Basic Corvair information

Builders,

Here as a basic breifing on Corvair flight engines for builders getting a first look at using one.

Above, A  3,000 cc Corvair flight engine. I built this particular one for the SPA Panther aerobatic aircraft, and has powered the prototype aircraft through it’s introductory season. The Corvair is a popular option on more than 20 different experimental airframes.

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The Corvair is a General Motors designed engine, manufactured by Chevrolet.  1.8 million engines were built in the Tonawanda New York engine plant between 1960 and 1969. The Corvair has been flying on experimental aircraft since 1960, and I have been working with them as flight engines since 1989. It is a story of careful development and testing, a slow evolution to the engines we have today. It is ‘old and proven’ rather than ‘new and exciting.’

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– Configuration:  The engine is a horizontally opposed, air-cooled, six cylinder configuration. We only promote its use as a simple, direct drive power plant. The engine configuration is very similar to Lycomings and Continentals.

Displacement: The engine is effective without a gearbox or belt drive because it has a comparatively large displacement. We have versions that are 2,700, 2,850 and 3,000 cc. The smallest of these are twice as big as a Rotax 912.

Power: Corvairs have three different power ratings. 100, 110 and 120 hp. These correspond to the three displacements. They make their rated power at 3,150 rpm. They have wide power bands, making 75% power at 2,650 rpm. All engines will exceed their rated power at higher rpm, and they can be continuously run at full power at 3,600 rpm without damage.

Weight: The engine weighs 225 pounds ready to run. This is effectively the same as a Continental O-200. It’s installed weight is 35 pounds more than a 912 Rotax, 25 pounds more than a Jabaru 3300. The Corvair is 40 pounds lighter than a Lycoming O-235. 3,000 cc Corvairs are slightly lighter than 225 lbs. because we have special cylinders made for them which make these engine 5 pounds lighter.

– Reliability: From the factory, the Corvair made up to 180 HP in the car and turned more than 5,500 rpm. The engine is reliable and long-lasting because we are only operating at 60% of these levels. Conversion engines that run at the car’s red line rpm historically have short lives and cooling issues.

Cost: We sell complete engines from $9,750 to $11,750. However, 90% of our builders assemble their own engines working from our Conversion manual, DVDs, parts and support and a rebuildable core engine they pick up locally. Typically, they budget $6,500-8,500 to build a first class, zero timed, engine.

Cooling: The Corvair has a factory cylinder head temp limit of 575F. This is the highest limit on any mass-produced air-cooled engine ever built. The engine as also the first mass-produced turbocharged car. GM engineered the motor to have excellent heat tolerance and heat dissipation. In aircraft the engine typically runs at 325 to 350 CHT.

Parts availability: Every wearing part in the engine has continuously been in production for 5 decades. The engine pictured above, only has an original pair of cases, and oil housing and cylinder head castings. All other parts in the engine, including the crankshaft, are brand new. Many of the parts in the engine, like the lifters and valve train, are common to Chevy v-8s. There is no part availability issue.

Ignition: The fleet of flying Corvairs is about 500 aircraft. More than 90% of them have a dual ignition system that I have built. Our system uses two redundant systems, one points based, the other a digital electronic system. The design has two of every part potentially subject to failure, but it utilizes one plug per cylinder. Six cylinder engines can fly on one cold cylinder, most 4 cylinder engines can not. Plug fouling is unknown in Corvairs because the ignition system is 40,000 volts and uses a plug gap twice as wide as a magneto system.

Fuel: The Corvair can use either 100LL or automotive fuel. It is not bothered by ethanol in the fuel.When Corvairs were designed, car gas was a lot like 100LL; for the last 35 years every mile driven by Corvair cars was done on unleaded car gas. Many engines like 912s and modern car engines do not have exhaust valves that can withstand the corrosive nature of 100LL. We use stainless and Inconel valves in Corvairs.

Maintenance: The Covair is low maintenance. The heads never need retorquing. The valves have hydraulic lifters and never need to be reset or adjusted. I dislike the term “maintenance free”, because it implies a “no user serviceable parts inside” disposable appliance mentality. The Corvair is a solid, robust, machine which holds its adjustments, but our program is aimed at teaching builders to be self-reliant owners.

Goals: If one of your goals is to be the master of your engine and airframe, the Corvair is an excellent choice. There are many engine options for people who just want to buy something. Our efforts are aimed at expanding the personal knowledge and skills of each builder.

Made in the USA: In an era where everything seems imported and companies like Continental have been sold to the Chinese Government, We have kept the “Made in the USA” option for builders who prefer to employ fellow Americans. Virtually every part in the engine, with small exceptions like the distributor cap (made in Mexico), are made by American craftsmen. Because we also sell engines outside the US, we are a Net Exporter, helping correct the trade imbalance.

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Corvairs have proven themselves to serve a very broad variety of builders. Many alternative engine options are offered only as a “buy it in a box” import, more of an appliance than a machine, with little or no consideration of the builders, skills goals, needs, budget or time line. The Corvair has options to address these valid considerations, because your power plant should conform to you, not the other way around.

This said, Corvairs are not for everyone.  In the 25 years I have been in the EAA and working with builders, the Corvair has always been very popular with ‘traditional homebuilders’, the people who have come to experimental aviation to discover how much they can learn, understand and master.  The expansion of the EAA has brought more of these builders, but it has also brought a great number of people incapable of distinguishing between mastery of an aircraft or an engine and just merely being its buyer and owner.  People who’s consumer mentality and short attention spans are better suited to toy ownership than mastery of skills and tools in aviation. Corvairs, and perhaps experimental aviation, are a poor match for such people. Many salesmen in our field will gladly sell anything to anyone with green money. I am an aviator, not a salesman, and the gravity of the subject requires more frank discussion and ethics than many salesmen bring to the table.

If you came to experimental aviation to find out how much you can master, not how little, then you are among the aviators who follow Lindbergh’s timeless 1927 quote: “Science, freedom, beauty, adventure: what more could you ask of life? Aviation combined all the elements I loved.”  Even if you are brand new to aviation, I am glad to work with you. I have a long history of working with builders of all skill levels. We have a number of successful builders out flying who are the masters of both their airframes and engines, who had never changed the oil in a car before building their plane.  If you got into experimental aviation just to buy stuff, then any salesman will do just fine for you. If you got into experimental aviation to learn, develop your own skills and craftsmanship and make things with your own hands, then who you work with really matters. You can’t become and old school homebuilder / motor head by buying things from salesmen. They have nothing to teach you. What you will do in experimental aviation is not limited by what you already know. It is only limited by what you are willing to learn, and selecting experienced people to learn from.  If you are here to learn, I am here to teach. It is that simple.

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Click on the color links below to read more on this topic

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a) – Complete Lindbergh quote is here: The Quote, 1927, C.A.L.

b) – Explanation of machines vs appliances : Machines vs Appliances Part #2

c) – Story of real engines vs ‘ideal’ ones: Unicorns vs Ponies.

Basic Corvair College Skills, examples of learning

Friends,

There are countless techniques and lessons we teach by example and hands on training at the Colleges. Here I would like to focus on four tasks that every builder should know as part of having  complete mastery of his or her engine. These four skills are 1) Installing and timing a distributor, 2) Running and correctly interpreting a differential compression test and 3) Correctly setting the hydraulic valve lifters. 4) pre-oiling the engine.

At the college I will teach these tasks to many groups of builders 5 or 6 people to a group. Part of my learning process it to immediately have builders repeat the process they just observed so I can answer their questions and closely watch how they do to make sure they understand and have possession of the skill. The tasks are not difficult, but the are different. 85% of our builders are from outside the mechanical world. This is an important distinction. My useful definition of working in the mechanical world is simple; Do you pick up hand tools at work nearly every day on the job? The vast majority of homebuilders do not, and I adjust the learning process to accommodate this reality and give many more builders a much better understanding of their power plant.

I am a middle-aged, long-haired opinionated troglodyte from rural Florida. If I had to earn a living at any task that involved appearance, political correctness or tolerance of intolerable people, I would live in poverty. If I was also required to have IT skills at these tasks, I would starve. My hat is off to our builders who can thrive at such tasks, you are better men than I. This said, my record says that on the subject of being able to teach people how to master simple aircraft engines, even people from outside the mechanical world, I am pretty darn good.

There are a number of factors on why I am good at this. I like people, and I like learning myself. I spent 11 years of my life in college, 8 years full-time and 3 in night school. (This is really ironic because I was expelled from high school on the grounds of poor attendance) I know and love the subject at hand well, and I have honed the transfer of information over 20 years. All of us had teachers who gave the same lecture if there was 50 people 5 people or 2 sacks of potatoes for students. I learned from many very good instructors, and the best always tailor the delivery to the student. After many years I am a keen observer of people learning, and I watch small signals like body language to instantly recalibrate the delivery until message sent=message understood. I may not always look like it, but I am paying detailed attention to builders at colleges. A big College may have 75 builders, and in the 3 days we are there, I am going to adjust the process and delivery to tailor it to each of these 75 individuals.

A guy who works with tools every day on the job and is constantly exposed to having to master a physical skill or understand how a mechanical sub system works often picks up something like distributor installation on a simple presentation and observation. People who work at desk jobs or cover non-mechanical subjects for a living gain a lot from directly repeating the task step by step right after observing it. The flexible lay out of the college allows both of these builders to learn at their own pace, at the same time. The primary thing I am watching is that the builder is comprehending and performing the task correctly. Good delivery is important, and the setting is casual, but I don’t just assume that people got it. I ask people to perform the task, and then I will often ask them to show it and explain it themselves to another builder. This is the best confirmation that they have real possession of the skill.

I am writing up notes for the four tasks, something of a checklist for people to have on hand at the college. I will expand on these here after we return. For now, some source notes:

1) Install and time a distributor. This is already documented very well in print and pictures, but I do go over it many times in person. I do not allow a builder with a complete engine to leave the College without being able to demonstrate to me that he can use a timing light, and that he owns one. If he doesn’t have one, we sell him one on the spot. Your flight instructor didn’t let you solo a plane without certain skills like being able to land. I am your engine instructor, and before you go home solo with your engine you are going to understand ignition timing and how to use a timing light. The distributor instructions ar on the products page of our website and they come with every distributor we sell. look at this link http://flycorvair.com/distributor.html

2) Run and correctly interpret a Differential compression test. Just yesterday I got a letter from a builder referencing a compression test saying that he had compressions “between 165 and 180 psi” These are automotive numbers not differential compression numbers.  Aircraft numbers look like 78/80 or 76/80 etc. I can’t say it enough times, but an auto compression test is like a stethoscope, and a differential compression test is like an MRI and a CAT scan. Which do you think are more powerful tools? Every annual on a certified aircraft requires a differential compression test. The tool is about $70. The most important thing I know about a guy who has a running engine but still sends me automotive numbers is that he isn’t learning anything: he is resisting treating the engine as an aircraft engine; he wants to ‘show me’ how he and his local buddies have always done it. This type of resistance to learning new processes usually just means the guy is stubborn. In aviation, this type of attitude isn’t just tiresome, its dangerous. Being willing to learn how to use a differential compression tester sets you apart from people with shade tree mindsets.

3) Set the hydraulic valve lifters. This is descriptively covered in the manual and it is visually covered on engine building DVD#3, But it is best covered in person. Increasingly people work at jobs that require little manual fidelity and feel. Right now I am typing this on a keyboard that will produce the exact same character if I lightly tough the key or I hammer down on it. We drive cars that are dumbed down with things like ABS and handling characteristics to protect the poorest or most impaired of operators. thankfully, flying is still very far away from this. So is building things with your hands, where feel counts. Setting the valves is an easy skill but if someone is coming from the ‘touch doesn’t matter’ world, they have to slow down a little and get the feel of what is going on. There are 12 of them per motor, and you can set each one several times to get the feel of this, it isn’t a task that you do just once per motor, nor a skill that has to be done in a short time window. Once set, they are good for the life of the engine and never need to be readjusted.

4) Pre-oiling the engine. This is a fairly simple process, and we have a very good set up for this on the test stand. At the college I will get someone to make a 3 minute You tube video of the basic elements of this and post a link to it here after the college. It is something important that requires no tools of value but it does start the life of your engine on the best possible footing. We pre oiled the panther engine for more than an hour. During this time, the oil in the engine went through the filter more than 300 times before the engine ever started. The Corvair is one of the very few engines for light aircraft that can have this done. You can’t do it on a Lycoming without a very elaborate set up, and I have never hear of people being able to do it on other engines. “Buy it in a box’ engine people don’t care about details like this because people shopping for an appliance don’t think like this. However, thinking like this is at the core of being a motor head, a term that I am very proud to be called. It is not a title you can buy, it something you know about yourself after you actually learn and posses skills to take care of yourself mechanically and after you have chosen not to be a blind appliance operator, but a skilled aviator.-ww

How to get thrown out of Corvair College

Builders:

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During the last 40 Colleges we have had only three rules:

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No Politics

No Religion

No Communism

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Since our national entitlement has become “taking offense” and “calling people out” and let’s not forget the ever pathetic “demanding an apology ” I assume that people will get upset about these without ever asking what they mean. I don’t write of teach for such people, so we can forget them.

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The third part has long been explained to people who can read, that we don’t allow the use of Chinese Toque Wrenches. About a half dozen people have wrecked an engine with one, and when these engines failed, I’m sure none of these people stood up at their next EAA meeting and said “Actually it had nothing to do with the Corvair design, I’m just a cheap idiot who chose not to follow William’s directions”

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So after 40 colleges no one would try to use one of these at a college right? Guess again. The picture below is from CC#40. A builder brought this “Pittsburgh” harbor freight POS and torqued his case with it. I made him take it apart and redo it with my snap on electronic wrench. When I did this, the builder sheepishly told me he bought it at his local EAA meeting so he thought it was OK. I told him the guy who sold it to him to work on planes was a maggot in my book. Not good enough for his family, but he needed to get his $25 back so he sold it to our guy headed to CC #40.

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It was either a sign my anger management training from years ago still works, or maybe I was just real tired, but I didn’t make a giant issue out of this at the time, even after the builder told me he worked

on planes in the USAF, so he knew better. But no one should try me on this from here forward.

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If you have one of these, throw it out. Under no circumstances bring it to a college. Because if anyone does from here forward, and tells me “I thought it would be ok” or ” it’s good enough” I am going to throw them out of the college, no delay, no apology, no refund.

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Above, the actual “Pittsburgh” item. Unlike the communist piece of shit, I was actually born in Pittsburgh, and I find this offensive that some Maoist in Throw-dung province stole the name of my home town. The only thing these are good for is to get a head start on beating the traffic on the way home from the college.

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To say it plainly, if a person can’t follow the most basic instructions I have, and his attitude is “this is just as good” then I’m not interested in trying to teach him anything, nor am I interested in having the Corvair later blamed for his lack of judgement.

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Wewjr

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Pietenpol 2,775 cc Corvair; Trevor Rushton from UK

Builders,

The fourth engine to run at the Corvair Finishing School #2  was the 2,775 cc engine done by Trevor Rushton, who flew over from Britain for the school.  He assembled the entire engine from its most basic components in two 10 hour days.  Because aircraft in the UK must meet the stringent standards of their LAA, the assembly required a high level of documentation, which I had to sign off as done under my supervision.

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Even with this extra time requirement, Trevor easily got the engine documented, completed and on the run stand during the finishing school.  As a crass colonial grease monkey, I am usually the champion of American ingenuity, but truth requires I say that Trevor might very well have come close to setting the record of most efficient builder at a Corvair event.  I honestly don’t think any of us could have gone east across the pond and made as good a showing assembling a Gypsy Major engine on their soil.

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The engine is a 2,775 cc “Engine in a Box” kit that Trevor purchased through SPA/Panther in advance of attending the Finishing school. If you are interested in learning more about the kit engine program, please call Rachel directly at the SPA hotline: 904 626 7777.

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Above, Trevor hard at work, measuring and documenting the case bore diameters utilizing the advanced tooling that Dan and I maintain for engine development and process quality control. The LAA governing body of sport aircraft in the UK, requires individual engines built to be documented in great detail, under supervision of approved inspectors. Trevor secured prior approval from the LAA that I could act as such an inspector on his engine build.  For builders with great enthusiasm, we will gladly match any effort they make toward special requirements. Much of the original contact and communication with Trevor was done by Terry Hand (in Happy Birthday to the USMC   story last week) who runs our “Pietvair” discussion group.

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The pay off: Trevor taking his engine through a perfect test run.  It is destined to power his Pietenpol, slated to be finished at the end of 2017 or early 2018.  After watching him work, I tend to think his time estimates are reasonable.  I told him I would probably fly to Britain to see it launched.

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Something about working with Trevor: I had many things I wanted to hear his perspective on, but we ended up speaking about the greatest UK import to the US in the last 100 years: Music. In the last 40 years I spent countless hours listening to Led Zeppelin, The Who and The Rolling Stones, all band from Trevor’s land.  I have never been to the UK, but know something about Brighton in the 1960s from listening to Quadrophenia a zillion times. Trevor said he was neither a Mod nor a Rocker, perhaps just a little of both.

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-ww.

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Custom Corvair Motor Mounts and installation components. 

Builders;

Over the years 1996-2016 I built about 50 one of a kind motor mounts to install a Corvair in unique or limited popularity airframes.  If you look back over the old photos on my traditional site: http://flycorvair.com/ you can see pictures of mounts on airframes like the Pegzair, Eich/J-2, Buttercup, Tailwind, Jr Ace, Stitts Skycoupe, KR-1, Kitfox #4, Skylite,  and Varieze.  There were a number of designs that started as one mount, but took years for a second one to sell, these include the Dragonfly, the 701, the Flybaby and the Wagabond. 

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While just four designs, the Zenith 601/650, the Zenith 750, the Pietenpol Aircamper and the KR-2 and 2S make up 90% of the total mounts we have made over the years, I still wanted to support the airframes choices that some builders made. As a general policy, if it was a good match to the airframe, and the builder seriously wanted it, I was willing to make it.

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The plan got a number of interesting planes going and was a good way to demonstrate both the versatility of the engine, and our technical ability to support builders. But it also had several serious flaws: Although most custom mounts take four times as long to build, and a lot of planning, I typically only charged builders the same rate as the closest “big four” mount, and second, I didn’t always get builders to acknowledge that custom mounts took time, and were not the highest priority in the shop. This meant I lost money on every one of these mounts, and was often rewarded by having an impatient customer complain to on line discussion groups, without ever mentioning the price, nor the fact his was building an obscure, obsolete airframe. Let those mounts stand as “Exhibit A” that I am both dumb and a slow learner.

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Under the principle “The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese” , Dan Weseman is now trying his hand at offering custom motor mounts and exhausts. Because he believes it isn’t required to repeat the mistakes of friends, he is making these mounts, but requiring the builders to understand they are going to cost more than standard mounts, and they are not in stock like the “big four” mounts. He is glad to look at doing mounts for builders as long as conversation starts with the understanding of these to points.

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Above, It looks like a number of other mounts, but this is a picture of a Savanna S mount.  It was built by Dan Weseman at SPA/Panther. Note that it has it’s own custom exhaust that fits it like a glove.  While the mount is built around the same basic “tray”  as other mounts, and the exhaust system uses our decade prove stainless steel subcomponents, they still take a lot of time to design and build. These items are shown on my dummy engine, installed on a rotting stand, because all kind of components have to be check for clearance and the ability to be routinely serviced. Additionally, calculations for both weight and balance, thrust line and stress must be done. This is why a one of a kind mount has to cost a lot more, because a popular mount can have these cost spread over many of it’s kind.  Builders interested in talking to Dan about a mount can call him at 904-626-7777.

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-ww.

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Zenith / Corvair installation 

Builders

Below are several photos of a current Zenith / Corvair installation I shot in my front yard this morning. 2016 marks our 13th consecutive year of  working with Zenith builders, dating back to Grace and I buying our own kit from the factory, and building and flying the first Corvair powered Zenith.

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Over the years, we have refined the installation in a number of details, but at its basic core, it is a proven American made engine with a long track record of serving individuals who selected it.

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Above 2400-L starter and DFI ignition.

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Engine is only 28″ wide.

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The firewall is common to all models of Zenith 601/ 650/750.  The mount shown is for a 750, the 600 series is nearly identical.

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Engine has a SPA/ Weseman 5th Bearing. .

ww.

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3,000cc Corvair (lower compression) engine

Builders,

Below is a look at an engine I just finished a few days ago. It is my own personal Corvair engine. We have several customer engines going together in the shop now, but I assembled ours in advance because I am shortly going to run a series of comparative tests with nitrous oxide injection. While the possibility of harming a motor is slight, you obviously wouldn’t test with an engine you are going to send to a builder.

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Above, break in run in our front yard. The engine is a 3,000cc displacement with 95 HP heads set up with a .050″ quench height. It has my own 5th bearing design as seen in this story: Group 3200, Wynne 5th Bearing .The Compression ration is about 8.4 to 1.  My intention is to run the engine primarily on 90 octane ethanol free fuel, commonly available in Florida for boats.  It’s only advantage over auto fuel is that it stores a lot longer without degrading. The engine will have no problem digesting 100LL, but I want to have a long term first hand study of lower octane fuel in Corvair powered planes.

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Above, I have actually owned this engine since 1991. It came in my 1967 Corvair Monza that was my daily driver for many years, accumulating 100K miles including a lap around America, ( look at the photo in this story: 2014 Conversion Manual Notes ) It went on to be the 2,775 cc engine at first flew in our Zenith 601XL in 2004, It was the test engine for my 5th bearing design in 2007, and it is staging this re-appearance as a 3,000 cc.  The engine has had roller rockers since 2004, and may have been the first engine ever to fly them. (No, they don’t make much power difference nor make the engine run cooler, both are misconceptions based on marketing claims which are only valid in limited circumstances.) To read more, look here: Pros and Cons of Roller Rockers. Over the years the engine has accumulated many details, most of which are things that we tested and found not to be a great value to most builders. If you look closely, it has ARP case studs (2003) ARP head studs (2004) and powder coated aluminum pushrod tubes (2007). and group 1800 powered coated lower baffles (2012)

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Above, a look at the topside. Almost all of the external conversion parts are our regular stuff. The engine has a HV-2000 rear oil case, a 2400-L Starter set up (the nose and bracket are powder coated black), a #2601 Gold oil filer housing, a #2802 block off plate, and an Adjustable Oil Pressure Regulator, #2010A. The top head nuts on the engine are Small Block Chevy rod nuts. This was an idea that morphed into #1706 head nut hardware, something Dan Weseman provides with finished heads.

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BTW, I was forwarded a picture of a first time builders enginge, a 3000cc motor. This guy made huge issue of objecting to using .041″ aircraft safety wire to hold the baffeling on the cylinders of his engine.  You can see this in the above photo as the neatly done stainless fine lines running at the base of the #6 and #2 cylinders. This is done because 3,000 engines have different cylinder castings which don’t fit the stock Corvair baffle clips. We have been using Aircraft safety wire for this task for more than 15 years, (because we used it on 3,100 cc Corvairs also.) The person, who evidently knows nothing about aviation, said “Bailing wire has no place in aviation.”

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Bailing wire? I have personal touched, with my own hand in museum restoration settings, a Lockheed SR-71, a North American X-15, and a Rockwell Space Shuttle Orbiter, all of which flew with Aviation Safety wire, so contrary to our new ‘expert’, it is approved for mach 3, mach 6 and mach 17 flight, as well as mach 0.12 experimentals.  Here is the stupid part: his forwarded photo shows that he painted his pushrod tubes flat black, which I have told people never to do because it makes them run very hot and gets the o-rings brittle. You know what actually has no place in aviation? People who can’t read. Perhaps a person shouldn’t be quite so proud of being from a state that ranks 5oth in the Nation in public education.

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Above, The engine at power during a 1 hour break in run. The differential compression test showed that the cylinders were perfect. The engine also has an #1100 cam:  Sources: Group 1100, Camshaft. This profile actually has slightly longer exhaust lobe duration than cams traditionally used. This doesn’t have a giant effect on normal engines, but it is a very desirable feature on ones using nitrous oxide. After some more time on the run stand we are going to progressively hit it with doses of N2O at 20, 25, 30 and 35 hp. The idea is to establish what is a safe level of power boost for 3 minutes. Contrary to what most people think this is not hard on an engine, as long as the fuel pressure never drops. I have worked with N2O on engines dating back to 1982, the stone age of commercial nitrous. Pushing a 550hp V-8 to 900hp is hard on it, but looking for a 20% power increase is not. Smaller engines like a Corvair flowing very low rates may run many minutes on a standard 10 pound bottle. The valve covers shown are the standard ones we sell in group #1900, like the ones pictured in this story: E-mail Now: Custom Valve Covers Available Through Monday.

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Nitrous boosts power in 3 ways sequentially: It is actually injected as a 1000 psi liquid, who’s basic evaporation robs all the heat out of the intake charge.  The temperature can easily drop below zero F, even in a hot motor. Then the N2O is compressed and heats above 800F, the molecule breaks up in a dissocation reaction, which raises the pressure in the cylinder, and frees up the oxygen. N20 has nearly twice the mass of oxygen as air, and this is then burned with additional fuel sprayed in. Think of this as performing a take off with your plane at a density altitude of 5,000′ below sea level. N2O works great, but it is very intolerant of anything that aggravates detonation, like not setting timing with a light, or using the wrong plugs, letting the engine run lean or not reading the instructions.  When you hear stories about to blowing up engines, smile politely and nod, and think “WW said it wasn’t for everyone, particularly people who can’t read.”

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I have no “secrets.” I have tried to teach everyone all the things we have learned over the years. Secrets are for people who want you to idolize them, have themselves remain ‘mysterious.’ To me, the only thing mysterious about such people is why potentially rational people abdicate from their ability to consider and learn, instead opting to spread myths about some alleged talents or knowledge that you are not allowed to look at. Think back to how people talk about others who own powerful vehicles, and realize that a lot of this is a weird form of hero worshp, peoplably because it takes less effort than learning what is going on.

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 Yes, I know a lot about Corvairs, but the goal has always been to share it with other builders. That is what the last two decades have been all about.

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-ww.

Corvair College #33: Behind The Scenes

Builders:

Every college has a number of people who do great work to make it happen. I try to make sure we thank people for this, even if they are the kind of person who likes to give back quietly.  Shelley Tumino, the Co-host of CC #32, took care of the online sign up for #33, and supplied all the builder info in very useful spread sheets. This was the running start at a great event. The week before CC #33 saw a great deal of physical work for the event, and here is a glance at some of it.

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Above, Grace in our ‘Green office’, calling in catering for the event as if she was a FAC. She said “Nothing but the best sustenance for our builders” when ordering vats of BBQ. ScoobE is trying to dig a protest hole, as he normally is allowed run of our place without a harness nor leash. But he was not allowed to before the college because the right combination of temperature and rainfall brought out the spring festival of water moccasins. I spent half a box of 20 gauge shells on them in five days. during the rest of the summer we will only see about one a week or so, unless we have a flood like this: Let It Not Rain

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Above, Corvair/601XL pilot, and Corvair/Panther builder Lynn Dingfelder came down from Corry PA to spend the week before the college assisting. Without hurting anyone’s feelings, I am going to flat out say that Lynn is the most mechanically inclined and productive human I have ever met. He is very good company, but he really knows his way around tools and processes, and can think on his feet. If world war three was ever fought, I am pretty sure that Lynn could have re-stared civilization and gotten it back to the industrial revolution in 36 months. Sounds like a fun exaggeration, but if you know him, you know I am not kidding.

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Above is a photo of Cliff Rose from CC #19 with his engine. He was also on hand as part of the prep crew for #33. He is a Cleanex/Corvair builder from our area, known my the nickname “Death Row” because he actually worked on Florida’s death row for many years, giving basic health care to inmates there. You don’t meet people who have worked with 200 murderers very often. This is funny because Cliff is the most easygoing, relaxed non confrontational guy I know.

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When everyone is in the hangar, that is the only place ScoobE wants to be. He will not sit in the house alone quietly, but once in the middle with everyone, he will fall asleep. He is happy to sit in the dog bed for hours. That is his paw on the edge of the bed.

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Above, Terry Hand and Bob Lester at the college in front of Terry’s project Pietenpol. Terry came down a day early to help out with the prep work. The timing was good, he was fresh when we were in the home stretch.  The in person visit gave us a chance to cover the last detail of setting up the Piet Vair discussion group: Piet / Vair internet builders group, started 4/24/15

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Above, Bob Lester stands in front of his Pietenpol, with Pietenpol builder Chuck Callahan on the right. Every college has a returning builder that really makes it work, and at #33, it was Bob’s chance to shine. He has had this Corvair Running since CC#17, but as far back as 2001, Bob had a Corvair in his KR-2. At College #33, he gave a great number of rides and treated everyone to some fun late night stories. He camped out at the college, for the fun of it, but he was also fine tuning his packing and equipment list, as he is planning on flying his Pietenpol to Brodhead WI for the annual gathering this July. -ww.

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Corvair College #33, Mid Florida at Eustis Airport, April 17-19, 2015

Builders, here is a photo report on Corvair College #33:

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The major change in this year’s spring Florida College was the location: With just 19 days to go, we opted to change from the county airport we had planned on, to a privately owned, public use grass airport just 14 miles away. The shift turned out to be an excellent improvement, and made all the difference in the experience of Corvair College #33.

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Above, Bob Lester’s Pietenpol at CC #33, with the Ercoupe  and a Luscombe in the background. Bob gave an intro flight to almost all of the Pietenpol builders on hand. The airport is our new spring College location, Mid Florida at Eustis.

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Our new location’s full name Is “Mid Florida at Eustis.” It is a privately owned, public use, grass airport, with beautifully kept grounds. It is in the 12 o’clock position on the extreme northern perimeter of the greater Orlando area. Its identifier is X55. It is an airport completely focused on flying for pleasure and sport.

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Because of its private ownership, it is an integrated part of the neighborhood where it is located; entering the airport grounds is like finding a welcome park, in contrast to the fencing, gates and barbed wire that most county airports have adopted in the past decade. Our Colleges are educational, friendly and social events. They fit  in much better at a grass airport than one that could be mistaken for a maximum security prison.

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As nice as the location is, it is the ownership and management of Mid Florida at Eustis that sets the airport atmosphere, and makes it a standout. The field is owned by a gentleman universally known as “Rama.” In person he is very modest, but clearly of considerable personal success. He speaks of the airport, with its tree-lined green grounds, as an important peaceful refuge from a hectic world.  I had a single 20-minute meeting with him to explain what a Corvair College was, and he was captivated by the idea, and immediately made his facility and staff available to us. It struck me as the way of traditional aviation; a meeting of ideas, a handshake, and on to progress.

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Rex Wyatt, the airport manager, took every effort to support our College. In an era where many counties find their airport manager by calling HR and asking for any bureaucrat with an MBA, Rex is a reminder of the time when the title “Airport Manager” was reserved for the most experienced aviator on the field, a friendly but firm man of character. He is also quietly modest, but in conversation it is revealed that he flew F-84Fs, helicopters out of Pleiku, and continues to this day flying corporate jets. On the lighter side, he has an impressive GA background that includes being a longtime EAA member and having an enviable collection of classic American light aircraft. With some quiet pride, he shared that his grandson will shortly be attending Embry-Riddle. Having a manager with this depth of experience sets the tone for a friendly, but professional location.

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The airport provided spacious grassy camping areas shaded by live oak trees, next to a small lake. They set us up in a clean hangar, put up a large tent as a dining hall, and provided for every detail. The groundskeeper, Mr. Leroy, who lives adjacent to the airport, was available 24/7 throughout the event. He attended to the smallest point, such as finely mowing the camping area. When I tried to explain to him that Corvair builders were low key and didn’t require “the red carpet,” he smiled and simply said, “Rama said you were to be welcomed here,” and went back to his work. This welcome is part of Rama’s personal philosophy and has nothing to do with economics; the hangars are near full occupancy, they do not sell fuel, and there was little expectation that many of the College builders would be back before next year.  I spent some time thinking about how these men were solely motivated by a basic pride in their airport and its good reputation, the factor that makes all the difference.

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Above, first day of the College, builders gather around for a detailed inspection and discussion of rocker arms. Corvair Colleges are a mixture of small group discussions and individual progress.

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Some Colleges have many cores being taken down, others have lots of engine going to the test stand. #33 saw many of the former, a good indication that we always have many new people getting started in the Corvair movement. My sidekick, Vern Stevenson on the left, and 750 builder Lane Seidel on the right. Lane has been to a number of Colleges, and having worked in nuclear power operations for decades, he has a professional’s take on procedures and quality control that fits well with aviation.

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Above, a number of case assemblies were closed at the College, and I gave a demonstration on installing a Weseman 5th bearing on Saturday morning, which was replicated by a number of builders on their own engines. I keep a Weseman installation kit in my College tool box. It was supplied by Dan and Rachel to assist us in showing builders how to install their bearings at Colleges. Their builders who work at home can borrow an identical field kit from them. Even builders who just came to observe saw how simple the installation was.

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It was warm weather, and dining outside made more sense. Everyone who signed up was fed catered food all weekend and all they could drink, all out of our modest fee. 100% of the collected money goes right back into the event directly. Central Florida has many well known BBQ houses, and Grace selected Black Bear Smokehouse to provide us with vats of pulled pork and brisket, and plenty of side dishes.

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Hot weather isn’t really conducive to gorging one’s self, but builders at the College did a great job anyway, loading up on seconds. All the breakfasts were catered by the local Bob Evans, because eating BBQ three meals a day isn’t considered a balanced diet in today’s nutritional guidelines.

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The smaller nature of #33 led to a lot of close attention between myself and builders. Even at big Colleges like Barnwell, I meet with every builder personally, but #33 afforded more individual time. The spiffy new wash tank is part of my program of buying 4 of many of the pieces of College equipment and leaving them on site for the following year. Before the College, Vern, Lynn Dingfelder and myself made eight new 4’x8′ tables that can be disassembled and packed for any College where we need to assure space for more builders. They are sturdy enough to have 4 engines built on them at the same time.

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Pictured above are 12 cases, already chemically cleaned and machined to accept 3,000 cc cylinders. A number of builders sent their case in advance, and we processed it and they picked it up and started assembling it at the College. The price of this is included in the 3,000 cc kits we sell, but we are glad to break it out as a separate $300 charge, to allow builders to budget closing the case, and pay the balance of the piston, cylinder and rod kit later.

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Out of the blue, the early Corvair convertible above showed up 3 hangars down – the owner had no idea that there were 36 other Corvair engines 200 feet away.

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Above, on Saturday night after dinner, we had an “unplugged” gig from our friend Ron Thomas and his friend Ren. (The full band goes by the name “Afterburner.”)  They covered a number of tunes from the 1970s, including a powerful version of the song “Sandman” by the band America. Ron, who is singing above, is a native of New Orleans, and has made a living in music all his life.

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Ron has met a number of Corvair builders at our Oshkosh booth over the past two years. He is a pilot, an Ercoupe owner and fan, just getting to know experimentals. At Oshkosh 2013, he met Pat and Mary Hoyt when they flew in with their yellow and polished 601XL. At Oshkosh 2014, Ron got out of his truck after driving 1,300 miles solo, walked past a yellow and polished RV-12 being filmed, mistook it for Pat and Mary’s plane, and promptly said to the guy in front of the camera, “Dude, Pat and Mary, what great people! These Corvair/Zeniths rock!”  Ron said the guy being filmed had some kind of childish negative reaction. I later walked down to the Van’s aircraft booth with Ron, and when he pointed the guy out, I thought it was funny because it was Richard VanGrunsven.

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Above, Fisher celebrity builder Skip Beattie, Grace and myself in front of the hangar. Vern’s “Aerotrike” nose on the left in the picture.

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Above, late night Scoob E sits in his chair while the three rules sign is displayed.  Grace painted this several years ago, and it has been to all colleges since. The top is self explanatory: Politics is not an allowable topic of conversation. The second isn’t in the same context that John Lenon used it in the song Imagine, We use it in the sense that I consider faith a private matter, and the diversity of builders at the Colleges means that it is merely good manners to be quietly respectful of others. Anyone who has attended any of the 5 Colleges in Barnwell knows that P.F. Beck and crew start the dinner with a prayer to give thanks and a moment of silence to remember those past. The two words on the sign are to remind a small number of people the popular understanding of the term “Pious” implied a faith that was evident in deeds, and not spoken of. The third line is a reference to the notion that you can’t build a good American engine with torque wrenches made in a police state like the People’s Republic of China.

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Above, dinner time in the chow tent.  Vern Stevenson is standing in the red shirt, his Aerotrike, half Lancair 320 and half Geo Metro, is in the background. It has 18,000 miles on it now. Under Florida’s open minded Motor Vehicle code, it is considered a motorcycle. Behind it is its custom tiny 4×8′ 5th wheel trailer Vern built for it.

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Above, gratuitous dog photo. Scoob E was very happy to be at the College, but 7am on Sunday, he makes the “get started without me” face.

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The Last Man Standing Photo: From left above are Lane Seidel, Jack Reynolds, Grace and Scoob E, Richard Tomanio, Lynn Dingfelder, Bill Reynolds and Robert Audsley. Colleges have a tradition of a handful of builders staying late to get in the last wrenching and assist with the pack up. This crew was great assistance.

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If it looks like it was fun and productive, that is because it was. We are looking forward to another College in Eustis next year. Don’t miss it. -ww.

Understanding Flying Corvairs Pt. #8, Learning from other’s mistakes.

Builders:

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If you have not seen the Intro to this series, you can read it here: Understanding Flying Corvairs Pt. #1, Intro., It will explain the goals of the articles. Please take a moment to read it, including the comments section.

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In recent weeks I have written several stories about a builder who was trying to fly a Corvair powered Zenith 601XL on one of two SU carbs from a 60 hp British car. For the people who assumed that I was just making the whole thing up to illustrate a point, let me share this link to the man’s webpage:

http://www.zenith.aero/profiles/status/show?id=2606393%3AStatus%3A391095

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I wrote the story How I became a genius in 6 minutes about the man’s first flight, where the engine was severely damaged. Yesterday I commented on his choice to still try to use the same carb in: Thought for the Day: J.S. Mill – On Liberty. Today several people sent me a link to his page where he reports his carb still chronically leaning out.

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If you care to read the man’s description, you can see he suspects that his joyous British carb can’t take forward air pressure. If he had cared to read the stories I have written on Corvair Carb choices, he would have come across this personal story about Bing carbs, which work on a nearly identical principle as the SU:

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“A personal example of why I don’t like Bing carbs; Steve Rahm, our neighbor at Spruce Creek, designed and built the ‘Vision’. It had a Stratus EA-81  Subaru with two Bings on it. Since they basically ran full time carb heat,  he wanted to try cool ram air in search of more power. He went as far as testing the set up with a gas leaf blower on the ground. He did this because some people said Bings don’t like ram air. On take off it worked great, until the plane hit 70mph over the trees at Spruce Creek. Then the carbs  shut off all by themselves.

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Plane slowed to 65, power comes back a little. Very  skilled flight at tree top level is executed. Several minutes of listening to  the rough engine clawing its way around the pattern.

He appears on final gliding  in. Steve was a new dad, and his own father had been killed in a plane when  Steve was a young man. I could not believe that I was about to witness a  horrific repeat of a family tragedy. He barely made it, touching down at 75  mph. People on hand thank God aloud.

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As the plane rolls out in the three point  attitude, the airspeed drops below 60, engine comes back to full power and tries  to take off on its own. Steve later tells me he almost had a heart attack at that  moment. He switches to a Lycoming with an MA3-SPA. which operates on the stone  age concept of the throttle opening and
closing when the pilot wants. (the throttle on a Bing is controlled by a vacuum diaphragm) Steve is a  master skydive instructor with
4,000 jumps, he can keep his cool under pressure.  I figure most other pilots in a plane with a five mile per hour  wide speed envelope and 100′ altitude would have bought the farm. -ww

From the story :A question of Carb location…..

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I have no idea why someone wishing to do something different with carbs would not read all the available information. The mans website notes says that if his tests don’t work, he may later use an aircraft carb like I recommend.

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 I sit here and type this less than 15 miles from the spot in Florida where Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd is buried. On the subject of people who like to experiment with substances known to be harmful, he sang the song “That Smell”, which included the bit of wisdom  “Say you’ll be alright come tomorrow, but tomorrow might not be here for you.”*

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Above, three aircraft parked in our front yard. L to R, Louis Cantor’s 601XL – MA3-spa, Grace’s Taylorcraft –  NAS-3 and Dan Weseman’s Cleanex, MA3-SPA. This was taken on the day we flew a flawless test flight in Louis’s 601, the same plane as the man in question is trying to fly on the British car carb. I ask, why not have the sucess that Louis had?

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 Most of the people who are looking at a cheap carb don’t think I know what I am talking about. I find the concept that a guy who has tested either zero or one carb on Corvair flight engines assuming that his guess is more valid that my 20 years of testing, annoying. On the subject of low-cost, it isn’t a stretch to say that I know more people building a Corvair engine for a  plane than any other person on Earth. While cost may be an initial attraction, the reason why people stick with it is to learn something, be proud of what they  have done, and experience this in the company of other like-minded aviators. If you want to fly cheap, rent  a Cessna 150. If you want to do something rewarding, fly something you built  with your own hands that is reliable and works well.

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While I advocate the use of aircraft carbs, I have also tested Dyno many things from 1 barrels to tuned port EFI. If someone wants to use a cheap carb, there are many better options than a British car carb. Above, a 1 barrel down draft ford carb. If you would like to read more on our testing of this,  In Search Of … The Economical Carburetor

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From Wikipedia:

* On Labor Day weekend in 1976, Gary Rossington and fellow Skynyrd guitarist Allen Collins were both involved in separate auto accidents in their hometown of Jacksonville. Rossington had just bought a new Ford Torino, and hit an oak tree while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.  Van Zant and Collins wrote the song “That Smell” based on the wreck, and Rossington’s state of influence from drugs and alcohol at the time. It starts with the lines:”Whiskey bottles and brand new cars, oak tree you’re in my way.”

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You can see a live 1977 performance of the song at this you tube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hib4n9RmFrQ

Playing in it are Ronnie Van Zant, Allen Collins, Billy Powell, Steve Gaines, Leon Wilkeson, Artimus Pyle and Garry Rossington. Ironically, today only Pyle and Rossington are left alive. The others died at ages 29, 37, 56, 28 and 49 respectively.