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R. S. Hoover (the other Bob Hoover)

The VW engine community loses a guru

Bruce King, BK Fliers LLC, bruce@bkfliers.com


RS Hoover

The VW engine conversion community mourns the loss of its guru, Robert S. Hoover (the other Bob Hoover). Known for his level-headed approach to converting these little engines, Bob (or Mr. Hoover to most of us) worked tirelessly to advance the safe and realistic use of the VW engine. In this tribute to Bob, Bruce King (designer of the single-place all-aluminum BK1 Flyer) helps us say goodbye.

I started following R. S. Hoover’s writings during the late 1990s on the Teenie Two e-mail list, and I have yet to find anyone else who is more generous with his knowledge and expertise. There is no doubt that he was the VW guru of gurus. The "HVX" modifications turn a really great engine into an excellent, nearly bulletproof engine by greatly improving the oil flow throughout the engine. But he always made it clear that we were the “mechanics-in-charge” of our projects and that he could just be "a 7-year-old girl playing with her daddy’s computer." This is just a peek at how challenging it is to one’s mind to dig into the brilliance of the other Bob Hoover.

RS Hoover

He was an original no-BS type who made mincemeat of anyone who dared to try and get any BS past him or us. Some of his exchanges with self-proclaimed experts or wannabes are Internet legend. He could be very hard; political correctness was not something to which he subscribed. The “instant expert” would post a sarcastic response to him and most of us would duck, cover, and yell, “Incoming!” knowing Bob would fire back with both barrels. It could be brutal - like watching a heavyweight boxer take on a skinny teenager. At times it would make most of us cringe, but he was virtually always right. A toned-down approach might have worked as well, but who was going to tell him that? The more I got to know him the more it became clear that he cared deeply about us, the loving mother hen taking care of his own, with all the tack of a Marine Corp Drill Sergeant. He wanted it right, and it was best to say, “Yes sir,” read, and learn something.

He was a prolific writer; he would post many original stories, many around Christmas, laced with great information and a poignant message. It showed us just what a kind-hearted person there was behind his rough veneer.

When Bob approached any subject, you got a college-level course on the history, science, controversy, rumor, and gossip surrounding the subject. He could take something as boring as mixing wood glue and turn it into a fascinating science lesson. His Web posts were usually long and would be the first ones I read, and usually the only ones I always read all the way through.

His blog site is a must-read for anyone interested in just about anything. The blog starts in 2006 but we hope that his earlier “Sermons According to Bob” can be collected and posted for generations to marvel at. Even toward the end, he treated the subject of his own health like a science project. He was obviously just as fascinated by the cancer treatment process as the universe of other subjects he tackled. Taking us through the ups and down of the cancer that eventually took him shows just how honest a man he was, even in his own physical weakness. But those posts were few; he kept giving us the same great information and practical knowledge right up to the end.

Bruce King's BK1 at Airventure 2003
Bruce King's BK1

Bob and I exchanged personal e-mails for years; he is the one person most responsible for the BK1 project getting off the ground. The BK1.0 first prototype was a pencil and graph paper project; my efforts to learn a CAD program were very frustrating. He suggested - no, he told me to get DeltaCad and do the tutorial before giving up. Bob checked out my first drawing attempts and in his honest, tough-love manner, told me the truth about my ineptness and sent examples of what it should really look like. The BK1 builders have said a lot of nice things about the drawings; just remember that you are thanking Bob Hoover just as much. About halfway through the design of the control system Bob said he was seeing things done with DeltaCad that were beyond what he thought was possible. I will treasure that compliment more than any of you could ever know.

Bob gave a great amount of guidance with the formation and structure of BK Fliers LLC, the Beta Builder, and Early Builder programs. When problems started to arise with some rebellious builders, I would send my proposed replies to Bob first. Then he, the no-prisoners-taken Bob Hoover, would always have me tone it down while correcting my grammar and spelling like an English teacher. I'm sure he would have rapped my knuckles with a fat ruler if he could, because I deserved it.

Bob had such a great sense of humor, too, helping with my range limitation problem caused by TBS (tiny bladder syndrome). His response was so funny that I almost got fired for falling out of my chair laughing while reading it at work. Would love to share it with you, but this is a family-friendly newsletter. But the results were five successful cross-countries to Oshkosh and Sun n’ Fun.

After finishing this I am going out to the shop to hang the flywheel-end prop hub VW conversion on the BK1.3 Prototype 2. The parts came from Great Plains Aircraft Supply, the result of collaboration between Steve Bennett and Bob Hoover. He told me many times that this was the best way to do it, and even gave me copies of all his CAD drawings of the hub, generator, and engine mount. Like the HVX Mods, he didn't want anything in return other than knowing he was helping. Not since Ben Franklin gave away the design of his stove has someone been so unselfish. I guarantee that Bob will get the credit due to him in my plans. This engine installation along with the beautiful custom engine mount that Steve Bennett made for us is going to be awesome!

I am going to really miss R. S. Hoover; there will never be another one, that’s for sure.


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