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.
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.