Corvair / Buttercup – Dan Palmer

Builders,

This is a 2014 photo sent to me by Dan Palmer, the first person to build and fly a Corvair Powered Wittman/Luce Buttercup.  This airframe is one of the all-time great homebuilt designs, from the mind of one of the greatest aviators of all time Steve Wittman.

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Two lessons here:

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If you think that you are too old to build a plane because AARP sends you junk mail, know this: Dan Plamer’s EAA membership number is 3065. Thats right, only four digits. I joined 29 years ago and my number is 331,351.  This guy is serious ‘old school’, he could have voted for Harry Truman. If your first election was after that, time for you to head out to the shop and get building.

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Second, I included his original engine parts order in the picture. Note that it was placed and filled in 2004. Twelve more years elapsed before Dan’s engine went flying. Many planes are a personal lifetime goal, and the builders are not competing with anyone. They may be on a budget, have family obligations, or just approaching each task with a goal of mastery. 2004 was my 15th year in the engine business. Nearly every single engine company from that period is gone. Engine companies that have short life spans don’t serve traditional old school builders. Working with Corvairs since 1989, I am here for the long run. Read: What defines ‘reputable’ in our industry?

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Above, Dan’s creation in New Mexico. The Corvair and the Buttercup are a natural match. Wittman’s original was powered with a number of different engines, but he intentionally stuck with a high reving C-85 installation.

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Today, I find it ironic for anyone to claim to admire Wittman’s designs, but not like auto engines. He was one of the greatest advocates of alternative engines and high rpm direct drive props ever.  I know what I’m speaking of, read this: From The Past: With Steve Wittman 20 years ago today. Wittman’s Oldsmobile V-8 powered Tailwind flew us on a 62″ metal prop turning 3,600 rpm at 195mph. It was no slouch.  His VW powered V-Witt design was the perennial Formula-V national champion.

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It is not a myth that Wittman flew his planes at wide open throttle as a cruise setting, and he liked 500AGL as a cross country altitude. With the props he liked, this meant the original C-85 Buttercup going 145mph with the engine at 3,400 rpm. That is 825 rpm above the C-85s published redline. At 3,400 the C-85 probably made 110-115hp.

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Wittman derided anyone who put a 150-160hp Lycoming in his designs and then throttled back to 115hp for cruise. He may look grandfatherly in pictures, but in person he had a sharp tonge for people who believed old wives tales about slow turning props.  Wittman understood that with the right prop, the 3,400rpm Continental was virtually as efficient and powerful as a throttled back Lycoming, but it was 100 pounds lighter and  less expensive. Everything I have said about the efficiency of Corvair engines with reduced diameter props is taken straight from the Steve Wittman playbook. When you encounter someone making a statement about smaller props not being efficient, recognize they are calling Steve Wittman, the greatest air racer that ever lived, an idiot or a liar.

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WEWjr.

Engine Cores and Parts at SPA

Builders,

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Every airshow has builders who ask about the availability of core engines and rebuildable parts to work with. Below are two pictures I took in the storage building at the SPA/Panther factory.  The images should demonstrate the availability of Corvair core engines, and also point out that we have complete core engines available for builders working with SPA and ourselves.

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Above, one of two pallets of GM 8409 forged cranks to be fully reworked and matched to Gen II 5th bearings. These cranks are destined for base level builds. about 50% of 3.0L Corvairs and 100% of 3.3L Corvairs use SPA’s brand new made in the USA Billet cranks. Read more here: SPA Billet Corvair Cranks. For a look at the three crank options, look at this story: Update notes to 2014 manual, 1000 – Crankshaft group.

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Above, piles of heads, cases, and the end of a row of core motors.  SPA keeps a very large collection of head cores to support their high end Corvair flight head program. They have now made more sets of Corvair Flight heads than any other company, ever. From the start, Dan’s goal was to have them available on the shelf which they now are. In years previous, our former supplier Falcon got to the point of being a year behind. This had not been an issue in the years since Dan started offering heads.

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The cases pictured are mostly from my collection, featured in this story: Corvair Case sale, 36 available, $100 each.. The picture illustrates the availability of parts, and our willingness to invest in them to support builders in a timely fashion.

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Above, a pickup load of complete Core engines I brought to SPA in January. These and others are available for sale now. If you are a builder yet to find a core, but planning on attending the open house next month, it would be a good idea to contact SPA in the next few days to purchase one of the cores we have on hand. All progress on planes starts with the decision that you will take action when opportunity appears.

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SPA=904-626-7777.

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The Next Event on the Schedule:

FlyCorvair/SPA – Joint Workshop/Open house, May 18,19,20

Read the link now and make a plan today.

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WEWjr

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