I did an oppo write-up about Menasco engines in the golden age of air racing. After, I took a few liberties and wrote a nice story on what it must have been like and put it on my blog full of terrible writing. I forgot we like a good story on Oppo so I thought some plane nuts might like it.

A most dangerous fulfillment:

Jed’s two-man crew pushed the hangar doors open revealing a squat yellow plane - ready to eat anyone alive if let off a leash. Jed wiped his hands with oily rags and spoke with a smirk, “You ready for her? I put in the good gas today.”

Clean lines and beastly engine sitting sat before Eugene who showed up somewhat new to the races last year. He did fine keeping out of trouble in a slower, out-of-date plane. A decade or so ago he survived the Germans on the front. A couple of kills. Where his talent was abundant, this year he needed fistfuls of luck, as well as fistfuls of power on the other side of that throttle. Jed cut up the old and slow plane over the winter, rebuilding it into this raging demon before them.

Eugene could not take his eyes away from the engine cowling and the gaping hole in front. A hole dedicated to devouring most of the air into the supercharger and the rest to cool the Menasco Buccaneer cylinders. An engine he knew for sure would run hotter than ever in the first race. Not a single curve disturbed the airstream. Wings shorter than last year and that cockpit, so far back, so low. Concerning. He wouldn’t see anything until reaching nearly one-hundred miles-per-hour; only fast enough to barely claw into the air. The old plane had literally become an eight-hundred-pound gorilla with a high-octane cattle prod up it’s behind.

“The good gas?” Eugene said with a devilish smile, “How good you talkin’, Jed?”

Jed tilted his head to think and put the rags in his back pocket, “Well, I’m not sure how much is actually gas anymore. It’s mostly paint thinner come to think of it. Otherwise, it would crack the cylinders. You might get away with fifty pounds or so pressure from that blower. Hold on over forty, it’ll want to twist it’s guts out. I might get you sixty pounds by the end of the year.”

Advertisement

Eugene walked around the stubby wing tip to the cockpit, raising a helmet over his head, fastening the leather straps under his chin. He buckled into the narrow seat; everything had a familiar mixed scent of gas and oil. His hand was unsure about switching the mags on while his brain pondered the machine. Nobody runs this much boost. Paint thinner? Mineral spirits and alcohol compounds? Jed talked up the engine he wanted to build this winter but what on earth did he give birth to? Eugene shouted at the crew to swing the prop and the gigantic Buccaneer inline-six exploded in a booming staccato idle. Wingtips shook from the torque. A firm hold on the brakes held the engine’s urgent desire. Eugene tried many things to satisfy the missing thrill of the Great War, but this, the shrieking slipstream around the canopy and sheer raw nastiness speed, was the only thing that filled in the missing piece. His hands were just fine.