tests show it can match the power output of high HP Lycoming O-235, at the same RPM.   For more pictures , get a look at this story: Baffling on 3.3 Liter Corvair .

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The heart of this engine is the new, billet, made in America crankshaft. A standard Corvair has a 3.437″ bore and a 2.940″ stroke, yielding a 2.7 Liter displacement. Increasing the bore to 3.620″ with larger pistons and cylinders increases the displacement to 3.0 Liters.  When that is combined with increasing the stroke by .312″ with a new crankshaft, the displacement becomes 3.3 Liters. Externally, the engine remains the same size as all the Corvairs we have made for the last 27 years, but it is actually substantially lighter because the new crankshaft is lighter than the original GM crank, as are the new cylinders.

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“There is no Replacement for Displacement” is a time proven axiom of American automotive performance. It has been the traditional method of power increase.  To increase the engines’ displacement, rather than try to get more work from the same size motor. The fundamental logic of this approach is it keeps the engine stress and rpm low, the keys to reliability. The same logic has always been used by American aircraft engines. The same way Continental developed the 177 cubic inch/65HP  A-65 into externally same sized 200 cubic inch/ 100HP O-200,  The 3.3  moves the Corvair from a starting point of 164 cubic inches/100HP to 200 Cubic inches (3.3 Liters) and 125HP, without increasing the external size of the engine.  This isn’t a new aviation idea. A Lycoming O-235 is nearly identical in size to the engine it later evolved into, the O-320.  The engines that emerged from this process, the O-200 and the O-320 have outstanding reputations of reliability primarily because they were good designs to start with, and they raised their power output my increasing their displacement, not asking a small motor to work harder.

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The 3.3 is the most expensive Corvair flight engine ever built, but it still is less expensive, in some cases by half, than other engines in it’s class. At Oshkosh, all the tire kickers want to compare price tags, but any serious builder understands he is in search of good value, which in a serious subject like aviation, is not synonymous with cheapest price. Consumer culture has conditioned people to obsessively seek out the cheapest price on things. That mentality may work when comparing blenders at Walmart, but an Aviator selecting a power plant for his home built needs a mindset driven by value. By this measure, the 3.3 and all Corvairs stand up as proven, well supported options for homebuilders. I have said many times, Corvairs are not for everyone, but they are an excellent choice for builders who understand their value. The quote “Most people know the cost of everything but understand the value of nothing” still holds true about most of our society.  My work with Corvairs and their isn’t going to change society’s short comings, it is just to provide individuals with good options that make sense when examined closely. The 3.3 Liter engine from the Wesemans is a further extension of this concept.

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Is this a New Engine?  Yes: The only parts in a 3.3 liter engine that were ever in a Corvair automotive engine are the two case halves, the bare cylinder head castings, and the rear accessory case casting, and these parts have been carefully inspected,  extensively machined, and completely remanufactured. All the other parts in the engine, The Crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons, cylinders, valve train, gears, bearings and accessories are all new. Nothing in this engine was taken straight out of a salvage yard.  More importantly, the new parts are not just new automotive parts, they are components specifically designed and tested to work as parts in a flight engine, a much more rigorous standard.

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The 3.3 liter Corvair uses all the same installation components as our other Corvairs use, the same mounts, exhausts, cowls and intakes. It is also fully supported by our builder programs like Corvair Colleges and Corvair Finishing Schools, and our private on line builders groups. A builders selecting a 3.3 Liter Corvair is part of the same community of Corvair builders that we have developed and supported over many, many years.

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 Above, Dan and Rachel stand on either side of their 3.3 engine at Oshkosh 2015. The engine is a further development of many years of previous work with Corvairs.  It has been carefully developed and tested before being offered as an option for builders.  To see a video of an early test run, check out this 2015 link: SPA / Weseman 3.3 Liter Corvair now running.

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Above, Dan Weseman and I in 2012 at the test run of his 3,000 cc Panther engine. No person flies a Corvair harder than Dan, this fact combined with his mechanical talents and conservative approach to development, make him the right person to develop a large displacement engine.    His 3.0 liter performed flawlessly through a full years of aerobatics, and this itself built on many years of flying a 3,100cc engine in his Sonex airframe. The 3.3 is a further development, made of the same materials and processes as the 3.0 Liter, tested with the same methods. To Learn more about 3,000 cc engines read these links: Why Not the Panther engine? and The Panther’s engine, worlds strongest Corvair flight engine.

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One week to Oshkosh 

Builders,

I flew back to Florida yesterday to pack for the drive to Oshkosh. I have been to Airventure many times, missing only one year in the last twenty. 

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Above, the view of Newark from seat 23A a few minutes after departing on 4L and then turning south. Lower Manhattan, the 6000′ span of the Veranzano bridge and the Statue of Liberty were all visible. Dozens of other landmarks are indenifiable to anyone who once lived here. You don’t have to love everything about NYC to appreciate its cultural magnitude in the world. There are countless fine urban places on earth, but there is only one universally known as “The City.” If the loss of five officers in Dallas touched something inside you, consider that the people here are tough enough to have withstood the loss of 363 people in uniform in a single morning.

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If you go to old magazines and look at the Oshkosh coverage from years past, it is obvious that most of it was about new and exciting products that were promised to revolutionize home building. These stories were written to entertain the daydreams and fantasies of people who were going to build something “someday .”  About 90% of these companies failed, not just because their ideals were mostly rainbow colored unicorn dung, but also because the people they were speaking with were perpetual spectators, and their new product was often aimed at making it easier to these people to ‘become’ a home builder. This is folly because you can’t make anything quick enough to build for someone who is never going to build anything, simply because they have been fed the entertainment diet of a spectator instead of being offered the information diet of a builder.

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Neither you nor I can change our industry, ( trust me, I speak from experience on this ) However, it is completely within our control to decide for ourselves that we will not be one of the perpetual spectators, that our place is in the actual Arena of home building. For the individuals who make this decision for themselves, we offer a proven path and products with an uninterrupted 27 year track record of serving traditional home builders, people who are looking to find out how much they can get out of home building, not how little.

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The joy of old trucks

Builders,

There was once a time when the word “Truck” designated a vehicle that was defined by doing work. Somewhere along the way to suburbia and middle age  Americans forgot the simple joy of basic trucks, and went down the path of making them expensive, complicated, difficult to work on, and devoid of sensory experience. There is an aviation analogy of how we went from enjoying a J-3 as a great plane to discovering that a $200k euro-912 gps LSA is only a better experience in the eyes of an AOPA editor.

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I got my drivers license in 1978, although I have owned a number of Chevrolet Corvairs and two 1960s Buicks, the majority of my driving has been in Chevy and GMC trucks.  I have never owned an import, nor have I ever owned a new car or truck. Between payments, insurance and service I never had, perhaps a saved $250k. Not really a lot spread over all those years,  but I would argue the reward was the self reliance.

In 38 years of driving, I have only called a tow truck once. I have plenty of friends who always bought new, swore by import quality, never drove stuff after it was 5 years old, all because they “need something reliable” , and I am pretty sure these guys always had triple A and used it at least every other year. 

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For what it’s worth, I have caused exactly one accident since 1978. In 1992 I side swiped a parked car. I have been a passenger in a few others, but I have not even scraped another car in a parking lot, in spite of these trucks having no modern ‘safety ‘ features. Avoiding accidents has a lot more to do with the driver than the vehicle, but you could never explain that in s society where very few people ever see things as their fault. .

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Above, the suburbans dash after the western tour. Remember when a truck could be its own log book, tool box and trash can?  We have given up more than we have received, and that is the essential message of simplicity.

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Above, my ’59 GMC making a practice run at the actual Englishtown NJ drag strip in 1984. It was geared so low it hit terminal velocity (57 mph) in 600′. It ran 23.35 seconds in the quarter mile. Don’t laugh, it beat a stock Super Beetle that day. I used the truck  to recycle cars during the period of astronomically high scrap prices in 1983-84.

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Below is a selected list of  my old fleet. The number in parentheses is how old the truck was when I got it, followed by the price I paid. The second line is engine, trams and axle ratio.

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It’s ironic that people couldn’t understand why I drove a 17 year old truck in high school, and today my suburban is 23 years old, my pick up is 30, and my Corvair Convertible is 50 this year. It is a hard day when you suddenly realize you have become that “crazy old man with antique cars” you remember from your home town. 

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59 GMC wrecker (23) $400 

235 six, Muncie 420 4 speed, 5.57

Driven 40k, traded for Thermoquad carb.

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64 K-10 suburban (19) $600

283 v-8, Muncie 420 4 speed, 3.73

Driven 20k, sold for $600

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65 C-10 fleet side (17) $400

283 v-8, Muncie 420 4 speed, 3.73

Driven 75k , sold for $450. 

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77 Gmc K-2500 (6) $1,500

350 v-8, THM-350 auto , 4.11

Driven 100k, sold in parts.

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83 GMC S-15 4wd (3) $4,500

2.8L v-6 , BW T-5 five speed, 3.42

Driven 200k, sold for $400.

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86 GMC C-1500 blue (13) $1,600

350 v-8, THM-400 auto , 3.73

Driven from 160k to 300k, scrapped.

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86 Chevy C-30 white (21) $2,450

350 v-8, THM-400 auto, 4.11

Driven 70k, being converted to 3-53t

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86 Chevy C-20 red (26) $2,000

350 v-8, NV-4500 five speed, 3.42

Driven 60k, still in service

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93 Chevy S-10 4wd, 4dr. (13) $1,300

4.3 v-6, 4L60E auto, 3.42

Driven 40k, given away on I-95 , 12/24

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93 Chevy C-1500 suburban (20) $1,700

350 v-8, 4L60E auto, 3.42

Driven 55K, still in service

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Political Reality Check

Builders, 

In this political season, opposing perspectives will attempt to portray the other side of the aisle as nothing short of evil. Tonight I share a New York Times obituary and a disturbing souvenir from the Wynne family china cabinet as a reminder of what real political evil actually is.

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Above, a silver plate from Commodore Vong Sarendy, Chief of Naval Operations of the Cambodian Navy, presented to my father in the summer of 1974.  It was to express his country’s gratitude for my father’s extraordinary efforts to thwart the Cambodian Communists in his country’s civil war. It was a bitter presentation, as US support for the democratic government was faltering, in spite of JFK’s call to arms that we would “Pay any Price, bear any burden and meet any hardship to insure the survival of liberty.” Sarendy said to my father that the Americans could go home, but he and his family would stay and fight to the death. Within a year, they had perished, the Khmer Rouge owned the country, and the Satanic Pol Pot began a systematic genocide that took the lives of two million people, 25% of the people in the country. During the four years it took to fill up the 20,000 mass graves,  China was Pol Pot’s tireless supporter, supplying tens of thousands of soldiers to assist him. 

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Above, the NYT obituary of Sydney Schanberg from July 10th. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his work attempting to warn the western world that the Khmer Rouge were as vicious as the Nazis. His writings were the basis of the 1984 film “The Killing Fields. ” Schanberg is in the center smoking. On the right is his assistant Dith Pran who went on to survive four years in some of the most brutal tourture camps of the 20th century.

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Today was a good day for my family. It was the first day my father was home in three months.  After dinner, where he was restored to sitting at the head of the family table,  we  reminisced over past moments with 3 of the 4 children present. We later put dad to bed, and the last thing he softly said was “I didn’t think I would make it home again.”

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It is now the middle of the night, and I sit a quiet watch at his bedside. My sister will relieve me at 6am. Through the long night I will type this and spend the hours looking for the words to express my father’s absolute hatred of Satanic totalitarian political movements and the carnage they have caused to humanity.

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From the time he swore into the US Navy at age 17, my father has been willing to give anything, including his life, to defeat   Evil regimes. Then it was the Facists and the cult of death Hirohito preached. Today it is ISIS, and somewhere in between, in the 1970s it was the Khmer Rouge.  The earth has supplied an endless stream of Satanic tyrants,  but in my father’s view, this didn’t justify accepting   the existence of any of them. 
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Tomorrow I could turn on any cable news station, or read countless Face Book pages, and within minutes I could see someone call their political adversaries Nazis, Evil or Satanic.  This might be just a sad joke, except for the fact there are Americans among us who know what real evil is.  I am not a blind fan of either party or their candidates, but I can discern between today’s crop of  ethically challenged  offerings and a purely evil  entity like Pol Pot. No matter who is elected in November, our country will go on, and anyone who suggests we are headed for the national nightmare Cambodia experienced is paranoid or emotionally unstable.

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A few miles from my house is a  simple convenience store called “Hwy. 17 Beverage.”  When I walked in ten years ago, the  owner and family patriarch was slightly stunned that I could tell is family was from Cambodia.  He mentioned that no other neighbor in rural Florida had understood this. He went on to say he had survived his country’s own holocaust, but had come to accept that the great majority of the  people born in his adoptive country didn’t have the slightest idea of how fourtunate the are. When I think of this man watching a national debate or reading extreme political opinions on Face Book,  I cringe, and harbor the hope he has a great sense of tolerance and a generous sense of understanding .

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Thinking of Americans 

Builders, 

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Above, I hold my father’s hand as he sleeps. This is the hand which held me the day I was born, the hand which taught me to write, the hand that shook mine the day I graduated from College. In this hour I sit beside his bed and consider with great humility, just how small my life would have been without him. 

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Pearl Buck was an American woman with very progressive ideas on the value of human lives, particularly the lives of the voiceless impoverished of Asia. In 1938 she was awarded the Noble Prize for literature, for her novel “The Good Earth.”  Buck was deeply concerned with the rights of women at a time when the world was not.

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After WWII, Buck used her power and wealth to set up orphanages, schools and adoption agencies across Asia, focused on caring for mixed race children who were treated as unadoptable and without human value, not just in their countries, but sadly in ours as well. 

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The year I was born, there was a girl born in the slums of Manilla. As an Amer-Asian she had  no value nor future in her society.  By great fortune, the Pearl Buck Foundation had a place for her. A cynic could question the value of such places, even say it isn’t an Americans place to impose our values in other cultures. A cynic could do this, but I can’t for the simplest of reasons: that tiny girl in Manilla is today the highly experienced pulmonary Doctor who is directing the care of my father tonight.

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In a season where it has become acceptable to proclaim that America is either a commercial enterprise worshiping wealth or a playground for empathy-free narsisists, it is good to pause and remind ourselves the America which is worthy of our devotion is actually a set of ideals, focused on the human rights of individuals and the common humanity of people. 

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While there are is large number of people born in this land who have willfully forgotten this, I can assure you there are many people in the world who understand that America, although flawed, is still the shining city on the hill, a land of ideals which has produced and shielded many champions of human dignity. A person exposed to just popular culture and media could cynically question this, but I have met a woman in New Jersey who could change their mind.

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-ww.

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