If you are something of an ‘old school’ guy in the world of alternative engines, you might recognize both of the people in the picture below:
Above, Subaru guru Chuck Condas on the left, and a much younger version of myself on the right. The photo was taken 12 years ago at Sun n Fun. Although we look like kids, 2004 was my 15th consecutive year at the fly in, and Chuck had already moved on from the world of alternative engines.
Something most Homebuilders are yet to understand: Homebuilding really isn’t a big industry, and the world of alternative engines is a small part of it. In this world, most alternative engine guys who have been around for a number of years, know each other, and usually get along pretty well. The partisan rhetoric on the internet said by ‘fans’ of one engine over another is not reflective of how established engine guys get along in person. Our website has many photos of engine gurus of all types and layouts hanging out at our Oshkosh tent after hours.
While there are a lot of zealots who come and go, the people who last in alternative engines tend to be people who find an innovative solution that serves a segment of the market. To a zealot, anyone who doesn’t choose his engine is ‘stupid’, to an innovator, they are just an individual making a choice that suits them differently. There are fans of a particular design, brand, layout or provider that are far bigger zealots than the guru that actually works with that format. Most alternative engine guys know this well. If you think about it, I have a lot of experiences in common with the other dozen alternative engine gurus who have been around for a decade or more than I do with any internet commentator who is going to buy or build and engine ‘someday.’
Fifteen years ago, my work with the Corvair was most often compared with that of Subaru guru Chuck Condas. Chuck had put a belt reduction on a turbo EA-81 and installed it on his avid flyer, accumulating 500 hours. He wrote a very candid book about it, and self published it. His approach was not the kind of ‘vanilla ice cream Disneyland experience’ that print magazine editors insisted on then. Chuck really didn’t care, he wasn’t born to be a conformist. His book was a very big seller in the late 1990s.
I spent a lot of evenings at Sun n Fun with Chuck, and he told me that he felt the whole industry had gone commercial, and homebuilding had changed, and he wasn’t a fan of things people said on the net. I thought these things also, but wanted to fight the trend. Chuck was of a different mindset. He had said his piece, and wasn’t interested in the conflict. He said he was going back to Taos NM, and was going to build planes his own way, in anonymity, in a very beautiful setting. To his perspective, one would have to be a masochist to try to rekindling the original spirit and values of homebuilding in the age of the internet discussion group, when all the trends were heading the other way. Sun n Fun 2005 was the last time I saw him, but it wasn’t quite the last time I heard from him.
A few years later, I wrote a long post on an internet discussion group, about a series of tests we had done on Corvairs. I thought it had been interesting work, and it had opened my eyes to some new ideas. Alas, my testing had contradicted the pet theories of some internet personalities, and they responded with a long series of posts saying the test were worthless, I was condescending, I was just a salesman, their mechanical engineering degree trumped any A&P tests and observations, some comments about my alleged politics, etc. near the end of these was a strange encrypted post from a mystery email name that simply had the numbers “36.40 – 105.60.” Everyone else missed it, but I knew this was the most mocking criticism of them all…….It was Chuck sending me the Lat-long of Taos NM.
3 Replies to “A different path in homebuilding”
We Taoseno’ folks tend to think in a bit different wavelength. Most understand the anonymity factor very well. In Western Taos County if your not a bit “off the map” (check out the Indie movie starring Sam Elliot by that name) in how you think then the place is foreboding. For others that have the vibe correct there is no other home on earth, even when in the Corporate or city. Some folks never leave even if the body is not here in other words.
Corvairs fit right in since most of the older folks are ex-hippies (real hippies never had jobs..too much “establishment”). We have some transplants that come here with a lot of money and they end up living very isolated because of the unreality of that fact being meaningless here.
An example in progress is the new owner of Taos Ski Valley. Transplants with less than a mountain of cash that come here on vacations often try to make the way they used to live work here also. Both types never “get it”. They move on never knowing why they cannot change the place..Chuck made it back sane. Bravo for him! Thanks for the story William. I’ll be smilin all the way to my solar powered off grid shop
36.37 – 105.81
40.39, -95.83 plus or minus