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Eye of the Experimenter

25th Goodguys West Coast Nationals

Photos and story by Patrick Panzera, Editor – Experimenter, EAA 555743

This softball-sized scale engine is a replica of the “Elmerina” seven-Cylinder radial engine developed for use in drone aircraft, designed by Elmer Beers in 1945. The engine is fully functioning and capable of running.

September 9, 2011 – Although my first love is aviation, specifically experimental aviation, I love cars too - like any red-blooded American boy should. Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s during the time that drag racing was coming into its own and NASCAR became as mainstream as the NFL was exciting times for a young automobile enthusiast. My first vehicle was a 1954-1/2 Chevrolet half-ton pickup truck that I bought from my dad for $300 on my 16th birthday - the day I got my driver’s license.

While I didn’t make much money back then, I began to trick it out with chrome “baby moons” supporting huge G-60-15 Fleetwood Marauders in the rear and 14s in the front, lowered it just a little, and replaced the dashboard switches with all toggles, just like those found in the overhead of the spankin’ new Bellanca Scouts that were used for towplanes at the El Mirage gliderport where I worked. The Chevy not only got me to and from high school, but also to and from work on the weekends. But after I joined the Navy and was stationed 150 miles from home, it wasn’t such a great commuter.

From there I’ve owned and tricked out a 1971 Dodge Colt (making it one of the first “rice-rockets”), a 1953 Chevrolet half-ton pickup, a 1971 Pontiac Grandville (that my friends referred to as “the familymobile” but it had a 455 in it that could do 0-60 in just more than four seconds), a 1973 Ford Courier that I stretched the cab to be like the Datsun King Cab of the same era and I put a 2.0L engine and a five-speed transmission in which a 1.6L with a four-speed once lived, a 1981 Mazda 626 (another rice-rocket), my 1991 Mazda B-2600i that I bought new and still have, a 1988 Corvette that needed a refreshed interior, and a 1974 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia that my son and I restored while I restored a 1988 Mazda RX-7. On hand to be restored are a 1965 Chevrolet Corvair Corsa Turbo and another 1988 RX-7.

But that’s enough about my cars. I went to the show in Pleasanton expecting to see some really cool hot rods, but I never expected to find one that blended so well my love for handcrafted automobiles and handcrafted aircraft. 

When I go to aviation events, there’s usually a prop-card that tells me a little about the plane, the owner, and where it came from. If there isn’t a prop-card, I can always look up the N number in the NTSB database  to get the info I need. At this car show there was nothing like a prop card or an N number, so I really can’t tell you anything about this remarkable automobile that you can’t see in the photos.

But the real reason I went to the 25th Goodguys West Coast Nationals was to see the little aircraft engines, like those I saw at the Denver airport several years ago, and not too long ago published some photos of in the Experimenter photo gallery.

To see photographs of the engines that Pat saw on display at the 25th Goodguys West Coast Nationals, click here.


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