World’s fastest Simplex


I worked in the hangar today prepping a production engine for a test run tomorrow. Although it rained on an off here, it was tee shirt weather, and a good day for getting into a working groove. In the afternoon, Vern stopped by and kept me company, and we talked about all the things we would like to do this year.


Somewhere in the conversation Vern brought up the my 1955 Simplex, which I keep as a piece of art in the living room. I have had the bike for more than 20 years, it stared as a bare chassis I found at the Turkey Rod Run. Vern asked when the last time I had it running was, and I said about 12 years.  While I was prepping the engine, Vern wheeled  the Simplex from the living room to the hangar and cleaned the carb and the gascolater.  It didn’t take much monkeying, it started on the second pull. After airing up the tires, we took it for a few laps around the airpark.




Above a 19 second movie of Vern riding the bike. “The Worlds Fastest Indian” is Vern’s all time favorite movie, thus the story title. Original Simplex’s had modest power. Mine has 2 times the output and an asymmetric  Comet overdriven variable speed drive. The originals went about 35 mph. I clocked mine at 56mph on the taxiway at the Spruce Creek Fly-in, but since the tires are dry rotted today, neither of us did more than 30 mph or so.



Above, the bike beside our runway at dusk. Simplexes were made in New Orleans 1935-60, at the worlds first air-conditioned assembly line. They were the brain child of Paul Treen. The bike only weighs 125 pounds. If you look at pictures all the way back to Corvair College #1, you can see it at our old hangar.


In 1989, I was offered a running Indian “30.50” Pony Scout for $2,500, but in a decision I have regretted ever since, I chose not to buy it for the shallowest of  reasons: I only had $50 more than that in the bank. I like bikes from the 1920s and 30s, but in the 1990s, they became really unaffordable, so I caught up with the idea of making something of the same flavor. Thus the bike above. It really isn’t useful, but most art has no utility.


Your Aviation Connection: If you are approaching home building for the best reason, because you want to lean, build your personal skills, and create something with your own hands, you will find that the skills you acquire, spill over into many other aspects of your mechanical world. This is particularly so for people who learn a lot about engines while homebuilding, a much smaller club. Vern and I knew how to start a decade dormant engine on the second pull, because we know how they work. There are a great number of people who can afford to buy any machine, but they live in dread of the moment it stops because they have chosen to know nothing about how it works. That is embarrassing on a bike, it has more serious consequences in planes. By choosing to learn all you can about planes, you are putting yourself in a small group of people….The ones who will know the rewards of homebuilding, not just the surface ones that can be bought by anyone.




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 and in more than 50 magazine articles.

4 Responses to World’s fastest Simplex

  1. Daniel Vandenberg says:

    Ha ha…in my world “simplex” follows “Herpes” as a common form of human misery ranging from cold sores to meningitis.

    I’d much rather the word be attached to an old motor bicycle. Cool. I’ll be reading up on this much happier sort of Simplex.

  2. TONY CRAWFORD says:

    Awesome man! I like it!!!

  3. jaksno says:

    Whimsical, fun! Extremely important aspects of the well lived life! I have ‘fixed’ innumerable items and devices from vacuum cleaners, 4 bbl carburetors, transmissions, cv joints, motorcycles and even a turbo charged Audi engine with aluminum head distorted beyond the limits of sealing (replaced with in tolerance used one, aided by JB weld (!!), plasti gauged journals and new bearings, cylinder honing, ring gap check – all outside on a gravel driveway (Aviators will all shudder over that with good reason!) by simply, methodically, deliberately dis-assembling and cleaning them, carefully re assembling, checking specs, using factory manuals if available along the way and repeating the process when necessary. Enjoy! (but, again, NOT in aviation where the machine you work on might as well by your own heart or brain.)

  4. Dan Branstrom says:

    An acquaintance related this story. Her husband has a couple of Lotus automobiles from the 60s, and is in touch with other Lotus owners.

    At the time that Colin Chapman headed up Lotus, someone, who lived in one of the more sparsely populated areas of the U.S., bought one and complained to him that it was hard to get serviced. Chapman wrote them back and told them that they shouldn’t own a Lotus because they didn’t know how to work on it, as every Lotus owner should.

    You guys know how to work on the Simplex, so you deserve to have it.

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