The case for Simple Machines


Mike Quinn, who has attended many, many Corvair Colleges, drove this 1966 Ford Pick up to CC #43.  It makes a very visual case for simple machines.  Mike is a very interesting cat who owns more than 50 cars. His choice to take this vehicle on a casual interstate trip comes as little surprise if you know him. A common thread in his taste for people, plans and machines is simplicity.


While not everyone wants to have 50 year old truck as a daily driver, the example is well worth considering how it could apply to your plane, and what you would like to do with it.  Builders who select the Corvair as their engine already understand mechanical reliability comes from simplicity, the appeal of Machines vs Appliances Part #2, and that technology isn’t a substitute for an intelligent operator.  But the general philosophy bears application to your plans in aviation more than any other aspect of your life.




Above the engine compartment, a 300 cid Ford six. Note the absence of PS, PB, AC, etc, and how clean it looks. Your Corvair, in comparison to say a Rotax 912 has this same appeal. Beyond the visual aspect, you can not inspect what you can not see, and what you don’t have can not break. The truck has selected technology applied, it has a hybrid electronic ignition and a 5 speed manual, but neither of these lose the point of the exercise. Notice how much of the ground you can see in the picture.



Holley four barrel on a Clifford Research manifold. Original oil bath air cleaner. Tell me if you would prefer to change a heater hose on this truck or on say, a current Toyota Tundra?  Its easy to say that you would rather have an accident in a modern vehicle, but its just as easy for me to point out that thats not a factor in planes, and even in cars, to some of us who live in rural areas and have become too old to drive like we are still in high school.



A very simple instrument panel. There are aviation comparisons like:  Inexpensive Panel……..part one., and Inexpensive panel…….part two.. To me, there is an inherent appeal to the simple, getting away from things that you own but don’t understand, things where you are completely at the mercy of others to keep going, often very expensive things.


Last month I saw photos of an 80 mph day VFR homebuilt, with perhaps $20,000 in glass cockpit stuff. Plane had less than ten hours on it, and was severely damaged because the builder didn’t learn much about engines. It was an example of daydreaming about flying around looking at computers, ( on flights anyone with a plain  J-3 could have made ), but putting almost no effort into learning  much about how to install an engine and operate it. Your plane, your life, your choice, but perhaps getting the priorities right matters.



Mike Quinn’s truck outside the terminal at Barnwell Airport.






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.

6 Responses to The case for Simple Machines

  1. jaksno says:

    Those 300s are bombs (the good kind)….love to see grass through the engine compartment…if the 5th ratio is high enough, a la overdrive,…that’s what makes it interstate worthy. Nice body. {;^)

  2. Douglas says:

    Love simplicity. Like my ’74 Nova with an inline 250, manual brakes, manual steering, crank windows, manual door locks, manual mirrors, manual bench seat, rubber flooring. No AC, rear defroster or lighter. 4 wheel drum brakes were a little sketchy going through puddles though!

  3. Stuart Snow says:

    I cant tell for sure but it looks like the DUI distributor form Performance Distributors. I’m giving my jeep 258 rebuild the same treatment.

  4. Harold Bickford says:

    Lindbergh flew the Atlantic in a fairly simple aircraft which had only what was needed. He was also meticulous in his planning and flying. Such an approach speaks volumes fore what matters in aviation.

  5. John W says:

    I agree. When not driving Corvairs, my daily driver is a bone stock 1970 Chevy C10 long bed pickup; straight 6, 3-spd column shift, no power anything. Only one belt, running the waterpump/fan and alternator. Not much to break, easy to work on. And yes, I love opening the hood so people can see the ground though the engine compartment. I did concede to not driving after salt is put on the road (northeast), and I will admit parallel parking is a bear.

  6. Kerry says:

    I agree that the appeal of a simple machine is enticing, but I have to draw the line at safety. In that truck, a single-circuit brake system just doesn’t cut it anymore. I would strongly vehemently recommend converting the truck to dual-circuit, and swapping disk brakes for the front drums. And a vacuum booster wouldn’t hurt either.

    If he is going to be mixing it up in modern traffic, where “drivers” are either texting-while-driving, or have their eyes glued on the rear bumper of the car directly in front of them, he needs the best brakes he can put on that truck. Such an upgrade would be easily affordable, doable by the average shade-tree mechanic, and would stop at least 20 feet shorter. That 20 feet would be the difference between getting in an accident, and AVOIDING an accident. Please forward my recommendation to the owner. His life may depend on it.

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