Corvair College #25? Leesburg FL, April 5-7, 2013.


This last weekend I went down to central Florida to the Leesburg airport open house. Our friend Arnold Holmes, host of the highly successful College #17, is campaigning for #25 to be held at Leesburg on April 5-7, the weekend before Sun n Fun 2013.  That event starts on Tuesday the 9th. Our thinking is that people can get two types of event in the same trip to the Sunshine state. Lakeland is only another 30 miles from Leesburg. Builders can come to the College, get actual progress done on their engine, and then drive down the road and take in a day of the Sun n Fun airshow and perhaps get a look at some non-Corvair stuff.

Arnold is the new president of the local EAA chapter, and he has revitalized and motivated the group. They stand ready to support the college, there is a large hangar there and camping right beside it. The field is tower controlled, but outside the mode C airspace. It has long smooth paved runways. The event sounds good to us, but I am specifically looking for builder feed back from people considering heading to this event. We are still planning on two other colleges in 2013, Chino CA and a return to Barnwell, (and possibly a mid-west event) but I would like to hear from builders about this proposed time and location for #25.

Above, Arnold Holmes, (in blue) Host of Corvair College #17, and I enjoy the prop blast of a running Curtiss OX-5 engine. We had fun running it at the Leesburg Airport open house over the weekend. It great because you can slow it down to 300 rpm and watch the external valve train go through its valve sequence. It belongs to a friend of Arnold’s. This engine is Ninety-Five years old. Why do I love simple machinery? because, of the 12,000 OX-5s made, maybe 100-200 are left, but the still work just as they did nearly a century ago. These engines are great Machines.

I am typing this on a Dell computer, a model they probably made 5 million of. This computer could be called a machine, but for all intents and purposes it isn’t. A computer is another thing entirely. It is an appliance. Is there anyone reading this who thinks that there will be a single 95-year-old laptop of this model working in the year 2105?

To me, the most basic division between a machine and an appliance is that a Machine is understood by a skilled operator and it is made to be maintained and rebuilt. Conversely, an appliance is likely to have a sticker that says “no user serviceable parts inside.” Almost no consideration was given to maintainability. When it stops working, almost all appliances are discarded by the consumers that used them. Note the wording: the owners were “consumers,” and the item was “consumed.” Virtually none of the users of appliances understand how they work, and the people who market them have no interest in informing them.

By my perspective a Corvair engine is truly a Machine, and a Rotax 912 is really just an appliance. Our goal is to have every Corvair operator really know his engine. Contrast this with the fact that almost no 912 owner will ever overhaul his 912. If they break or wear out, the most likely outcome is that another 912 will take its place.

My oldest friend runs one of the largest on-line automotive test drive and review services. He packages the reviews into broadcast quality segments that are picked up by the major news services. Because of the popularity of his product and his location in NYC, he has access to virtually any car made. This can be fun, I was with him last new years eve when he plowed a $175,000 AMG into a huge snow bank and got it stuck overnight. We have been friends since we were 13. We have never thought alike about cars: in high school he had a Datsun 280ZX, I had a V-8 Vega. In the last 35 years we have had endless discussions about cars, and by extension, Machines. The type of vehicles he likes have morphed with every new model year ever closer to being just moving appliances. It’s hard to look at them closely and see any single part that shows evidence that it was touched by a human hand, not a robot. They essentially ceased making vehicles that I would consider owning. But I have no complaint; this has driven me to develop enough craftsmanship to build my own. It has made me a happier person.  

Machines have a very important quality that appliances never have. You can really grow to love a machine, especially if you built it with your own hands, like your Corvair engine. It becomes a physical reflection of what you understand, can make, and know how to operate with precision. It isn’t the metal that you love, it the part of you that went into creating it. real builders, maybe 15% of the people in the EAA today,  reading the above statement understand immediately.  For the other 85%? Well, I guess that’s why they make appliances.-ww

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: