(or "finding an engine")
I've decided a Corvair conversion will power my airplane. It truly fits the definition of low cost, reliable and easy to operate and maintain. It is air cooled, comparable in weight to similar engines for it's range of horsepower and has a long track record of reliable service in homebuilding. Even better, the conversion process is a perfect way for me to learn some new skills.
Chevrolet made 1.7 million Corvairs during the 1960s. Although it can be argued that the Corvair automobile in all it's variations were a commercial failure or success, the fact remains that Chevrolet poured millions of dollars into the development of the engine, giving it a very strong block, simple valve-train and phenomenal cooling capacity (it was a rear engine air cooled car after all).
From my research, a decent core suitable for conversion should be about $100 to $150 dollars, depending on the amount of work that needs to be done to clean it up. The majority of the fittings, fan shroud and accessories like the alternator, pulleys, carbs etc. won't be used in the conversion, so those are "worthless" to me, but could be sold if in serviceable condition. The conversion requires a complete rebuild of the block, cam, crank, pistons and heads so it doesn't need to be in running condition.
A few weeks ago, I placed an ad on an internet classified site seeking to purchase a used Corvair motor.
I've already had three people contact me! I didn't think is was going to be too hard to find one, but I didn't think it was going to be this easy either.
Now, one thing about the internet is that in most cases responses to ads come from all over the place. Two of the three are in southern Ontario, about 3 to 4 hours from me, so dropping over on whim to look at something is problematic.
I've made contact with both of them and I know for certain that one of them is exactly the model year of block and heads I'm looking for. The owner even asked if he could guess (correctly) that I'm an aviation guy. He wants $400 dollars, but I know that the engine is already apart and clean. I also suspect he knows this a desirable motor for aviation conversions and is trying to maximize his profit.
The other contact of the two seems very reluctant to tell me much, so I'm not as comfortable driving all that way to see something that may or may not fit, but it might be an option if he can confirm what year car the engine came from. It is still in a car though, obtaining it easily may be a problem.
Probably the most interesting contact so far has been a random e-mail I got from a guy who saw my ad. He gave me the phone number of his father who lives 20 minutes or so from my place (in fact 5 mins from the stable where my daughters horseback ride).
I called the father and he tells me he isn't sure of the model year, but I'm welcome to come have a look. So today when I dropped of the girls at their riding lessons, I drove over to this guys place to have a look.
"Mr. L" as I'll call him is one of those guys who collects "things". His large property is literally a storehouse of old machinery, cars, snow machines and small equipment. But like a lot of people who collect things, he admits to never really getting around to doing anything with them. Unfortunately in most of these cases the collection of "things" usually ends up as junk rotting away.
He walked me back to a corner on his property, and there among some trees, old wheel rims and headlight bezels was a Corvair engine still mated to it's automatic transmission. The motor had obviously been taken right out of the car as the mounts had been cut by torch from the frame.
Now, I should have been smart and taken the information I have on where to find the engine block number stamp and head stamps, but I didn't. Good or bad though, the engine still has all the cooling baffle steel surrounding the cylinders and heads, making it hard to see any stampings. This might be good though as I think this would have protected the block and heads from the elements. I did manage to take a picture of the casting number on the transmission bell housing, maybe I can obtain something about the year from that.
We didn't discuss price because he agreed that not knowing the year prevents me from making an offer. He did agree to let me come back again with some tools, remove a minimum number of shrouds I need to to get at the casting numbers before making a decision. Maybe I'll take a chance and offer him $50 dollars and see if he'll let me take it off his hands as it sits. At minimum, if it isn't the engine suitable for conversion, I can salvage parts and sell them, or maybe sell it for scrap.
Let's go to Google and see if I can find anything from the casting numbers.
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.