How many Corvairs are left?

Builders,

The title of this story is a perfectly acceptable question, and one I frequently place an educated estimate on.  It doesn’t bother me, even if it is asked many times a day at Oshkosh.  I do however contrast this with the person, who walks into my booth at Oshkosh and pronounces, “There are no Corvairs left. “ or “They don’t make parts for Corvairs anymore.”

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I was just about to type “It takes a special kind of idiot to say such things in the face of demonstrable evidence otherwise” but that isn’t correct. Statements like that are not the utterances of special idiots, they are spouted by common idiots. I have actually had a guy flatly say they don’t make parts for these engines while leaning on a stack of new boxes of pistons that was 4 feet high. I pointed out to another person who said their are no engines available, the dozens of pictures on my website of recently finished Corvair powered planes, and asked him where he thought those engines came from. Ironically, no answer from the same guy who knew everything 2 minutes before.

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It has been my experience that you can’t use budget, prior experience, age, nor outlook to predict is a guy will be successful in homebuilding, however, I have noted that the guy who likes to start every conversation in homebuilding with a statement that he absolutely ‘knows’ to be true, is the guy least likely to enjoy learning, and therefore least likely to be a guy who finishes a plane. Be aware that common idiots are not just found at Oshkosh, they are at nearly every airport in the country. For a laugh, I highly suggest getting a look at this: A visit to the insane asylum .

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Above, a very heavy box in the back of my 3/4 ton truck in the front yard this morning.  It was 48″x 40″ by 40″ and packed solid with Corvair cylinder and connecting rod cores being truck shipped to Clark’s Corvairs in Massachusetts. the rear suspension is compressed about 8″.

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The box has about 50 engines worth of cylinders and rods, and these are all going back to Clark’s for reboring and rebuilding. I collect them up over time, and send them back in a large lot. Think this is a big amount? I have been to Clarks shop, and this isn’t 5% of what they have on hand, and I strongly doubt that Clark’s is holding 5% of the remaining Corvair cylinders….Oh, by the way, 2,850, 3,000 and 3.3L Corvairs are all based on new cylinders and rods, so everything in this box can be applied to 2,700cc Corvairs.

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There are probably less than 5% of the original 1.8 million Corvairs left. If that sounds small, it is 90,000 cars. We live in a nation of 250 Million registered cars. Any reasonable person can look at those numbers and understand a ratio of 2,778:1. and probably on the order of 20,000:1 in a daily driver comparison, why you don’t see a Corvair driving down your street everyday. But only the common idiot looks at those numbers, the giant box of cores, the fact I have been doing this since 1989, and Clarks has been doing Corvair parts for more than 40 years, and still is sure enough to say there are no Corvairs left.

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Automotive production numbers dwarf anything aviation has ever made: The Jabbaru 3300, the Rotax 912 and the Continental O-200 are all good engines that serve particular builders. These engines have been made for 20, 30 and 60 years respectively. Corvair were produced for just 10 years 1960-69, but consider this: They made more Corvairs in the first 10 days of production in 1960 than Jabbaru has built 3300’s in the last 20 years; To match 30 years of 912s took GM till the third week of production in 1960; To match 60 years of O-200s took the GM engine plant about 50 days in 1960. And from there GM went on to another decade of engine building. It is my educated estimate, that there are more Corvair core engines remaining in the US, than the entire combined production of 3300’s 912s and O-200s. Give that some thought the next time someone tells you there are no more Corvairs.

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-ww.

About William Wynne
I have been continuously building, testing and flying Corvair engines since 1989. Information, parts and components that we developed and tested are now flying on several hundred Corvair powered aircraft. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics and an A&P license from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and have a proven 20 year track record of effectively teaching homebuilders how to create and fly their own Corvair powered planes. Much of this is chronicled at www.FlyCorvair.com and in more than 50 magazine articles.

5 Responses to How many Corvairs are left?

  1. Kevin Purtee says:

    I heard you couldn’t get parts for these motors anymore.

  2. Sarah Ashmore says:

    I understand your position William but it has always bothered me that people starting a conversion of a single Corvair conversion tend to pick up multiple cores so they can have extra parts on hand. To me this has always seemed wasteful because every spare core they buy up is one less core available for other builders. And yes there will still be plenty of cores out there they will become more difficult to locate as the density of the supply dwindles.

    So while important items like cylinder assemblies and cranks are available new the supply of cases and heads could be depleted. Unless all the “Extras” get pooled together for future builds there could be problems down the road. While Clarks has lots of parts they might not have enough to take the place of a good core and it would certainly increase the cost to buy an engine piece by piece.

    Maybe I am being irrational but that is my feeling on the matter.

    • Sarah,
      One of the things I have found is a builder getting 2 or 3 cores often heads to a college, were Dan and I look over all the stuff, and in a moment they realize they have plenty of extra stuff, and often sell it at cost to someone who showed up at the same college with just a manual. So even if they do pick up several, we can get them all into the supply chain just by having the opportunity for an in person inspection to assure the builder their needs are covered.

      While we have always tended to 1964-69 engines, you can put a billet crank, 3 liter liter kit and get going with a 61-63 core. Dan is looking at what it would take to use the heads off these engines, in terms of having enough CC’s in the chamber to get the compression lowered to a reasonable level. A lot of possibilities exist. if I am not worried about it no one else should be. -ww.

      • Sarah Ashmore says:

        Thanks William, it is reassuring to know that that my fears are not grounded and those potential problems are already being addressed.

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