So I bit the bullet today and ordered my Corvair Engine conversion manual from William Wynne in Florida.
A bit pricy with the exchange between Canadian and USD (we truly are getting screwed right now), but it's a crucial step in making this conversion work.
William Wynne has been researching, building and teaching Corvair conversions for over 25 years while countless others have come and gone on broken promises of better conversions. William's path has a proven track record of success and I really like his philosophy about learn-build-fly.
I've shared my overall plans with many people over the past couple of months. It never hurts to put word out you are looking for something. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn't, but either way everyone ends up learning more or less as you go.
Got a call from a buddy who came across what he thought might be an airplane throttle assembly:
Turns out it is a throttle assembly, but for marine applications. I'm thinking it's for a very large twin engine boat with adjustable pitch props. Close, but not what I need.
Next, I got a call from another buddy at work who tells me he has a bunch of "on the way to the trash bin" stuff he thought I might be interested in.
I grabbed a box of stuff from him that appears to have some sort of bench testing equipment for strobe light assemblies. Among the junk were two strobe power supplies....
....and five of these strobe heads:
Our employer doesn't use this older technology any more (everything now is advanced LEDs), but this could work very well for me and my build.
I wired up one of the power supplies and connected 2 of the strobe heads. In my shop they are almost blindingly bright and work in quad-flash pattern, very cool and would be excellent on the wing tips (the video doesn't really capture the brightness well):
My only concern is the amount of power that these older types of strobes draw and how much they weigh compared to self contained LEDs, but when something is scrounged for free, it's hard to turn down. If I decide to switch to LED lights during the build, I can always donate (pay it forward) to my Volunteer Fire Department (I do their emergency light installs anyway).
Onto the shelf they'll go for now until I'm ready.
On another "scrounging" note, Dad's got his contacts in the old car world on the prowl for a Corvair motor.
Yes, scrounging is worth it and all part of learning :)
Spent the day yesterday travelling to southern Ontario to have a look at a couple of core engines for sale that I found online. One guy advertised a core motor still in the car (asking $400) and the other guy has a core motor partially disasembled in his shed also for $400.
I picked up my Dad at my parents home near Barrie and we headed for the day to have a look.
Our first stop was a little town near Woodstock. A guy there had a Corvair engine that he bought as a spare parts engine for this custom trike he is also selling:
He claims it will do over 100mph, and it's a cool looking ride, but not something I'd be interested in riding or owning.
Unfortunately, the spare engine he has is still installed in the back end of the car that it came from the factory with, making it difficult to see completely. At some point in time, the rear frame of the car was chopped off just in front of the rear fenders, leaving the rear frame, engine compartment, rear hood and part of the bumper. From what I've read, this is a fairly common practice by people salvaging a derelict Corvair car. That's unfortunate as there is always someone looking for the other parts of the car. Taking these engines out is apparently easy but I've never done it and I don't know the history of the car or reasons someone would hack it apart like this one.
This boneyard example was sitting on two flat tires with the driveshafts still attached to the transmission and both fenders cut away. No glass or tailights, but the trunk lid is complete. Nothing really salvageable on the frame.
Once we pulled the tarp of plastic away from the engine, this is what we saw. Seems promising and better preserved than the rest of the frame....
On closer look it's easy to see the engine and components are mostly there. The cooling fan spins freely on it's bearing. I won't be using this part for my conversion, or the shroud that surrounds it. From what I understand, the magnesium fan was introduced 1964 models and was the standard for the balance of production until 1969, so this indicates an engine that could be suitable for me. Everything seems complete, even if not attached in the right spot at the moment.
So my next step is to search for the all important block casting number. As I posted in an earlier post about Corvair engines, the block number is fairly easy to find, but hard to read when covered in dirt, grime and associated mouse droppings typical of any engine left out in the elements. Thankfully, the block casting on this engine wasn't difficult to find or to clean:
So this block number is T0914RH
I have discovered however that the serial number on the engine cases is often not enough to define the nature of the complete engine. The "T" in the code is useless, since all Corvair engines have a serial number that begins with "T", meaning Tonawanda NY, which is the engine plant responsible for building all Corvair engines.
The four-digit numeric code "0914" only gives you the month and day of manufacture (in this case September 14), but unfortunately GM decided the year was not significant. And the two letter suffix code often stretches through numerous production years and engine variations (i.e. what heads, carbs, etc.), so this stamping on it's own is not specific enough either.
I don't need to be specific on year, as long as it is a 164 cubic inch block 1965 or newer. "RH" indicates this block is from 1965 to 1968 engine production run. All those engines were 164 cubic inch, so this is the right block for my needs!
The next and just as important thing to determine are what heads are attached to the block. The only acceptable heads for aircraft conversion are 95 or 110 horsepower non-smog heads.
It didn't appear that this engine was smog pump equipped, so this indicates the heads are likely correct.
GM created lots of combinations of blocks and heads and for the most part they were interchangeable. Sometimes heads of different specs were installed one at a time, meaning an engine might have heads of different compression, HP or displacement!
This engine appears to be installed just as it came from the factory, including all the extra tin and baffles between the block and engine compartment walls. This makes it next to impossible to confirm the heads are in good shape and to obtain the casting numbers to ensure they match and are what I need.
Another issue I had to consider was how to get this home and where to work on it. I plan on rebuilding the engine in my basement shop but this won't fit down the stairs!
I'm certainly not going to pull the engine from the frame in this guy's backyard just to find out, so I'd have to haul the whole back of the car home with me. Then it might not even be the right heads. Frustrating to say the least.
The seller offered to come down to $300 from $400 for everything, but I'm wondering if I might be buying more trouble than it's worth.
We headed out for our next stop near Hamilton.
This gentleman and I have been communicating by e-mail over the past month or so. He sent me pictures showing a perfect candidate block and matching heads for a 110HP Corvair. He made it fairly clear that it was partially disassembled and his asking price was firm at $400.
After stopping for lunch, we arrived at his place. As we walked up the driveway, it became VERY obvious that this guy was an old car enthusiast who lives and breathes Corvairs.
We became fast friends and his knowledge about Corvair cars and engines was vast. So much so, that when I originally asked about a 1965-69 110HP engine he says he knew that I was an airplane guy. He apparently gets asked for these engines all the time by airplane guys like me.
In my limited experience so far, I've realized that Corvair car enthusiasts fall somewhere on either end of the scale when it comes to people using Corvair engines for airplanes. They either outright dismiss aircraft builders as lunatics or accept them as fellow motor-heads. Thankfully Brian is the later. The way he figures it, as long as he doesn't have to fly with it, he's happy to source parts.
He showed us around his shop and I felt privledged to see some of the amazing restorations he has done and the amount of Corvair parts he's accumulated over the past couple of decades. I don't think anyone coming off the street like we did would have been privy to seeing his collection, truly amazing. We had such a good time talking engines and rebuilds (Dad is a motor-head too) that quite honestly I forgot to take any pictures.
He explained his rationale for the $400 price tag. He's become familiar over the years with what aircraft builders need (and more importantly don't need) and what condition engines should be in to be candidates for any rebuild. In addition, he has a side business rebuilding motors for other Corvair car owners and $400 is what he charges everyone for a rebuildable core.
Now, I could have walked away from his shop with a correct and complete motor for $400 out the door and loaded in the bed of my truck, but I chose not to.
I'm trying to decide what the better option is. Do I start with a derelict car, work on getting it home, getting the engine out in hopes that the heads are right? I "should" be able to sell off anything salvageable from the engine compartment (carbs, shrouds, intakes, blower) that won't be used for my conversion and the balance of the materials to a scrap metal dealer for cost recovery. That's a fair amount that would probably cover at least my trailering costs or more. I might even break even!
Or do I just buy a core from the Corviar guy? It would be a big step head start compared to all the work involved with the wreck and I could start right away in my basement shop. I truly get the feeling that Brian the Corvair guy is interested in seeing me succeed, I know the parts are right and it's really no gamble on being able to sell salvaged stuff I don't need.
I set out to learn new skills so the first engine definitely offers that over the core from Brian. But I don't think it's worth the hassle of dragging it home or wasting my time.
I've got some leads on something closer to home still that still haven't been fully explored. Maybe they will be good. I'll try to follow them up first, otherwise, I think I've found my source.
Time to order the conversion manual.
For those following my blog, you will recall that my mentor in aviation passed away and we attended the memorial service for him.
His wife Linda delivered a wonderful eulogy and I got permission from her to share it here.
Feel free to read it or not, the choice is yours. But do know that everyone should live life doing what you love.
Linda Morris Speech at Barry Morris Celebration of Life Sept 26/2015
On behalf of my extended family, I want to express our heartfelt thanks to everyone who could make it here for Barry’s Celebration and for all the support we have been given by all of our friends, old and new here at Sandycove during this very difficult time. It has been truly amazing.
There isn’t anyone in this room who would have enjoyed this Celebration more than Barry If it weren’t for the circumstances we find ourselves in here today. He was a loving husband, best friend, father, grandfather, great grandfather, brother, uncle and friend.
He… loved… life.
In his career, he had many “adventures” as he called them. He flew Kings, Queens, Princes, Mayors, Members of Parliament, industry elite, actors and singers such as Louis Armstrong. And the list goes on.
He once spirited Prince Charles away from his security detail during a trip Charles took to the High Arctic. Being a pilot himself, Prince Charles wanted to see how the Twin Otter operated. So they hatched a plan. Barry would keep the engines running beside the terminal and the Prince would escape via the side door. Their plan being set, the Prince escaped out the side door hopped into the aircraft and away they went. They continued their short flight all the while ignoring repeated transmissions from the angry security detail to return to base. Prince Charles would have been unscathed no matter how furious the security detail was, after all who is going to give a Prince a hard time? I’m sure they would have strung Barry up if they caught him. The security detail was on his heels for some time after this incident.
Some of his adventures were not so pleasant and landed him in third world countries in severe and nasty living conditions as some of his fellow deHavilland pilots can attest to. He lived, breathed and dreamt all things aviation.
He always felt honoured he was able to be a part of this magnificent industry.
His last trip before he “hung up his goggles” was in an Embraer Phenom 100 jet from Zurich to North Bay with David Anstett, his friend, at the controls. David and his family are here with us today.
Before the Phenom trip, Barry was on a highly secretive U.S. Military Mission to deliver a Dash 8 to Baghram Air Force Base in Afghanistan under the code name “CARDSHARK 78”. He flew this mission with his friend and pilot from deHavilland days, Bob Gumbinger. As timing would have it, they were at Baghram at the same time the US Navy Seals caught Osama Bin Laden.
Barry always strived to help the underdog and when he felt an injustice was being done, he fought to correct it. He championed the aviation industry he loved and would speak up and lobby to whatever levels of the Federal and Provincial Governments were necessary when he felt it was derailing itself.
He loved his family and a missing portion of that family was reunited with him in the way of his eldest daughter, Karen and her children Brandon & Ashley (who are here today) and Ashley’s children (Barry’s great grandchildren, Devlon, Braylon and Bryson. They are here with us today because they still need to be with their Mom. Brandon & Amanda are having their first child soon which makes another great grandchild. They round out our extensive family with his son Christopher, daughters Michelle (who is here today) and her son Jack, Nicole and her daughter Laura and Tammy and her daughter and son Alex and Ethan. That rounds out our extensive family. In case anyone has lost count this makes 5 children, 6 grandchildren and 3.5 great grandchildren. He also leaves behind his sister-in-law, Isabel & her family: daughters Laura and her son Wyatt, Tanya and her children Eva and Dillon and sons Michael & Rodney. Also a sister, Irene & her husband John and his niece, Jenny and her family.
Barry served as Aviation Technical Consultant on Omni Productions television show “Arctic Air” for CBC for the run of the program. He also wrote monthly stories for the Great North Arrow newspaper on his lifelong “adventures”.
Barry was writing a Trilogy “Just a Farm Kid from Ontario” which highlighted what it was like living on a farm before mechanization, inside running water, inside toilets, television or telephones to becoming a member of an elite group of Canada’s aviation test pilots. The first book has been done and in rewrite. The second needs to be inputted into the computer. However, the third book about his days at deHavilland/Boeing/Canadair/and his multitude of work after unfortunately has not been written. Therefore, I want to finish Barry’s third book as a “memorial”. But, as my mother has noted, I need the help of his friends and colleagues. I am asking his friends, colleagues, associates especially the people he worked with at deHavilland if they could take the time to write down some interesting stories they and Barry would have been involved with during this time so I can complete his dream on his behalf.
In 2011 Barry was presented the Canadian Owners’ and Pilots’ Association Award of Merit which is presented annually if a person is recognized as doing something special to further COPA'S aims over a period of time and recognizes individuals demonstrating an outstanding record of support for personal aviation in Canada and to aid in the promotion, growth and prosperity of aviation in Canada.
He received a Commendation from Department of Transport for his continued emphasis on aviation safety.
He was extremely proud of these awards as he should have been. It signified to him he made a difference. All his hard work, efforts and sacrifices had meant something in the industry he loved and fell in love with as a child.
Barry’s aviation career spanned 55 years of flying, over 23,000 hours of flight time with zero infractions.
He was privileged to travel the road most of us only dream of.
And I’m sure if there is a heaven, he is now arranging flight plans to some faraway place.
God has given him wings. He will be sadly missed, but never forgotten.
Till we meet again. Your loving wife, Linda
Time for a bit of a rant. Why does it seem so easy to get excited about things but ever so hard to make them happen?
Over the past weeks I've been actively searching for the right project to work on, but haven't been able to make any progress. Things that I've found are either way overpriced, way above my budget/capabilities or too far away.
I did however find the perfect airplane advertised on line. It is ready to fly home and it just about meets everyone one of my requirements except one - price.
It's listed price is above what I am able to afford at this point in time and I'm not sure if the seller is motivated enough to come down in price enough to make it inside my budget.
I could easily take a loan or line of credit out to buy it, but I don't think I'd be able to sleep at night with that debt.
Guess I'm stuck trying to balance this funk I'm in against moving forward. Frustrating.
I am reminded of a quote I saw recently from singer Jimmy Buffet:
"Searching is half the fun, life is much more manageable when thought of as a scavenger hunt as opposed to a surprise party"
Hopefully this will start to happen for me and my hunt for meaning moves along. I hate the feeling of being in neutral.
Time until takeoff
Husband, father and 911 dispatcher. Long time pilot with a licence that burns a hole in my pocket where my student loan money used to be. First time aircraft builder. Looking to fly my own airplane.