Buy the engine early, or not?

Discussion in 'General Experimental Aviation Questions' started by Aesquire, Sep 14, 2016.

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  1. Sep 14, 2016 #1

    Aesquire

    Aesquire

    Aesquire

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    I know this is tangential.. but I doubt it rates a whole thread... so.

    Going over old Kitplanes magazines, and often they talk about the price of different aspects of a build. Classically, 1/3 airframe, 1/3 engine, 1/3 instruments, 1/3 finishing & odds & ends..

    And often the advice is to get the engine nearly last. This means you don't have it sitting around rusting and in the way while you build, New engine warranty doesn't expire, and the big $$ hit comes after a lot has already been paid for.

    All great reasons, and good logic.

    But.

    I also see the $14,000 Jabiru from 2003 is now $17,000, the $7k VW engine is now $10k, and Lycomings and Continentals and Rotaxes are even worse in the inflation dept.

    Not to mention that lovely air frame that is just waiting for that shiny new Rotax 503, or HKS 700, etc. That just doesn't exist anymore. ( yes they did bring the HKS back...) Page after page of Ultralights advertised with a 477.

    I won't even get into the up and coming new engine that never happens. Leaving you with a BD-5 problem of adapting a different engine to an air frame that was lovingly wrapped around a power plant that is now historical or imaginary.

    So, the question is, If you are building a plane with a specific engine in mind, would it be smart to buy one first? Some care in pickling and kept in a climate controlled environment... ( yes, I've had an engine with a slab of glass on top as a coffee table in the living room. But it was 3 male room mates and when it got warmer it was going back in the car )
     
  2. Sep 14, 2016 #2

    rdj

    rdj

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    Re: Inexpensive Homebuilts... Why?

    If you're retired and able to work on the plane full time, have purchased a complete kit, and have lots of workshop/hanger space, it probably makes sense to wait. You'll get to the engine soon enough.

    If you're scratch-building or can only work on the plane in dibs and dabs, and measure completion time in decades not years, it probably makes sense to wait for the newer/better technology, and avoid having to pickle an engine for years.

    The inflationary cost of the engine is probably only 5% or so of a typical homebuilt completion cost. Of course, if your BFF (best flying friend) offers to sell you his unused engine for pennies on the dollar, start pickling.

    OTOH, if your workspace is limited (like mine), your time is limited (like mine) and your kit is available in sub-kits (like mine), your idea has merit. That's the approach I'm following. Not only are the engines and instruments 2/3 of the cost of the plane, they're also typically 2/3 of the work. That's why I'm taking an 'instrument panel forward' approach on my build. The instrument panel can be built and mostly wired up on a desk in the house. The firewall-forward can be built and mostly wired up on the engine stand in the corner of the garage. I find the actual construction of aircraft structure itself goes pretty fast, but it takes up (or more accurately will take up) an inordinate amount of room in my garage aircraft factory. It seems to me it is better to get the complex, expensive but relatively compact stuff done first, leaving the fuselage as the last item to be built and to which other completed sub-assemblies can be bolted to. That's the approach I'm taking. A great plan that probably has some fatal flaw I haven't run into yet.

    This tangential rambling probably does belong in another thread.
     
  3. Sep 14, 2016 #3

    litespeed

    litespeed

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    I think it all depends on the airframe and intended engine you wish to use.

    Yes a Jabiru is getting more expensive but nowhere near the big leaps that rotax makes.

    Exchange rates also have a large bearing on the actual prices paid- ie the Aus.$ was at parity with the US $ but now is about $0.70 so that matters heaps.

    You are in the Us so that is less of a issue but depends on where the engine comes from.

    Personally unless a absolute bargain dropped into my lap or I was very concerned the engine was no longer available new........I would.

    Wait and do the build first
    - technology changes and new engines come into play eg The Pegasus 0-100, the Verner, The D motor etc
    - you may keep looking and strike a absolute bargain if you spend a long time looking whilst you build.
    -You may find a part built aircraft/damaged etc that includes a engine you want and sell off the rest. Saving you a heap of money.
    Time is on your side if you build first and engine comes last to find a bargain or await the development of a newer engine until it is a proven design and in production- eg the Pegasus.

    I would use the time to keep the engine money and maybe invest it while waiting for the perfect deal to come along. And you can save your extra pennies along the way.

    Just my two cents.

    PS. The 2003 to 2016 price change of the Jabiru of only $3000 is tiny - that is 13 years later.
     
  4. Sep 14, 2016 #4

    12notes

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    That represents 1.5% per year.

    I'm not sure where the "$7K VW engine now costs $10K" comes from. I looked around last month at 85ish HP versions, and Revmaster was the most expensive at $8.5K. Hummel's start at $5,600, with a dual plugs and electric start it's still less than $7K. The only one I saw that was $10K or more was the turbo version from Revmaster.
     
  5. Sep 14, 2016 #5

    TFF

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    If you will not have any more income or income raises, better to buy now. If there is a good chance the project might get stalled, don't buy. Remember you have to store this expensive lump of metal, and will probably have to oil and rotate parts if it is going to be years to keep it preserved. If the project does stall, you might not be able to sell it for what you bought it for; even if not run, it is "used" on the open market. It would depend on the engine too. Lycoming would really have to take a major fall if they went away, but if you have to have some odd small company engine that may or not be there later, you might go ahead and get it.
     
  6. Sep 14, 2016 #6

    MikePousson

    MikePousson

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    There's a lot of thing can happen between starting a project and hanging an engine on it. I'm of the mindset, that the engine purchase waits until I'm ready to hang it, or if a drop dead deal falls in your lap and money spent on it can be recouped if things change.
    I know a man, I bought his project, that has a brand new 2013 AeroVee that he bought and assembled before he gave up the project. He offered it to me at a great price, but not a drop dead deal, but I passed. I'll worry about power when I actually need it.
     
  7. Sep 14, 2016 #7

    Winginit

    Winginit

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    I think it really depends on which engine you are talking about and whether you might be open to a different engine later on. If someone is stuck on a LyCont and will have nothing else, then either watch for a great deal and continue to put money back till then or you take so long you have accumulated enough money for a new or rebuilt one. Nothing is reallly going to change much technology wise on those engines. If on the other hand you are considering an alternative engine or a Jab/Rotax/etc., then I think its best to wait. A deal may come along that is worth taking for an existing engine, but these companies are continually experimenting and improving their product. The alternative engines should be viewed on a case by case basis. Established setups like Corvairs, go ahead and buy one and store it away. It'll always be worth what you have in it. Newer conversions, I'd wait a while till I see how they fare or if something even better comes along. There really is no one right answer.
     
  8. Sep 14, 2016 #8

    Daleandee

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    There is the other option ... building the engine that goes on the air frame. Many builders that use Corvair or VW power build their own engines. Sourcing and buying the parts and building the engine as the end of the air frame build comes into view has many advantages. Building (or rebuilding) an engine (even if it's a real aircraft engine) can save significant money and give you the advantage of being able to maintain and service it with confidence. I understand that many are not engine builders but it seems that if one can learn to build an air frame that learning to build an engine is just another skill set to learn.

    FWIW,

    Dale Williams
    N319WF @ 6J2
    Myunn - "daughter of Cleanex"
    120 HP - 3.0 Corvair
    Tail Wheel - Center Stick
    Signature Finish 2200 Paint Job
    130.2 hours / Status - Flying
    Latest video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qd-QAxccgas
     
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  9. Sep 14, 2016 #9

    Rockiedog2

    Rockiedog2

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    if you're gona build the mount you'll need the motor when you do so you can plumb it all up and then run the tubes from the FW attaches to the motor and tack it up.
     
  10. Sep 14, 2016 #10

    Jay Kempf

    Jay Kempf

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    If you need to do any design work around the engine choice you need it early or you need a really detailed 3D model and the skills to use it for space planning in a modern CAD system. If you are just building from plans and know what engine will be used then it don't matter. For oddball engines or an engine R&D program you absolutely need the engine block, heads, exhaust and a mockup of intake, cooling, etc... You can finish build the engine at the end. That saves pickling and worrying about an engine in long term storage.
     
  11. Sep 14, 2016 #11

    Aesquire

    Aesquire

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    Good responses. Much to consider.

    I was just talking off the top of my head & from memory on the VW engine prices... The Turbo Aerovee is over $10k, the regular one only $7.5k... plus. Used to be $5.5k.

    But the inflation is obvious even if I got the numbers off a bit.

    Btw, Instruments, glass cockpit stuff, should, IMHO, be the last purchase.

    Steam gauges, you can get when the bargains appear, but computer stuff gets obsolete very fast, and brands go away. You are probably safe with major brands, but more than one company has been bought by another, and while you can probably get service on your II Morrow transceiver, good luck on that Blue Mountain panel.
     
  12. Sep 14, 2016 #12

    Aesquire

    Aesquire

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    BTW, if you are doing a V-8 car engine conversion, they make plastic mockups so you can easily take them in and out of the car/plane you are putting them in. Another great advance from the world of hot rods. Instead of using a crane and lots of sweat, you just lift the exact non functional replica in and out with your hands. With steel threaded inserts so you can install your manifolds, exhaust, accessories, etc. Reasonably cheap too.
     
  13. Sep 15, 2016 #13

    rdj

    rdj

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    Now THAT is an awesome idea. Too bad they don't make something like that for Lycoming, Jabiru, Rotax, et al.
     
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  14. Sep 15, 2016 #14

    lurker

    lurker

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    i bought my engine, prsu and prop when i stumbled on a good engine for the application at a good price, before i had anything more than a general design and a stack of lumber. it's helped me stay committed when life gets in the way. and when i get back to building again, i'll have it ready for motor mount design, weight and balance, etc.
     
  15. Sep 15, 2016 #15

    cheapracer

    cheapracer

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    There's some more engines coming, try to hang out til the end of the year for more info.
     
  16. Oct 6, 2016 #16

    Ron Gandy

    Ron Gandy

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    the new engines are here look at our website www.cktaeroengines.com and view the new CKT-240 Turbo diesel.
     
  17. Oct 6, 2016 #17

    radfordc

    radfordc

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    u

    A friend of mine makes those. Payr.com
     
  18. Oct 7, 2016 #18

    proppastie

    proppastie

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    I bought mine early, not a kit but new design plane so I had to know exactly what the engine and prop was. If a kit and/or standard engine its a different story.
     

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