Ralph Carlson and Conversion Manual #1

 Builders,

I got a note from Tim Shupert, saying that he and several guys from his EAA chapter are putting together a plan to finish Ralph Carlson’s Corvair powered Pietenpol. I assured him that I would be glad to help, as I have a special connection to Ralph. He bought the first conversion manual I ever sold.

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Above, From Brodhead, 2005, the Pietenpol gathering. Tom Porter on the left shows his land based Corvair to June and Ralph Carlson on the right.

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Below is a letter I wrote to the Pietenpol list last year, speaking of the value of sharing flights with those still building, encouraging those now flying to share the experience.  It contains the story of how Ralph Carlson bought the first conversion manual I ever sold.  In an industry dominated by companies with 36 month lifespans and little respect for traditional homebuilders, I still care about assuring that we keep a place where the dreams of common men matter, and are not subjugated to ‘industry trends.’ 23 years later, I am still here working for this.

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” I wrote my first Corvair conversion manual when I was 28. When it was done, with some hesitation, I put a little ad in the back of EAA’s “light plane world”. I didn’t expect anyone to want one. Ancient engine brought to you by long haired college student. I was somewhat stunned to find the first letter in the mail box, from some guy named Ralph in Wisconsin, building a Pietenpol.

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I spent a long evening sipping a beer and looking at the short note from ‘Ralph’ and manual #1 on my desk. I started to write an apology letter to ‘Ralph’ several times, explaining that I was just an Embry-Riddle student, and he had obviously mistaken me for some real person in aviation. Really, he was going to get manual #1, not very confidence inspiring. After several hours I decided that this was mostly my issues, not ‘Ralphs’. I did cave in and write 10 in front of the #1 to make #101 and at least look like he wasn’t the only guy on earth read my advice on building an engine. Not much of a crime, but in the years that followed, I often wondered what kind of a guy he was to blindly get a book from another person he never heard of.

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Fast forward to Brodhead 2000. We had a very long day of giving rides there, something of a small payback for years of feeling that Pietenpols were my home in Homebuilding. We went from sun up to sunset, maybe 25 flights, easier with a ground crew of friends and an electric start plane.

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Having flown up from Florida the day before, we were zapped by the time the sun was sinking. I very nice quiet woman walked over to me while Arnold was flying the last person and asked that her husband might have a flight. She understood that we were tired, but her husband would never ask, so she was doing this for him, he had been building for many years, but had never flown in a Piet. I was just about to apologize and say maybe next year, when she added the sentence “My husband Ralph and I drove over from Eau Claire.” I politely said “Mrs. Carlson, it would be a pleasure.” She was some what mystified on how I knew her last name……..

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After the flight I was compelled to confess to Ralph Carlson that he had the first conversion manual I ever sent out. Several times he insisted he didn’t, saying “it’s number 110 or 111” I told him there was a very good reason why I knew it was #101, and yes, it was really #1. I try to explain that in the intervening years I have worked hard to try to be the person he thought he was sending the letter to. He is a super nice guy and he doesn’t really get this. He just had a great moment in flying, and was totally motivated to go home and build for another year. He said he thought about asking someone for a flight over the years, but didn’t think he had ‘earned’ one, that he was ‘just another builder.’ I told him contrary to what anyone might guess, I completely understood that feeling.

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Over the years Grace and I got to know the Carlsons, both Ralph and June, much better. We were part of the regulars at the Sutherland’s B&B in Brodhead. They were the absolute genuine article, salt of the earth Americans. They sent Christmas cards and notes, and June used to call sometimes. Over many years her health failed slowly, and we got to see that Ralph understood that when you say “in sickness or in health” in front of God, good people live up to it. He did, with great patience and care.

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June past several years ago, and we don’t see Ralph at Brodhead every year anymore, but in the quiet late hours in the shop, I still think about them from time to time, and how their lives crossed with ours. At Corvair Colleges I take the pilots aside and encourage them to share flights with those still building. I give them good reasons like how it gives builders a seat of the pants understanding of correct operation and running, teaches procedures and methods. Logical reasons, sure, but they are just a rationalization, what I really want to say is that many of the best parts of life are small chance encounters and what you do with them. I want to say that my life is richer for having known June Carlson, and it all happened because one small flight at Brodhead. Think it over, you have the rest of your life to live with the answer. -ww.”

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Corvair College #33 Relocated To Grassroots Airport

Builders,

This is an important notice for Builders signed up for Corvair College #33, April 17-19. The event was planned for EAA 534 hangar at Leesburg airport, same location were CC#25 and CC#29 were held. With 19 days to go, the EAA chapter sent me an Email, backing out of the event. While this may sound like an issue, it isn’t because the ownership and management of Mid Florida Airport at Eustis, a privately owned, open to the public airport, immediately welcomed the opportunity to host CC#33. I have met them in person, toured the site in detail, and we have all the arrangements made for the college to move forward smoothly in a very supportive setting.

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Above, Grace’s Caddy sits at the main entrance to Mid Florida Airport at Eustis, Although this airport is just 14 miles from Leesburg, it is a world away in setting. Leesburg is county airport, and has all the excessive security layers, the chain link fence, swipe cards, barbed wire and automatic gates that are required at most airports run on Federal money. Additionally, Leesburg has a tower, and all the required radio protocol  I understand why some airports have to be that way, but for a College, and anything I do in aviation, I much prefer the traditional simple welcoming of a simple grass strip in a friendly setting. This is exactly what our new location, Mid Florida Airport at Eustis, is all about. This late change in location is turning out to be a blessing, where we have found the location and local hosts that best suit the mission of the college: Learning in a friendly comfortable setting.

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Above is a look down the runway at Mid Florida Airport at Eustis.  (For all our northern friends, that green stuff is called grass, and it happens spontaneously when something called sunshine strikes the earth at temperatures where H2O is no longer a solid.) Seriously, this place is a green paradise in comparison to almost any county airport. 18/36 is the turf runway, and it is in excellent condition. The owner and manager gave me a full tour of the airport, and pointed out several hangars we were welcome to use, their shady 6 acre green camping area complete with adjoining lake, and support items like a large dining tent, golf carts, and rest rooms.

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As much as I like the airport setting, the people there were the real attraction, even people just walking by stopped to say hello and introduce themselves. I ended up spending two hours with the airport manager Rex Wyatt, a real old school aviator. The airport owner shares Rex’s extensive background, but Rex is modest and down plays this. But in the course of conversation it is revealed he flew F-84F’s, Helicopters out of Pleiku, has done a lot of teaching, and is still an active corporate pilot of complex jets like Hawkers. He is also a grass roots guy with an extensive collection of US classic light planes, and he is a long time EAA member, flying to every Oshkosh between 1970-83. Rex proudly told me his grandchild was about to start at Embry-Riddle, another generation of aviators from his family.  While to seems that the sole requirement to be an airport manager at most municipal airports is having some sort of business degree and perhaps having flown on an airliner once,  Rex offers the polar opposite, the judgment and knowledge that comes with a lifetime of personal experience in the arena of aviation. CC#33 was the original topic, but I later realized that the whole afternoon was time very well spent. -ww.

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Please remember that Corvair College #33 is an Event that requires pre-registration. The event is planned in detail, and fully catered, and to attend, signing up is required. The link: Corvair College #33 sign up closes Sunday 3/29, 9pm EST.

The Airport ‘s identifier is X-55. It is located just off Route 44 in Eustis, FL 32736 It can be seen on Google maps at this link:

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https://www.google.com/maps/place/Mid+Florida+Air+Service+Airport/@28.844731,-81.6324075,15z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x88e7a3b74e67a3cb:0x211c8fc6d9e9df7f

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100 HP Corvair, Tim Hansen , Persistence Pays

Builders,

Ten years ago, at Corvair College #9, a young man showed up after a very long trip: He had taken a Greyhound bus from Ohio to Edgewater, Florida He was only able to stay at the College for 24 hours before he had to catch the return bus. He was a college student, he had done a lot of research, and he asked good questions. Serious builders were impressed with his attitude, and the commitment to have his seat at the table of experimental aviation.

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Tonight, nearly ten years later, despite all the obstacles that life can serve, Tim’s carefully built 100 HP Corvair, a product of his own hands and mind, fired up for a perfect test run. The running engine is destined for his homebuilt, but the achievement isn’t the powerplant.  It is in Tim’s attitude to really learn and understand engines, to build an excellent example, to be persistent when others are not. The reward is internal, it cannot be diminished, lost, spent nor taken away. He owns it, period.

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In most other aviation settings, people’s value is judged by the thickness of their wallet. That attitude is abhorrent to me. Conversely, in the Corvair movement, the value of an individual is judged solely on his personal commitment to the original EAA motto “Learn, Build and Fly.” In the pantheon of tradition builders whom I have met in two-and-a-half decades in experimental aviation, Tim Hansen holds a very special place, as he is the personification of my Golden Rule of homebuilding: Persistence Pays.

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Above, Tim’s engine on the run stand on the ramp in front of our hangar. After Corvair College #31, out of respect for his personal commitment, Grace extended a rare invitation to our home, to have Tim finish and test run his engine. The weekend was the only open date in Tim’s work schedule. He drove down from Ohio, worked for a day, and had it on the stand by 9 PM Saturday.

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Congratulations to Tim, just after it fired up. A memorable moment In The Arena. The engine is a 2,700 cc Corvair with a Weseman Gen II 5th bearing and all of our gold systems and parts. Tim was on a budget, but he long ago set his personal standard, that his own engine would be first class. He was focused on getting everything he could from the process, not doing it as cheaply as possible.

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Above Tim with his engine after the run. The sign he holds tell the story of a man who would not be dissuaded from his goal.

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Read closely: Tim traveled  8,787 miles, 1,821 of them by bus, to learn the skills, processes, techniques and understanding so that he may rightfully use the title “Motorhead.” In the decade since his first arrival at College #9, Tim also earned a private pilot rating and had built a substantial amount of hours becoming an Airman. The achievements were gained against life’s adversities: In the early years, a cycle accident put Tim in a wheelchair for six months and brought a mountain of uncovered medical expense. Most people would have seen these as acceptable reasons for walking away from the dream of flight, but Tim Hansen isn’t “most people” –  he has his own standards for himself.

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Tim’s engine puts down a night break in run in, outside the hangar in our front yard. Grace keeps the Christmas lights up 365 nights a year. By coincidence, on the left, well known 601XL/Corvair builder and Pilot Phil Maxson,  (Phil Maxson goes to 3,000 cc for his 601XL )  was in the area. He was on hand to welcome Tim into the ranks of successful Corvair builders.  Phil stayed to see the engine run, because he is a member of our community of builders, a group defined by their traditional take on “Learn, Build and Fly.”  Most experimental engines are simple consumer products with nothing to unite their owners except the amount of money they spent. For builders looking for more from their hours in aviation, we have a setting where craftsmanship, commitment and camaraderie all retain  their traditional value as the primary currency of aviators.

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Grace worked many years to become an aviator herself, and she has a special understanding for any individual who sets themselves to the task, keeps their standards high, and refuses to quit. Above, Grace shares Tim’s hour of victory.

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After a few photos, we threw some steaks on the grill, and had a late dinner, spending the time remembering events from the past decade, and speaking of good things to come. As I write this, it is now 3 am, and everyone has long gone to bed. The morning will bring a long drive back to Ohio for Tim, and a full day of College #33 prep for us. Yet I am kept awake by thoughts of having just been present at a major milestone in the path of another aviator. Next week, someone will ask what is the reward of our work with Corvairs, and I will simply refer them to this story.

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“At any real level, flying is not a sport, a hobby, a pastime nor entertainment. It is An Endeavor, worthy of every hour of your life you invest; Those who dabble in it find only high cost, poor reward and serious risk. They are approaching it as consumers. Conversely, for those who devote their best efforts and their serious commitment, the rewards are without compare.”  -ww.

Corvair College #33 sign up closes Sunday 3/29, 9pm EST.

Sorry! The dead line to sign up for #33 has now past. Our next college will be in Mexico MO, in September. We will have notice on this site when the sign up goes active. -ww.

The sign up for Corvair College #33 closes this Sunday night. If you were putting off signing up, don’t wait longer. for more information, read this link:

Corvair College #33 sign up now open:

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Sign up is required to attend the College. The Learning, assistance, specialty tooling and my time are free as always, but there is an $89 fee that goes directly and 100% into providing all the food for the three days and the facility. For a direct link to the sign up page:

https://cc33.wufoo.com/forms/cc33-registration/

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Above, Tom Cummings of LA, on the left, stands with me in front of my Pietenpol at Corvair College #1. The event was in May of 2000. Tom was the very first guy to show up at the very first College.

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Closing a case at a College, Part #3

Builders:

Here are the next 3 Groups in a “Completely Closed Case.”

2000 Rear oil Case Group

2100 Harmonic Balancer Group

2400 Starter Group

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Above, Rear quarter view of an engine. It is a 3,000 cc engine with a GM 8409 crank prepped by the Weseman’s with one of their Gen.II  5th bearings. Visible in the photo is our #2000-HV rear oil cases. The cylinders and pistons are from our 3,000 cc Kit. They are the next step after getting through a “Completely Closed Case.” Before closing any case, it is a good idea to read: All about Dipsticks, Part #2206 .

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2000 Rear oil Case Group

This group covers everything in the rear oil case. Although a handful of people rework their own rear case, the majority of builders opt to purchase an #2000-HV rebuilt unit from us. It covers every part in the group. Having one constitutes “checking off” all the individual numbers in the 2000 Group. You can see a report on how this part is made here:  High Volume Oil Pump .

Rear oil case group (2000)

2001- Rear oil case casting

2002- Rear oil seal

2003- 5/16 hold down hardware

2004- 3/8 hold down hardware

2005- Case to block gasket

2006– Oil pump assembly

2007- Oil pump gaskets

2008- Oil pressure regulator piston

2009- Oil pressure regulator spring

2010- Oil pressure regulator plug

2011- Plug washer

2012- Adjustable pressure regulator, (was 2010-A)

We are working on having a CNC version of #2012. To this point, all the ones we have used were hand made by me on the shop lathe, and each of them took about 90 minutes to make, and had about $20 of individual parts. This is OK for prototyping and testing, but not affordable for production to builders. The part is a 1 minute retrofit on any engine, including a fully assembled one. As soon as we have these done, we will let everyone interested know. You can read the story about them here: Adjustable Oil Pressure Regulator, #2010A .

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2100 Harmonic Balancer Group

This group is covered in detail in the new manual. The two elements of the group are below, and you will need both of them to completely close the case. If you don’t have them, they can be added later, but it is a nice part of the compete case assembly to look at it and see it from the safety shaft nut to the bolt holding the balancer and know that everything in between is fully done and ready to go flying.

2101- Harmonic balancer

2102- Balancer bolt and washer

To learn more about the details of installing a balancer, please read this full story before getting to the college:   Balancer Installation.

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2400 Starter Group

The reason why the starter group is an element of closing a case is because a builder must have a #2408- Ring gear to bolt the prop hub on the engine for good. While this part can be ordered individually, most builders opt to pick up the while group on one shot.  We have this full group as complete kit, with the ultra light weight #2401-L Starter, covered under the single part #2400 -L. Ordering this group covers every part in the 2400 Group, and again allows the builder to “check off ” all the individual numbers in the group.  The story covering this can be rear here:  2400-L Starter

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2401- Starter.

2402- Starter mounting brackets

2403- Tail bracket.

2404- Fine gear.

2406- Top cover gasket.

2406- Top cover gasket.

2407- 5/16″-18 Top cover hardware.

2408- Ring gear.

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On to part #4……….

Closing a case at a College, Part #2

Builders:

Lets look at the Groups involved:

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1000  The Crankshaft Group

1100 The Camshaft Group

1200 The Case Group

2000 Rear oil Case Group

2100 Harmonic Balancer Group

2400 Starter Group

2500 Hub Group

3000 Weseman 5th bearing Group

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OK, to get to what I call a “Complete Closed Case” a builder needs everything from each of the above groups. Not all of it comes from us. Some of it is from the Core, Some from the Wesemans, and some from Clark’s. The most important thing is to look at every individual part number, and make sure you have all of them on hand before you go after assembling the case at a College or home. Being at a college, but not having a set of main bearings, effectively prevents you from getting anywhere on the case. Usually someone has a spare set, but don’t count on it, come prepared.

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1001- Crank -A (8409 GM) or -B (Weseman new Billet)

1002- Crank gear

1003- Crank gear key

1004- Crank gear gasket

1005- Rear keys -2-

1006- Fuel pump eccentric

1007- Spacer

1008- Bronze distributor drive gear

1009- Oil slinger

1010- Main bearings

1011- Connecting rod bearings

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OK. If the goal is to close the case, and you send your stock core crank to the Wesemans at SPA for processing into a Gen 1 5th bearing crank, it is going to come back with #’s 1001-A through #1004. You will need to #1005 keys, and #1006-#1009, are just cleaned up off your core engine. CRITICALLY, you must get a main bearing set that matches the grind on your crank. Ie, if the crank is ground .010″ under, you need “10 under mains.” for bearings. These do not come with the crank.  #1011 are the rod bearings, and they must also match the crank grind, but you will not need them to get to a “Completely Closed Case.”  You can take this link: http://flywithspa.com/corvaircomponents/new5thbearingcrankshaft.html directly to Dan and Rachel’s site for crankshaft rework information.

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Cam group (1100)

1101- Cam

1102- Thrust washer

1103- Key

1104- Cam gear

1105- Hydraulic lifter set -12 total-

1106- Cam lubricant

1107- ZDDP oil additive

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At a College, we do not have the capability of installing a cam gear. Thus #1101 through 1104 have to get there assembled correctly. I have written about this in : Cam Washer, looking for a gray area. No kidding, I am not going to assist people in building motors at colleges with loose cam washers. If you are coming to the next college, and you have a cam with a loose washer, send it to me ASAP, and I will fix it (it will cost money, I am going to ‘kill’ the gear and replace it) and bring it to the college, The solution that most people are choosing these days is to just get the entire contents of the 1100 Group from us: 1100-WW Camshaft Group. To close the case you will need #1006, but you will not need #1005 and #1007 until later.

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Case Group (1200)

1201- Case -2 halves with studs-

1202- Main case bolts  and nuts-8-

1203- Pipe plugs for oil galleries -2-

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Here we have a tiny group, the Case.Now, there are a lot of notes that can be applied here, but keep in mind we are just looking at the overview big picture. The one note that I want to point out is that the case has no machine work on a 2700/2850 but the six bores in the case for the cylinders must be machined larger on a 3,000 cc engine. Of course, this is done before it is assembled. If you are going to build a 3,000cc engine, you must ship me the case in advance of the college, so I can have it machined. Some advance planning is in order, I can’t do this a week before the event. I have the ability to fix one or two head studs per case at the college, but if you need more than that, consider shipping the case to us in advance. If you send us a dirty case, we can have it cleaned, but it does cost $100. We have a wash tank at colleges, but it is for final cleaning, not degreasing stuff that should have arrived clean.

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Now, let’s get a look at the four parts in the group and think about putting a case together. Using just these numbers as a check list and something of a road map, any builder can put together a plan to assemble their case at a Corvair College Actually all the effort to get to that stage goes into the prep work, cleaning and a little shopping. It you lay out all the properly prepared components from groups 1000, 1100 and 1200 in front of me on the bench, and get me an assembly stand and my trusty Snap-on torque wrench “Excalibur“, I can assemble the case in about 45 minutes.

Now I say this in bad conscience because I once took 2 days to do it.  There was a tiny ding in one of the bearing surfaces that was putting a small amount of extra drag on the turning crank and bothering me. I took it apart 6 times to find it and make it right. Keep in mind, it’s not a contest, the winning score is being happy with it, and any amount of time it takes between 45 minutes and 48 hours is fine. BTW, everything we are talking about here is in our engine assembly DVD #1 that covers building up a case.

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…. on to part #3

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Closing a case at a College, Part #1

Builders,

Today we are 1 month away from Corvair College #33. A number of builders who have signed up are coming to close their case, and get ‘over the hump’ of getting the first third of their engine done. This series will highlight the steps in this process, and provide specific guidance. If you are planning on attending CC#33, keep in mind that we will close the sign up in just over 10 days, and the event is already 50% full. Read more on signing up here: Corvair College #33 sign up now open:

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18 months ago, I wrote a long series on options of getting started building your Corvair. The page containing the links to the 20 individual stories can be found here: Getting Started Reference page. The information is good, it needs only small revisions to bring it fully up to date, but it is well worth reading over an evening or two, so each builder can look at the options and map out his own plan.  In this series, I am going to look at only the two most popular options for closing a case, building a 3,000cc case set up for a Weseman Gen 2 bearing, and building a 2700cc case set up with a Weseman Gen 1 bearing.  The closest stories to these two options are Getting Started in 2013, Part #7, ‘Chas. Charlie’ Short Block and Getting Started in 2013, Part #5, ‘Allan Able’ short block. respectively. In the series we will update and detail each of these approaches.

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Fundamental to understanding our information here, is getting better acquainted with our numbering system. The new manual is based on it, as is our products page: ( http://www.flycorvair.com/products.html ) The Groups we will be working with are the following:

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1000  The Crankshaft Group

1100 The Camshaft Group

1200 The Case Group

2000 Rear oil Case Group

2100 Harmonic Balancer Group

2400 Starter Group

2500 Hub Group

3000 Weseman 5th bearing Group

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Over the next few nights, we will look at the elements of each of these that make up a first class closed Corvair Case. I invite builders to write in on the comments section and share any question or comment they have.

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Above, Blaine Schwartz and myself at CC#22. We are standing in front of his closed case. Note the smile, this is the look of a builder having a good time, making progress, learning with friends. Blaine is now flying this engine in his Zenith 750 : ( Flying Zenith 750, 2850 cc Corvair, Blaine Schwartz ) A college is an excellent setting to really get started on your engine in a knowledgeable, supportive setting. All you have to do is sign up, and do a little planning as detailed in this series. -ww.