Save $59, loose $1,000, repeat for fun….


Yesterday was a very quiet and peaceful day around our airport. People here are very friendly and gregarious, but on Thanksgiving, they tend to focus on family and home, and yesterday there was no one out and around. Grace and the dog drove over to her parents for a few days, but I elected to stay here and enjoy the quiet while getting some things done on our own aircraft, It was perfect blue skies and slightly cool. At sunset I went out flying, climbed to a few thousand feet and just puttered around at 1,800 rpm and just watched the sun sink. When it was gone and the runway lights came on, I pulled the power off completely and glided all the way back in comparative silence. I landed and rolled directly to our front yard.

About 10 pm I realized that I had not spoken to a single person face to face all day long. The only people I had spoken with were on the phone. I had covered about a dozen calls during the day. In the morning parents and siblings, a number of friends in the afternoon, people we know from Corvairs, but the conversations weren’t on technical things.

Mixed in this came a call from a guy who refused to give me his name beyond “Jerry.” He was a bit rude saying that he wanted information about a Corvair flight engine he had bought, but it wasn’t anything I had built. He started off with a sarcastic tone about “wow a real person on the phone.” When I am answering the shop line on Thanksgiving day my tolerance for having him complain that I didn’t return two of his previous calls is low. (If you call and will not leave your name and you need help with an engine I didn’t make, you are not a priority call to return) His story goes like this: He didn’t buy a manual from me because they are $59. Instead he bought an engine for more than $1,000. He tells me that it has the drive end of it opposite the way we do it, that his engine has a gear box on it,but he has no idea if the gearbox is spur or planetary, but he is absolutely sure it is made of aluminum. He wants to build an airframe for this engine he bought.

In a few questions I can tell he hasn’t read much about Corvairs. The thing that is annoying to me is that this doesn’t stop him from saying thing with a tone of being knowledgeable. Without seeing a single picture, I tell him he is wrong about the drive end, we have always put the power out through the flywheel end. Second, he is also wrong his gear box,  a Rinker cast iron unit, undoubtably a 1.39 ratio. Since he says the engine was built 20 years ago, it isn’t going to have anything good inside,( and it stands a very high chance of being a 145 cid early engine.) This guy states that it’s an aircraft conversion because it has valve covers that say “otto” on them, but I tell him that they are just car parts from the 1970s in CA. He looks at pictures and listens to my descriptions and concedes that most of the things he said and thought about the engine were wrong. He is slowly coming to the conclusions that 1) I know something about Corvairs. 2) he doesn’t have a good engine. 3) maybe information is power, and $59 wasn’t a big rip off compared to a grand for a boat anchor.

He cheers up a little when he thinks that he might at least have an expensive core engine. I point out that it likely isn’t a 164 cid engine, and even if it was, the Rinker is mounted to the crank by broaching a key way right where we thread the safety shaft, so he doesn’t even have a core engine. He asked what he could do with it, I suggested selling it to an air boat guy. He then told me that the engine is in Idaho, not real close to the LA or FL swamps.

I am not writing this to complain about anonymous people who don’t like buying manuals but do feel entitled to complain about return phone calls. Neither am I motivated to cite another example of a person who’s only interest in Corvairs was that the thought they were cheap and he had a bargain in hand. The reason for the post is far more direct and simple: Experience has shown me that when I tell a guy who just lost a thousand dollars that what he has isn’t good, there is about a 75% chance that the specific engine will be for sale in the next 60 days on Ebay or Barnstormers for at least the same amount of money he paid. Writing this isn’t going to prevent that cycle, and there is always another guy out there to buy it. No, I write this just so when the next owner surfaces of a discussion group saying he just got a ‘cheap engine’ for his plane, perhaps one of you guys can send him a link to this story. And you know what the new guy is going to do when he finds out his engine is useless junk? Well in 60 days it…………

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