If there was an Iron Butt award at the Alternative Engine Conference held at French Valley Airport in Temecula, California, Joe Williams would have been in the running last Saturday. True, he flew his Sonerai II just somewhat over two hours from Casa Grande, Arizona, but in such a diminutive speedster that’s sure to be a major cross country.
Williams bought his Sonerai II as a flying airplane, complete with a ’93 Subaru Legacy 4-cylinder, double over-head cam, water-cooled EJ22 engine in it. But he’s worked and flown the combination enough (it has 500 hours on it) to log his own adventures and he seems eager for more.
Performance is good. Williams figures on 140-150 kt IAS at 5 gph, or a bit over 9 gph at WOT. He also quoted 172 mph TAS at 5.5 gph, so in the real world he’s putting right along on not much fuel. Earlier he tried a set of Delta 230 grind racing cams in the EJ22, and they made noticeably more power (+25 hp and +25 ft lb of torque) that worked great in climb and cruise. However, their lumpy idle was sufficient to fail the right upper engine mount, so he repaired the mount and removed the cams until he can figure out a stouter engine/mount interface.
An engine mod that’s worked great is a shallow oil pan from Outfront Motorsports. The stock Subaru pan is especially deep; the Outfront pan hangs through the lower cowling and is literally out in front, so it provides much needed aero streamlining.
One thing the Subaru installation is is heavy, if you can call an empty weight of 752 lb. portly. But between the Subie and the full-framed Williams he figures his Sonerai is 300 lb. heavier than a stocker. But he’s got the power to pull it, and with a 1,150 lb gross he’s got the breathing space for fuel and what luggage will fit. He did, however, replace the two 11-lb lead acid batteries with a pair of 1.5-lb Shorai LFX14L2-BS12 lithium Ion units and rates them as “fantastic.” “They weigh nothing and each one has 210 CCA.”
And Williams flies his Sonerai. After his first 11 hour jaunt to Oshkosh from Casa Grande he said he “couldn’t feel my butt for two days,” a situation cured by memory foam cushioning.
Tom Wilson is a professional magazine writer and nurtures an ongoing affair with all things internal combustion. His writing is most often found in automotive magazines, but aviation is his first love. Working as a line boy, he learned to fly while in high school, but still hasn't mastered the art of keeping a paper chart in an open cockpit.