Since most engine companies require some lead-time, my first goal after securing the purchase of the kit was to start deciding on an engine. I knew that we wanted a Lycoming 4-cylinder, but that only narrows it down to a few hundred variants. I also knew that we didn’t want fuel injection, and that we wanted to be able to burn 100LL without the lead, which would have an octane rating of around 94. Those decisions, along with the elimination of the helicopter, aerobatic, and left-rotating options narrowed the field a bit. There were still several choices, so I started reasearching. I read the Beartracks articles about deciding on an engine, and did some online reasearch. Neither of those steps provided any great insight, other than that I knew that I wanted to choose a builder that I could trust to do a good job and support his work after the fact.
I spoke with Mark at Avipro to see what kind of OEM discounts he could get from Lycoming. He pointed out that there were basically three options that seemed popular among other builders. He could get a new 360 to sell me with the OEM pricing, I could buy an engine from an individual, or I could have Bob build one. He also noted that another builder had decided to sell a 390, and that the price was around $30,000. The new lycoming would be around $25k. The 390 is certainly attractive, since it has the same footprint of the 360, but has more power. I did more research about the compression ratio and octane requirements. It seems that the Lycomings have low compression cylinders that can run with the octane ratings of pump auto fuel, normal cylinders, and high compression cylinders that can only run on 100LL. Of course, the higher compression ratios produce more power, but are more likely to detonate on inferior fuel. I learned that the normal 8.5:1 cylinders can run on 93 octane or so, which is on par with premium auto fuel, and more importantly, with a version of current AVGAS without the lead. I’m personally betting that if 100LL ever goes away or becomes super-expensive, that the infrastructure will provide a clean, high quality fuel that has all of the good traits of 100LL (such as the long shelf-life and lack of ethanol and other goofy stuff). I think that this change will happen before we reach TBO on our Bearhawk, so I wanted to be sure not to paint ourselves into a corner that would require us to use leaded fuel.
Before long, I started to realize that even if I spent a year researching the 360 line of engines, I would still not know as much as an expert does about them. I was in the unique situation of having access not only to an expert on Lycoming engines, but also an expert on the Bearhawk- the guy who designed it. I called Bob and asked him a few questions. What was the current lead time? 9 months. What about the warranty? If it was our fault, we will fix it. What will the price be? Somewhere around $16k. Wow, that sounds pretty good to me.
I thought about it for another day or two, then realized that if I was going to put my faith in Bob to build an engine, I might as well go ahead and move forward with the order. I didn’t have any reservations about trusting his work, so I called him back the next day and learned about how his ordering process works. He wanted for me to prepare a written order and send it to him in the mail. This sounds like a great method, since it gives him a paper trail to follow. The trouble with such a process is that I didn’t know how to write the letter- but he knew that too of course. We spoke for about 15 or 20 minutes, and it went something like this.
The standard starting price for a 360 is $13,800, so start with that. What kind of engine mount are you using? The case for the conical is a little bit cheaper, the Dynafocal type 1 is $500 more. I would tell him what I wanted, or if I wasn’t sure, ask him about the merrits of the options. Once we came to a decision, he told me what to write and how much to add to the price. Here is a list that starts after the one listed above:
Constant speed capable crankshaft: Add $100
Prop governor drive on accessory case: Add $350
Vaccum Pump drive (for an alternator of course): Add $200
Skytec Lightweight Starter: Add $380
Flywheel for starter (while Bob probably silently remembers that his 360 Bearhawk didn’t have no stinkin electrical system at all) : $300
Angle Valve cylinders: $300
This modification is one that Eric also had on his engine, and Bob has done several like this. The angle-valve cylinders have larger valves and more metal in the head, which makes for better cooling, and will probably be the one modification that will be most different from other 360s.
The following options were important to note, but didn’t add to the base price: No preference for narrow or wide deck, carburetor, rear-entry oil pan and elbow to turn 90 degrees (moves the carburetor aft), overhauled cam and lifters, overhauled Bendix mags, overhauled ECI Cermanil cylinders, and the normal compression cylinders. Total price: $15,930. I sent the letter along with a $200 deposit, then followed up with a phone call a week or so later. That’s all there was to it! Will I end up regretting the choice to go with Bob or the options above? Perhaps, but probably not. That’s what I think anyway.