Weekend work, December 2015


In our week, the normal work runs through Saturday at noon, as this is when the local post office closes. We mail almost everything by USPS, as 20+ years of trying everyone in the shipping business mailing tens of thousands of packages has conclusively proven “If it needs to get there economically, send it with the Post Office, if you need the item smashed, send it UPS, everyone else falls in between.” The hours between noon on Saturday and when ever we shut the shop down late Sunday night constitute “the weekend” but almost all of this time is spent in the hangar anyway, we just shift to projects instead of production parts.




Above, Ignition testing in action. Corvair/Panther builder, friend and neighbor Paul Salter works as an aeronautical engineer for the US Navy on the EA-6B prowler program at NAS Jacksonville M-F. Since Paul is a graduate of Embry-Riddle’s rival Parks, and he is a dyed in the wool Ford guy, it is nothing short of a miracle that I have talked him into using a Chevy on his plane.


 On Weekends, Paul spends all the hours at the airport here, and he has long proven to be a great asset, and if you have a Corvair in your shop, you are a beneficiary of his contribution if you have met him or not. His contributions run from loaning me his truck for the 3,400 mile Corvair College #34 tour: Back in Florida – 10 / 5 / 2015 to running ignition tests on retard boxes for these Ignition part #3301-DFI, a new optional system. Shown is “Dinosaur meets space program.” My 1947 Sun distributor machine is running the DFI distributor, while Paul’s laptop is programing the delay box that can control the timing curve electronically. This will be of use for planes in high altitude cruise, planes with turbos, or ones using N2O injection. The white box is a digital  DC power supply. The spread sheet on the laptop is displaying the information while also allowing the curve to be altered due to RPM and MAP.




Above, a test of how low a voltage the Crane ignition unit will work at. Look at the distributor machine, the red flashes are the firing indications shown by a strobe, projected onto a degree wheel. It is doing just great, and note the power supply is only showing 4.3 volts! Most computer ignitions on modern cars, that also involve electronic fuel injection, loose their ability to work below 10.5 volts. Our system works at far lower voltages (It actually needs slightly more than 4.3 to run the coil to send powerful sparks but the brains still work at 4.3V) The crane units and simple coils also use very little power, allowing a Corvair to run many hours off a battery that had just enough power to crank it. Many electronically dependent automotive conversions will run less than 20 minutes after the alternator throws a belt or the voltage regulator gives out. As responsible people, we test things to know that we promote a system with a great margin of safety.




Above, our test stand, under constant refinement since we made it in 2004. It replaced the original stand that served from 1989-2003. Together they have run hundreds of engines. In 2016, this one will make the great western tour, covering these events:

Outlook 2016, College #36 and Western building tour

Outlook 2016, Corvair College #37 Chino CA, 4/22/16

Outlook 2016, Corvair College #38, Cloverdale CA, 5/6/16

To refine the stand and make it work better, and also get a N2O port in the intake, we spent some of Saturday afternoon working on it. One of the improvements was junking the cable throttle that it has used for years and replacing it with the lever and rod arrangement, which is much more positive. Alright motor heads, prepare to date yourselves: You are officially middle aged if you know the throttle arm is a Hurst Shifter: you could be approaching middle age if you know what a Hurst shifter was, and if you have never heard the term, you are likely a millennial, which is ok, but know that you missed the good cars. A Prius doesn’t make the world a better place in the same way that a W-30 455 cid Hurst Olds did. The rest of the linkage is an AN turnbuckle and a used Corvair pushrod, TIG welded to a ball socket.




Above, Vern Stevensen’s latest transportation project, in my front yard. What is good about Florida? Get a look at how green the grass is, on December 5th. On weekends, Vern is ‘On Call’ in our shop. He works on his own stuff, but is available 12 hours a day to jump in as required on flight stuff. Vern’s original trike: Fun with Agkistrodon Piscivorus and Vern’s Aero-Trike now has more than 20 thousand miles on it. It gets about 60-65 mpg, but Vern wanted to shoot for 100 mpg, in a vehicle built out of purely recycled tras….ahem, ‘Treasure.’ Thus the new “light trike.”




Above, The powerplant is a Honda 250 elite scooter driveline. In stock form, these will drive a large scooter to 70+mph. The frame is random tubing cutoffs from my hangar pile. The front suspension is a widened 4 wheeler ATV, steering is a rack and pinion from lawn equipment. Front hubs are Geo metro rear brakes, which I turned down the ATV spindles to fit. The canopy is RV-3 flymart buy. Front tires are space saver spares from a Geo. Thus retains the full electrical harness and instrument panel from the scooter. In Florida, this is an entirely street legal vehicle that requires no insurance, special paperwork, nor inspections. Vern is thinking about putting stringers on it and making the ‘body’ from fabric aircraft  covering. The canopy and frame lift to get in and out, but the canopy also slides forward 18″ while driving for optional ventilation. The weight right now is about 200#s but he wantes it to stay under 300 done.




Above, ScoobE checks the mailbox. It is a half mile walk from the house. Our business address that we use for work is actually 10 miles from the house, but that is where the closest grocery store is, etc. It gets checked just about every day. The neighborhood box is just for family letters. My Dad who turns 90 this month, is one of the worlds great letter writers. Since I first moved to Florida in 1984, he has send me about 200 a year. I have every single one of them carefully stored. The are often just regular news, but they are the glue that holds the family together, and they are also the documentation of all the family history, going back to all the stories my father’s  grand parents told him 80 years ago, like how my great grand mother walked alone, the 90 miles to Belfast, and got in 4th class steerage to begin work as an indentured servant in a wealthy home in NJ. It was 1868, and she was 12 years old. Through years of toil she was able to bring her siblings to America. She never saw her parents again. Somber, but a great reminder of how comparatively wonderful my life has been.




11 Replies to “Weekend work, December 2015”

  1. We don’t have to look very far to see how blessed we are to live in the USA. Hay Paul, that 351 Cleveland block might work lol, dan-o

  2. “A Prius doesn’t make the world a better place in the same way that a W-30 455 cid Hurst Olds did.”


  3. I knew it was a Hurst Shifter, but I can’t be middle aged yet, it must be some sort of clerical error. I would be happy to fill out any paperwork necessary for an exemption in this case. What if I claimed to not know the tune to Freebird, or maybe if I feigned ignorance regarding the operation of a rotary dial phone? Would that help?

    1. Tim,
      By virtue of my birth in 1962, and therefore baby boomer status, I hereby confer upon you the position of “Middle aged emeritus” along with all rights and responsibilities concordant with said position, and hence forth you will be recompensed at a rate of two old Car Craft magazines per annum. Let it be so.

  4. Back in the day the Hurst shifter was performance plus. A hot car had one especially when the Muncie M-20 “rock crusher” 4 speed came along. Not long before that my grandparents (mom’s folks) still used a hand crank phone on a party line.
    I do think William is doing some really good R&D work.

    1. Harold,
      The work is very interesting, Paul and I did a lot of DFI ignition testing runs on Sunday night and again tonight. Lots of things tested, like the engine making 75hp, and the coil voltage reduced until it begins to loose power…it didn’t drop rpm until the voltage was below 6 volts, this is lower than I thought, a useful data point. An Odyssey 680 battery would supply the power to the coil for more than 10 hours at that setting.
      Because I wasted a significant portion of my youth working at Speed World of NJ (1981-86) and spending weekends living at Raceway park (Englishtown) and Atco, my brains limited capacity is clogged up with useless information like…… The ‘rock crusher’ is actually an M-22, the M-20 being the wide ratio 4 speed with the 2.56 first gear which is externally nearly indistinguishable from an M-22…….had I just enough common sense to know that being a 1960s style motor head was not a productive use of life in the 1980s I would have more space in my brain today for useful information.

      1. William,
        WPIX 8 O’clock movie. Wow, that’s a blast from the past. Do you remember Lloyd Lindsay young. I think he did a small sound bite on one of the Beasty Boys albums.


        Anyhoo, hope you’re having a great Christmas season.


        PS. The grass is still green here. 62 degrees today. I knew that case of hairspray would pay off.

  5. William,
    Thus the DFI should be really good operationally assuming users read the directions. The M-20/M-22 distinction is of course correct. Being at nominal retirement age I’m glad to have a chance to develop yet another career. Just have to sweep the cobwebs out of the attic…..

    1. Harold,
      The biggest operational difference with the DFI is that people can set the timing at idle,
      rather than full static rpm. From a building stand point, the HEI terminals on the cap are better. For expansion, it is a good basis for ignition to run a ‘black box’ unit to actively alter the timing to a programed setting. More news soon, I admire the way optimistically advance on things that are important to you. Too many people can list all the reasons why t5hey shouldn’t try something, before being able to articulately form a single sentence in support of their ideas, plans and dreams

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