Ford Man vs Old hairy Chevy Guy, season 12, episode 9, ‘the 55 minute brake job’

Builders,

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Another fun story of Ford vs Chevy, on the trip home from the 2018 Zenith Aircraft open house….

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Above, “Ford Man” aka Dan Weseman, performs regularly unscheduled maintenance on his Henry Wagon. We did this in the parking lot of an Auto Zone on the border of GA and TN on a toasty warm Sunday afternoon. Sharp eyes will note my 8 pound ‘Mr. Good Wrench’ behind Dan. I had it in the trailer to drive tent stakes at Oshkosh, but it also performed exceptionally well removing the Ford’s stuck brake rotor. Real motorheads don’t bring folding pliers to a sledgehammer fight.

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OK, picture this: I’m driving down the eastern side of Mont Eagle in the left lane,  passing 18 wheelers who don’t want to test the runaway truck ramps. In the right seat, Dan is humming the ‘Brady Bunch’ theme song, just to see if he can make me socially regress to a caged squirrel by the end of the trip. Under pressure, I step on the brakes a little hard to avoid a Prius, and the Ford self-ejects a front pad, and auto converts to ‘full metallic’ brakes. The sound this makes is the perfect audio representation of my mental stress from listening to ‘here’s a story, of a man named Brady…’ for the 500th time in my head.

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We put in to an Auto Zone, and get out the tools. Dan buys new pads and a rotor, and we get to work. It is a slow sales day, and the staff watches us through the window. They are young, and to them we are both ‘old hairy guys’. Although I’m sure they have seen their share of parking lot repairs, they watch as Dan and I go after this with the fury of a NHRA crew preping for the final round. We are determined to eat a late dinner back in our FL homes, still 450 miles distant. Nothing really goes wrong, but we do improvise and overcome, using all tools at our disposal, including the sledge, employed by Dan with extreme prejudice. We are done in less than an hour, the countermen say nothing, but they treat us differently, as we are clearly from the Motorhead tribe.

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The real story here isn’t Ford vs Chevy, it is Dan and I knowing that we were not going to spend the night in Georgia, nor be subjected to the whims of a dealership. The picture is just a visual snapshot of a mechanical self reliance that we carry around every day. Even when nothing is wrong, its still there with you, a feeling that you are not helpless in the mechanical world. It is independence, freedom and confidence rolled into one. If you get a good look at what we do in aviation, we don’t just sell parts, we work very hard to share the things we have learned in the mechanical world about the value of self-reliance in aviation settings. This comes free with the parts we sell, and the people who leave it on the counter are missing the best part of the adventure and the real travel opportunity, to move from who you were last year to who you want to be next year.

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wewjr

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“…Must strangle…Ford Man…”

Builders,

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I have been friends with Dan Weseman, aka: “Ford Man” for a dozen years. Ask any builder who knows us both, if they are being honest, they may say something civil about me, but Dan is nearly universally loved, thought of as a ‘nice guy’. He not only enjoys this, he actually cultures it by quietly needling my temper, with stories of silly builder stunts, and if I publicly boil over, Dan will step in as the calm voice of reason, affirming his ‘nice guy’ status. Its a fun game, and I fall for it nearly every time.

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Would your like some insight to why Dan really isn’t the super nice guy he is publicly perceived as? Here is a simple example:

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Above, Ford Man fuels the ford on the ride home from the 2018 Zenith Open house.

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We departed the Zenith factory about 8pm on Saturday night to take a chunk out of the 1,050 mile return trip. We hit a motel in Paducah about 1 am, and set the alarm for 6 am, hoping to eat dinner at home in Florida. We are exhausted when the alarm goes off, but this doesn’t stop Dan from singing the entire theme to “the Brady Bunch” in a very loud voice. It was his insidious plot to get it stuck in my brain for the rest of the day. It’s a cheap ploy, but it worked. Grabbing a coffee in the lobby, he sets the mental hook by singing the chorus under his breath; I pretend I don’t notice, but it’s sticking; every hour or two in the truck he hums a few bars, and by the time we are nearing Chattanooga, the song is playing on a tape loop in my head, and  he knows this. Progressively through the long day Im losing my mind, and he is getting calmer appearing by the hour. This is how I end up with the reputation as somewhat short fused. If anything happens, Dan will step in and be the calm voice of reason, explaining that I have been under considerable stain, but failing to mention that strain started at 6 am with him blurting out “Here’s the story, of a man named Brady…”

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By late afternoon, I’m thinking of strangling him, but he is too big to take on physically, and even if I did, I already know that people would say “Dan is such a nice guy, wonder why that nut William attacked him for no reason…” 

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Wewjr

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Val Westedt’s Zenith 650 / Corvair at the 2018 Open House

Builders,

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Val and Craig Westedt brought their magnificent Zenith 650 back for another flying visit to the factory, where the kit was made. The plane captured a lot of attention, and Val was actually bringing to lose her voice by Saturday from speaking with so many Zenith builders.

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They are both first class people, the kind I hoped to meet when I started my work in 1989. In public they are friendly and outgoing, in small groups they are very helpful, and privately they are supportive, the best kind of friends you can imagine. They are the kind of people that make my efforts rewarding. They are special, but not unique, we have many good people in the world of Corvair building and flying, and if you prefer such company, you will fit right in.

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Val kept the cowl open on her plane all day long. She is on the far side of the cockpit, speaking with a builder. Note how much of our Corvair cowling is open with just a few 1/4 turn fasteners. It allows a full preflight inspection of the engine and systems. Our educational efforts teach builders to understand what they are looking at. The average  pilot’s preflight inspection isn’t impeded by only having a dipstick door to look through, no one trained him what to look for anyway.

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Above, Val’s rudder, with my Corvair sign on one side and the Zenith main hangar name on the other. It was a very well framed image, I later noticed that Zenith’s official event photographer framed nearly the same image for their website.

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Wewjr

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Mrs. Motorhead at Zenith Open House.

Builders,

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Pictured below is Crystal Meyr, in the Corvair tent at the Zenith Aircraft 2018 Open house. She is from the next town over from Zenith, and she was with family, making her first visit to the factory. Although she is not yet part of aviation, she was welcome because Zenith works very hard to affirm their position as a 25 year employer and part of their community, and they really understand the meaning of hospitality.

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Read this Close: Crystal is in her 20’s, a wife, mother and middle school teacher, all great, but check out the image on her phone: It is her personal 1964 Chevelle, which she has owned for a decade, and personally done a frame off restoration on.  I know 1960s Chevys very well, and after just a moments conversation, it was very obvious this woman is a real Motorhead, a person who really understood her machine, not someone content to write checks to be a mere owner. Little wonder that our tent, focused on learning and building Chevrolet aircraft engines, caught her attention. If you know both cars and planes, you understand there is actually more hours of work in her restoration than building a Zenith 750. She clearly has the mechanical aptitude and persistence to be an aircraft builder. 

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After meeting her, I explained she should try out a demo flight. I walked her into the office to meet Joyce, who greeted her warmly and extended Roger’s card. When we stepped out to the ramp, she met Roger in person, and got a look at the factory 750 Cruiser. Her family were very pleasantly surprised by how outgoing the Zenith crew were.  This was not special treatment, this is a typical example of how they address visitors and builders.

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Over my 29 years in aviation, I can’t think of a single company who can match Zenith for a relaxed, welcoming attitude to both builders and their community.  We all know many outfits who are owned by people with control issues, people who only treat people with thick wallets courteously, people who will never be seen as assets to their communities, far less be there for 25 years. Zenith is the polar opposite of such people, and this is the element that runs through their work.  It may take a number of years for Crystal to show up at a Zenith open house in the Chevy powered Zenith she will build, but no rush, Zenith Aircraft will certainly be around for the long run.

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wewjr

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Jim Zuege’s 3.0L Corvair – w/CMP

Builders,

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Here is another engine that ran flawlessly on the stand at the Zenith Open House, just two days ago. Jim did a very nice job putting together his 3,000 cc Corvair. It too only 2 seconds of cranking to go from collection of parts which had never run, to a living breathing motor on my test stand. I have seen this more than 500 times, but it never gets old. Witnessing another person’s personal moment of victory never does.

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Jim is not a natural ham. I took about 15 tries to get this really good CMP. Most readers might think these moments should be more focused on careful engine monitoring, but truth be told, the engines do their break in with boring regularity and little supervision. The CMP is just a ritual used to pass the time on a break in run.

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wewjr.

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Bob Clarke’s Zenith run, w/requisite CMP.

Builders,

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Below is a picture of Bob Clarke’s 3,000 cc Corvair, destined for his Zenith 750, running on my test stand at the 25th Zenith Aircraft Factory Open House three days ago. It was a flawless break in run, it started after 2 seconds of cranking.

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Above three pictures of the required CMP “The Captain Morgan Pose” , which all Corvair engine builders do when their engine runs. Its something fun which has become a tradition over the years.  To see a previous CMP photo contest, get a look here: “Captain Morgan” Contest at #39 –  read the comments, they are pretty funny.

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This all may sound pretty silly, but when your moment of triumph arrives, you also will give in to tradition and silly fun as your peers cheer you on.

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Please you the comments section to vote for the ‘peoples choice’ CMP in these pictures.

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wewjr

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3.0 Corvair, Bob Clarke

Builders

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The second engine to run at CC #42 / 2018 Zenith open house was built by Bob Clark for his 750.

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Above , Bob turns the prop while e pre-oil his engine. When we buttoned it up it took less than 2 seconds of cranking to light and run perfectly. A very memorable mile stone in project.

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Wewjr

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