World’s Strongest 3,000cc Corvair, built by Greg Crouchley
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Below is the story of Greg Crouchley. He is a Waiex builder from Rhode Island. Many people in the movement have met Greg at the past few Collegesor at Brodhead or Oshkosh. He is a very friendly and outgoing guy. At first glance you might not see the inner motorhead. Greg’s normal stomping ground is in international manufacturing, and I have never seen him without a collared shirt on, even when he was building his engine at Corvair College #24. But this is camouflage for a guy who has a long background of getting his hands dirty. Spend a few hours with him and listen between the lines, and you will understand that the things he is most proud of accomplishing were all things he did with his own hands. The Corvair is a natural match for anyone who understands this. Below is a link to a video of Greg’s engine running a few nights ago. While you watch this, understand that Greg is a man who has worked for and earned his share of success in life, but building and running your own engine is still a triumphant moment:
Greg’s engine is a 3,000 cc powerplant that features one of Dan Weseman’s new Billet Crankshafts. This is the second one to run after the Panther prototype engine. For this reason Dan and I invited Greg to bring the engine down to Florida for a supervised test run. Greg did 80% of the assembly at CC#24, went home for the rest of the assembly, and drove back to Florida for the test run (he is a serious road warrior). Dan pointed out that the engine has new forged billet rods in it which are slightly stronger than the original GM forged rods, so to be technically correct, Greg’s engine can now be said to be the world’s strongest Corvair flight engine. The engine features all of our Gold components, our High Volume Oil Pump, Falcon heads, our Powdercoated Valve Covers and an E/P Distributor.
One of the things I find interesting is Greg’s arrival in the Corvair movement. He has been flying light aircraft for about a decade. Almost all of it was done in LSA aircraft with many different types of engines. Greg actually built and owns a Jabaru 3300 powered Lightning that he likes and flys a lot, but for this round he was searching for access to a very different experience, an angle only covered by the Corvair. His Jabaru may say something about what he can afford to buy, but his Corvair says a lot more about who he is. If a homebuilder is just looking for an engine that will run and operate, than a Rotax or a Jabaru will do just fine. However, if he is looking for something he can understand, build and master, then the Corvair is the only game in town. How many people have you heard say, “We built our last home.” Now think about how few of them actually meant they drove the nails and wired the light switches. When Greg speaks about building his first house, he is speaking of driving the nails. People speaking of houses at cocktail parties don’t know the difference, but carpenters and framers can tell the difference at 100′, and collared shirt or not, you get the impression that Greg would rather find himself on a job site with carpenters than at a cocktail party with posers. Even if you don’t have a mechanical past to identify with, understand that the most important single element of my building philosophy is that I run the Corvair movement and all of our Colleges as a Pump, not a Filter. We are working to support builders who are seeking to develop or improve their personal mechanical capabilities and experience. It is about developing any standard that you set for yourself. I am not here to run a program for people who have some mechanical background, but are too lazy or closed-minded to learn today. A filter is about calling some people ineligible, and to my way of thinking, that is B.S. I am here to assist anyone interested in personal progress. I don’t care what your starting point is. I have vastly more respect of an absolute beginner who has never changed the oil in a car but wants to learn than I have for a “know it all” guy who is reluctant to learn anything from me because his ego wont allow it.
Above, Dan Weseman, myself and Greg stand behind the running engine just outside the hangar door. We gave the engine a 40 minute test run, which it did flawlessly. The engine started after 2 seconds of cranking and ran beautifully without the slightest adjustment.
Above, Greg gives thumbs up, and is wound up, just like his engine. Do you think he would feel this way if this were the first run of a buy-it-in-a-box engine with a sticker on it that said “no user serviceable parts inside”? Key point: If someone gives this kind of reaction to an “appliance,” they have a shallow understanding of the words challenge and achievement. This type of reaction is only called for when a man builds a real machine, understands it, and is there to see this achievement confirmed on the first run.
Above, the following morning, Greg and I took the engine off my run stand and put it in the car for his long drive north to R.I. Greg is installing the engine in a Waiex airframe (the V-tailed version of the Sonex), thus the engine has a Reverse Gold Oil Filter Housing. We developed these many years ago to allow the Gold Oil System to clear the fuel filler neck on the Sonex based airframes. The Reverse units also fit a number of other very tight fit applications, but 90% of the Gold Filter Housings we sell are the Standard ones. Every other part on Greg’s installation is common to all of the other Corvair engine installations we teach people to build.
Eight years ago, the very first person to fly a Corvair in a Sonex performed a number of rough modifications to the Corvair to get the engine to use the VW mount and cowl. This included bolting the engine mounts to the top cover and sawing off the intake logs and replacing them with a weak O-ring connection. The plane flew, but it wasn’t a configuration that builders wanted to emulate. Dan Weseman’s approach was very different: For his Sonex airframe he built a new mount and cowl, and used the Corvair just as we built them for other installations. At the time there was an Internet debate about which was the correct approach. The only people who didn’t see the logic of Dan’s method were people who had never built a plane before, people with opinion but no experience.
The simplest way to understand this is looking at Lycoming powered homebuilts. Anyone who said they were going to put an O-320 Lycoming on their plane, but were going to make crudely bolted on adaptors so it could be put on a Continental mount and they were going to put a saws-all on the intake system to get it in a Continental cowl would be regarded as mentally troubled and in need of an intervention. It would be regarded as some type of hoax or comments from a fringe personality. Only in the realm of Internet discussion groups for conversion engines would such actions be heralded as “innovative.” You want to know why auto engine conversions have a bad name on the surface in some homebuilding circles? It because some auto engine fans, people without experience, would applaud and praise an approach to engine installation that Lycoming fans to a man would all regard as incredibly poor. As long as people without experience praise poor ideas in conversion engines, auto engines will have public detractors. I don’t like it when these people don’t discriminate between the work we do and the misguided efforts of zealots and cheapskates, but this is the origin of many homebuilder’s aversion to conversion engines.
In complete contrast to the poor approach, Dan Weseman has had a tremendous amount of success with his Corvair installation components for Sonex airframes precisely because he was willing to make the two airframe parts that would allow him to use everything we had already proven to work for the Corvair. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it was a big source of Internet debate years ago. Today Dan has about a dozen “Cleanexes” flying, two have nearly 500 hours on them. On the other side of the coin, none of the fans of radical modification to the engine to get out of buying a mount or cowl ever built anything. They didn’t know it at the time, but their philosophy that espoused being cheap as a cardinal rule doomed them to toil without success and then watch from the sidelines as others with a real approach succeeded. Let’s hope they got a lot of satisfaction out of calling me a “censorship bully” on the Internet for only promoting a path that I knew would succeed. Successful people are willing to learn from others and build on what has been shown to work. The biggest point here is that Dan Weseman has certainly proven himself to be a first order innovator in the Corvair movement, but eight years ago, people who had built nothing criticized his approach of building on what we had already proven as non-innovative. Far from gone, the same critics are still on their discussion groups today, making comments that will prove just as inaccurate with the passing of time. If you want to win at homebuilding you have to ignore these people and listen to qualified advice from people who have made successful aircraft installations.
A detail of Greg’s Electronic/Points Distributor. I am now sending out these distributors with an optional three pin Weatherpack connector. These are the automotive industry standard connector for modern cars. It is easy to disconnect, but has a positive locking feature. We also send with it the matching connector for the airframe’s wiring harness, pre-wired with 6′ of aircraft wire. This system allows the distributor to be removed or replaced without going after any wiring connections other than the plug. You don’t even need to take the cap off the distributor to remove the points wire. These connections are vastly superior to spade terminals or standard crimps, especially in the engine compartment. They are totally waterproof. During Greg’s engine run it was raining lightly and the engine was soaked by the prop blast, but it did not have the slightest ignition tick. I am going to make this connector also available to any builder who sends in a distributor for inspection or brings an earlier E/P distributor to a College. The connector’s quality is centered on its waterproof nature, but also the specific nature of the wire crimp on the pins inside. The crimping tool that does this costs $145, making this upgrade outside the normal builder’s tool set, but something we are glad to do. We will update our products catalog shortly to include information on Weatherpack connection options for flight Distributors.-ww