The case for Simple Machines

Builders,

Mike Quinn, who has attended many, many Corvair Colleges, drove this 1966 Ford Pick up to CC #43.  It makes a very visual case for simple machines.  Mike is a very interesting cat who owns more than 50 cars. His choice to take this vehicle on a casual interstate trip comes as little surprise if you know him. A common thread in his taste for people, plans and machines is simplicity.

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While not everyone wants to have 50 year old truck as a daily driver, the example is well worth considering how it could apply to your plane, and what you would like to do with it.  Builders who select the Corvair as their engine already understand mechanical reliability comes from simplicity, the appeal of Machines vs Appliances Part #2, and that technology isn’t a substitute for an intelligent operator.  But the general philosophy bears application to your plans in aviation more than any other aspect of your life.

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Above the engine compartment, a 300 cid Ford six. Note the absence of PS, PB, AC, etc, and how clean it looks. Your Corvair, in comparison to say a Rotax 912 has this same appeal. Beyond the visual aspect, you can not inspect what you can not see, and what you don’t have can not break. The truck has selected technology applied, it has a hybrid electronic ignition and a 5 speed manual, but neither of these lose the point of the exercise. Notice how much of the ground you can see in the picture.

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Holley four barrel on a Clifford Research manifold. Original oil bath air cleaner. Tell me if you would prefer to change a heater hose on this truck or on say, a current Toyota Tundra?  Its easy to say that you would rather have an accident in a modern vehicle, but its just as easy for me to point out that thats not a factor in planes, and even in cars, to some of us who live in rural areas and have become too old to drive like we are still in high school.

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A very simple instrument panel. There are aviation comparisons like:  Inexpensive Panel……..part one., and Inexpensive panel…….part two.. To me, there is an inherent appeal to the simple, getting away from things that you own but don’t understand, things where you are completely at the mercy of others to keep going, often very expensive things.

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Last month I saw photos of an 80 mph day VFR homebuilt, with perhaps $20,000 in glass cockpit stuff. Plane had less than ten hours on it, and was severely damaged because the builder didn’t learn much about engines. It was an example of daydreaming about flying around looking at computers, ( on flights anyone with a plain  J-3 could have made ), but putting almost no effort into learning  much about how to install an engine and operate it. Your plane, your life, your choice, but perhaps getting the priorities right matters.

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Mike Quinn’s truck outside the terminal at Barnwell Airport.

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Wewjr.

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Someone was planning on flying this

Builders,

While this is far from the worst Corvair engine I have ever seen built to fly in a plane, it does rate honorable mention, and its own photo shoot. A builder brought it to Corvair College #43; to be absolutely clear, it was not his work, he just picked it up as a core, and thought he would bring it by as a good source of entertainment.

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While you are looking at the pictures, keep in mind someone out there thought this was a viable flight engine when they assembled it. This isn’t a mock up, it has a number of details that confirm the builder was planning on flying it in just this condition.  Forget the fact it has no 5th bearing and other basic issues, this is just a look at some of the details that are questionable.

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Think you can blame this ‘craftsmanship’ on white trash hillbillies?  Think again. I can look at many details here, like the placement of the condensers, and assure you the builder was a member of the Corvaircraft internet discussion group, where such retarded ideas where paraded as genius, all by people who never flew them, often motivated by fragile egos who didn’t like being told what already worked.  It would be nice to think this was assembled 25 years ago when people didn’t know better, but the spark plug selection shows it was built in the last 3 years.

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If you are building a first class, modern Corvair, know this: the people who dabble in homebuilding without ever learning anything, can not discern the difference between this piece of dung and your masterpiece. Aggravating at times, but that broad brush condemnation without thought has been very successfully indoctrinated in the masses, and there is nothing you and I are going to do about it. Our only task is to keep on our own track, learn, build and fly, and spend our hours in the company of builders who like to think.

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Above, oil temp. sender, in a location which will not allow the engine to be bolted to the mount, a location that in some flight attitudes will not be in oil, in a location far more likely to read the temp of the case rather than the oil.

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Above, grade 5 head nuts, no washers, no lube on threads. Steel and brass vent fitting, I don’t get where it is going. No sealer on valve cover gaskets.

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Above, a notoriously poor high volume oil pump adaptor, on an engine that didn’t need one (we never used HV pumps before 5th bearings) Oil pan gasket has no sealer, and has been extruded by over tightening. Very poor safety wiring, done where it isn’t needed.

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Above the detail that dates the motor: This is actually the correct plug for a 2700cc motor, but Dan and I have only been recommending this for 3 years, so the person who put this together was doing so recently. Very odd that this was the one detail they chose to follow. Bolt on head pipes is a second class idea, but I have endlessly stated that it must be done with Clarks C-12 gaskets, which are not the ones in the picture. in intake leak in that spot blows the head gasket out of cylinder #3 or #4 very quickly from the lean condition leading to detonation.

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Above, this guy did a lot of work filling the stock fuel pump hole and oil fill location…..only to put a 90 degree oil fill fitting 1/2″ away.  Look near the base of the oil fill, and there is a big couch of aluminum bolted down to the top cover. A later picture will show this was cut off from the starter mount brackets. It made me think about tanks in WWII that used spare lengths of track bolted on in random places to supplement their armor.

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OK, look closely at the distributor. It has a points plate that came from me before 2004, but the distributor is not my work. The primary thing here showing this person to be an internet reader is the condensers placement. I had long arguments with people that the condensers need to be in a protected spot, preferably on the coils. Internet experts, particularly on Corvaircraft, argued they need to be close to the points. I tried telling them the 18″ of wire wasn’t an issue to electrons traveling 186,000 mile/sec. but you can’t argue with people who know they are right.  As I predicted, 3 people with condensers mounted this way had ignition failures from putting the cap back on and pinching the wire. One of them couldn’t see it, and elected to fly 300 miles home on one ignition, telling me “Well I just had to get home for work”

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Above,  The starter is a Subaru unit like we used for many years, but instead of cleanly using the simple brackets I taught people to build, this guy elected to make these. The ring gear is a FRA-235, but look close, it is mounted backwards.  For 10 years I have told people these are prone to cracking through a web, and we have sold solid ones instead. I have no idea how this guy mounted it to the hub, either it has fasteners, or it is sandwiched, and either of those is a very serious mistake, but both were frequently endorsed on the net.

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The prop hub is held on with bolts, and I can see no method of the bolts being safetied. the shaft nut is grotesquely over size and weight. Safety wire on front cover bolts where it isn’t needed. Its a detail, but one showing the person didn’t like following proven things and invested his time in pointless things rather than where it counted.

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Above, a look at the starter and ‘elegant’ brackets. In the background you can see the spare ‘tank track’ bolted on the back of the top cover. You could see where it was directly cut off the brackets. Perhaps it was kept as ready accessible repair material. Note how high the intake pipe is. I have no idea what cowl that would fit into.  Dip stick is extra long.

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Above, get a good look at the distributor clamp.  No lock washers on the 5/16″ bolts holding the oil housing down, (This, an area of narrow gaskets subjected to pressure oil, is a much better place to care about fastener safetying  than the front cover) No sealer on the top cover gasket. The heads of the bolts were drilled, but nothing installed. Dropping a split lock washer on the bolt would have done the job in a second.

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Above, an 8 plate oil cooler, an Item I have told people to put in the trash can for 30 years. A 12 plate goes right on in its place and is worth about $20. There is no baffle between the #2 cylinder and the cooler, and it will radiate heat directly on the cooler and render it ineffective.

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Consider that we have only looked at the outside. What do you think is on the inside? What do you think this persons airframe work looked like?

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Things to take away:

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Just because this motor was an obvious pile of mistakes doesn’t mean that you should buy ones that look better, they have nearly as many mistakes. Build your own motor, none of these thing represent a ‘running start’

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Be careful that you, yourself are not taking advise from poor sources. A very smart guy told me on the phone the day before yesterday that his “Local race car shop” had sandblasted his pistons to clean them up before he installed them. How many times have I said never to listen to ‘race car’ people? The ring grooves in pistons have very precise machining to seal against the rings. Blasting, in any form, destroys this. Why did they need to be cleaned? Because they were not new when he bought them. I love they guy, but it is errors like these which are 100% avoidable.

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Wewjr

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The glorious smell of heat treated steel.

Builders,

I pulled in my driveway after dark yesterday and saw four cardboard boxes just sitting there. I soon found out why my ups driver didn’t carry them to the hangar: they weighed about 50 pounds each. A quick check with a flashlight reveals joyous news; A three year supply of hybrid studs had arrived!

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Above, the boxes in my living room. When I opened them, the oily smell of serious old school machine shops filled the room. The studs are made from heat treated 4140  us steel, the same as WWII .50 BMG barrels. The smell brings me back to my youth in NJ, some of my first jobs working in the remnants of the state’s once thriving machine parts industry. As a Corvair builder, you can have a certain pride your CEO here is sipping a beer, listening to Check Berry and savoring the smell of heat treated steel.

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The studs have always been made for me in a giant midwest machine shop that specializes in aerospace fasteners. They don’t do small orders, so once every 30-36 months, I empty my piggy bank and send in an order. A few months later, their arrival comes without announcement. Insisting on ‘Made in America’ from serious suppliers isn’t cheap: The stack of four boxes cost more than my last two pickups, and my Suburban…combined. Carrying this kind of inventory on an engine program known for being inexpensive is tough, but when it comes down to the fasteners which hold the prop hub on, if you understand strength of materials and ethics, you don’t go shopping in China.

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Wewjr.

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Time to change two heads around

Builders,

In the previous story; Photo Observation Contest., most people quickly picked off that the assembled engine had the heads on the opposite sides of the motor. The second question is how long did it take to correct this?

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There were a wide variety of estimates, but first lets examine a few fun internet myths;

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On a car, the heads have the same casting, but they are not really interchangeable right and left. The reason why: there is a 3/8″ diameter breather tube in each head just below the stock carb flange (these are machined off when we weld head pipes on) both of these tubes point toward the flywheel in a car. The are hooked together to for a balance tube and the PCV system in the car. It is common to see people building a car engine forget this, because it is less obvious than a welded on intake.

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Second, I was always amused to see people who claim to be very experienced engine builders on the internet, when seeing a report of a temperature variation on left and right banks of a flying Corvair, quickly pontificate it must be the engine is somehow using two left or two right heads. The Corvaircraft internet group archives have numerous examples of this. Of course its moronic because the castings are the same L and R.  This isn’t unique to Corvairs, virtually all classic American V-8 and V-6 engines, including diesels, use the same head on both sides, but this basic fact wasn’t known by a lot of internet experts.

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On the subject of reversing the heads on the motor shown, there was a little more involved, because if you look close, the rockers are already on and the valve adjustment is already done. This in mind, the task breaks down into several group tasks:

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Remove the rockers, balls and pushrods from both sides.

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Un-torque the heads, lift the push rod tubes, and lifters.  Remove each head.

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Reposition the engine on the stand with the head facing up. I do this because I don’t like torquing heads with the engine on its prop flange or with it in the installed position if I can avoid it.  Not only is it simpler to work on in the 90 degree bank flight position, it keeps assembly oil from the cylinders from flowing under the head gaskets before they are fully torqued.

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Reinstall each head, and torque it into place.

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Reinstall the valve train, and reset the valve adjustment.

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750 Builder Lane Seidel, Barnwell College regular.

Builders,

Below is one of my favorite photos from Corvair College #43 at Barnwell last month. It is Lane Seidel’s shirt, with several of his name tags from previous colleges. He is holding his phone, showing a picture of his nearly done Zenith 750 STOL, and yes, his engine was first run at a previous Barnwell college.

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Ask anyone who has met him at a College, Lane is the best sort of guy, easygoing and laid back. With his southern accent, it is all pretty good camouflage for a highly accomplished, but modest man who works in nuclear power.

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If you want to know what makes him invaluable in my book, a story: At Corvair College #34, also at Barnwell, a builder had a crippling medical emergency. You can read some of the background here: Builder Medical Emergency Update. The onset of the man’s crisis was hard to see in the bustle of an on going college. The moment of awareness of his emergency comes from Lane, coming over and telling me he thinks the man has a serious issue we are not seeing. Minutes later we are traveling to Aiken Hospital, and the staff later tells me we cut it pretty close. There were many other builders who later put forth a very strong effort on the man’s behalf, including many people who contributed to a fund which topped $10K. But without Lane, who not only had the observation skills, but also lives by ‘I am my brothers keeper’ instead of societies all to common, ‘I don’t want to get involved’  we very likely would have lost the man.

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Wewjr.

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Photo Observation Contest.

Builders,

Just for fun, see if your observation skills are sharp. Study the engine photo below and see if you can find the detail the builder initially missed on assembly at Corvair College #43 earlier this month.

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The issue was corrected, and this engine put down a perfect break in run on my stand at the college. Use the comments section if you think you see it. Bonus points for the closest guess in minutes for how long it took to correct.

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New Nose Bowl Plug – #4201-B

Builders,

Here is an update on the story of my new nose bowl for STOL Corvair powered planes. This is the original story from seven weeks ago: WW- ‘STOL Bowl’; A new nose bowl available this month, Pn. #4201-B.

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In the original story, I projected having completed parts on hand by now. It was reasonable from speaking with my mold shop, but there have been delays on his end, and we are just getting to the molds now. I have known him and worked with him for more than a decade, he is pretty good on timelines, but not in every case.

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I deal with it because his quality is good and the work from his shop is a good value to homebuilders. In my last 29 years in business, I have dealt with many suppliers, and have always sought out quality, and accepted some delays to get it. The new projection based on today’s face to face meeting in his shop is 3 weeks to deliverable parts.  I’m a little too old to believe in Santa, but still optimistic about what I want for Christmas this year.

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Above , a view of the topside of the finished plug, the inlets have built in rings and are more than 5.5″ in diameter.

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Above, a view of the bottom of the new plug. It has been check with elaborate contour tooling, it is polished next in preparation for making the molds from it.

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