Sources: Group 1500 – New cylinder head source

This is part seven in the ‘new sources’ series.

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Builders,

In the numbering system of our conversion manual, the cylinder heads are Group 1500.  Over the years, a very small number of builders did their own rebuilding, but the great majority of builders bought heads that were complete and ready to bolt on.  The conversion manual has a short history of how the heads we have used evolved over time. In 25 years, we have had 4 different primary suppliers. Today we have a new one that we recommend, and that is the Weseman’s at SPA. https://flywithspa.com/corvair/.

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The Corvair above has heads made here in Florida. So does the 3.3L engine in this film:

https://flywithspa.com/the-stroker-engine-is-here-see-video/

Having a steady flow of high quality production heads, the same for heads for builders, and heads for projects like his 3.3L engine motivated the development of a reliable source here in Florida. This is nothing new, between 1996 and 2005, every head we put on an engine was made here in Florida.

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Starting last year, I told builders that ‘we’ were developing a second source in Florida, because Falcon Machine, our previous head shop, had fallen way behind and had lead times ranging from 12 to 24 months.

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The ‘we’ in the above paragraph refers to myself and Dan Weseman. We jointly had a number of sets done in Jacksonville, while doing about 50 to 75% of the prep work in our shops. Dan’s motivation was that he had sold nearly 50 Panther kits, and a third of these people are planning on Corvair power. Dan asked Mark if he would produce these heads, but over 20 months he didn’t even send the first set.  For my part, I have complete engines to build, and Mark had only made me 2 sets in 2 years, and he was producing only a small number for builders. No conversation could motivate him, so it was time to develop another source.

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After extensive effort, It was apparent that Dan has greater resources, particularly with their bigger labor force, and it would be better if he ran the new head program 100%. I loaded the entire back of my pickup full of my core head collection and drove it down to the SPA shop, and I also sold my core collection at Falcon machine to Dan, who is having it shipped to Florida.  Dan is very serious about producing very high quality heads, in quantity, and eventually having many sets of them on the shelf, that any builder can buy without waiting.  This will be a radical improvement in the world of Corvairs. Just as with other parts, I have no financial incentive to endorse Dan’s heads, they are just a better option for builders.

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Lest anyone find this unfair to Mark at Falcon, let me take a moment to remind them that no human on planet earth, has said more good things about Mark than I have. If you look at his website, and the writing sounds familiar, it is because I wrote every word of that also.  Over 10 years of knowing him I brought him to many colleges, to our booth at Oshkosh, and my countless stories brought him plenty of work and justifiable praise, but in the end, it didn’t motivate him much.  In recent years his snails pace of production left many people who ordered engines from us angry a slow deliveries, while Mark often made heads for engines he could sell himself lucratively.  It is another case where he could have just stuck to his main product, heads, but he chose not to.  I had many good times with him and friends are important, but one person is not more important than dozens of builders who have put great effort over years to build and fly their planes.

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Below, a serious issue: Three valves from Corvairs. On the left is a $9 valve, OK quality, not the best choice in top quality heads. Although he once installed Inconel valves in engines, Mark was unwilling to invest $8K in a production run of them, so he reverted to the valve on the left. ( $8K isn’t a big amount of money to invest in a main line aircraft product, Grace and I spend 20 times that in materials in an average year. )

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On the right is a stock used original GM valve. It came out of a Corvair core at Barnwell that had 100,000 miles on it last year. At the event, Ken Pavlou burned out a valve just like the one on the left. We replaced it with the old GM valve as a field repair. We didn’t grind it, just lapped it by hand. Although it is used, almost 50 years old, and went flying 100 hours, it is actually in better shape than the one on the left, because GM put better valves in it than $9 buys today. Ken mailed his heads down over the winter, and I replaced all the valves with high quality ones, the same make that Dan uses in his heads. Cost: $240. Ken’s plane has much better compression. It flew to Oshkosh and is running great. Quality parts count.

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In the middle, a Chinese valve with 30 hours on it. This was actually installed in a set of heads By Roy at Roy’s garage. Get a look at the split in it. Roy made a $1200 set of heads to replace ones that had flown for 5 years with reground GM valves. The new valves only lasted 30 hours. In discussing it before I saw the heads, Both Mark and Roy were adamant that it must have been something the builder/pilot was doing. They made this claim even after seeing the heads. Neither of them is a pilot, and the person they were accusing of causing this has several thousand hours, and about 250 in their Corvair powered plane. I explained to them that I didn’t believe the pilot was doing anything different. When I got to see the valve, and understood that the issue was a $5 Chinese valve, but the two of them still wanted to believe that all problems are caused by pilots. Eventually I found out that this wasn’t the only time they had seen the exact same thing, but they had stuck to the story that it must be the builders fault. The automotive world can afford such attitudes of infallibly, but there isn’t room for it in aviation.

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“Phase IV Heads” – A good joke.

Mark from Falcon and Roy’s Garage have teamed up to promote a ‘special’ head modification they want to charge builders an extra $500 for. They call this “Phase IV”.  Since Mark never got his dyno working, they ran it on Roy’s simple one, and they claim it makes great magical power increases,  It did improve Ron Lendon’s 601, but that plane didn’t run well to start, and now it is as fast as a regular 601. But here is the inside joke: Mark and I have seen the original 1979 Mad Max countless times. A great apocalyptic fiction film. Watch the you tube clip below at :23 where Barry the mechanic says “Phase IV Heads”. Great stuff, but the movie was fiction, the blower on the car was fake, and there is no such thing as “Phase IV heads”, unless you need to talk people into waiting another year for heads or sending their heads back to have the Chinese valves quietly removed, for the modest cost of $500.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpDLeo4lcCg

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-ww.

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