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Old 04-27-2020, 03:30 PM
jhiggins jhiggins is offline
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Lake Wylie, SC
Posts: 58
Default My RV-7A gets BIG performance upgrade

My RV-7A just got a BIG performance update, and so I thought I would pass along some of my experience with that. I?ve owned 3 RVs in the last 14 years, but I?ve never built anything. I don?t really consider myself a builder, but more of a tinkerer. A year ago or so I decided I wanted a kick-*** RV that I can keep for a long time. I really prefer side by side, so that eliminated owning a Rocket. I wasn?t really seeing anything for sale for quite a while that fit my needs, so I decided to buy something knowing I was going to do an engine/prop switch. I found a really nicely built RV-7A with an o-320 and metal fixed prop. I decided on the Thunderbolt IO-390 with a Hartzell Composite constant speed prop. Looks really nice under the cowl with the red engine paint and chrome rocker covers, and chrome battery box. My original plan was to hire out this work, but that wasn?t really working out very well. I had some spare time and decided to just do the work myself. It ended up being approx. 250 hrs work in all. I replaced EVERYTHING firewall forward, including a new cowl (horizontal induction), and even the engine mount.
A few of the options I chose are: Earth-x battery, to save 10 lbs off the firewall. One regular mag and one Surefly. Vetterman exhaust, Avstar fuel injection, Plane Power alternator. The Avstar was chosen mainly to have a straightforward install of the snorkel. And it was, just bolted up nicely with no modification. I used the RV-10 oil cooler and firewall mount (with 4? scat tube), and I ended up using the RV-14 baffle kit. The baffle kit was really nicely put together, however I had to trim about an inch of height off the top of the metal baffles to fit the RV-7A cowl.
The plane ended up going from 1078 empty to 1116 empty for a 38 lb gain. Weight and balance is good as I didn?t end up coming even close to the max nose weight recommended by Vans (in all weight conditions) and I also can load it up with a fat co -pilot and 100 lbs baggage and not exceed the rear CG. I plan on putting my smoke tank back in the back in the future anyway (20 lbs) and this will help a little with the nose weight.
I have flown off the 5 hrs phase 1 and everything is great! All temps are cool, especially the cylinder temps. Performance is outstanding. Acceleration on the runway feels more like a sports car than an airplane. True airspeed seen so far is 179 kts, 75% power. I hope maybe to gain a knot or two as the engine gets more broken in and I wax her up real good . The best I can calculate I am getting at least the advertised climb of Vans 200 h.p. website numbers.
Thanks to some buddies that helped: Brad Striplin, Mike Quinn, and Tom Rood. I don?t think I would have attempted without some knowledgeable help around.
If someone wants to help me I can send a pic to you that you can post as I have no online picture hosting ability.
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Old 04-27-2020, 05:20 PM
BillL BillL is offline
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Central IL
Posts: 6,522

That prop got you an extra 100 lbs thrust for takeoff.
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Old 04-29-2020, 02:04 AM
Planshee Planshee is offline
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Belgium / UAE
Posts: 4

Great job and thanks for sharing. Smells like a little rocket... but its not for real until I can see a picture :-)

Last edited by Planshee : 04-29-2020 at 02:05 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old 05-08-2020, 08:00 AM
N941WR's Avatar
N941WR N941WR is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: SC
Posts: 12,884


I just saw this. Congratulations on the upgrade! May you have many trouble free hours!
Bill R.
RV-9 (Yes, it's a dragon tail)
O-360 w/ dual P-mags
Build the plane you want, not the plane others want you to build!
SC86 - Easley, SC
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Old 05-09-2020, 06:48 AM
jhiggins jhiggins is offline
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Lake Wylie, SC
Posts: 58

Finally got the pics to post

Last edited by jhiggins : 05-09-2020 at 07:11 AM.
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Old 05-09-2020, 06:51 AM
jhiggins jhiggins is offline
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Lake Wylie, SC
Posts: 58

Thanks Bill.
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Old 05-11-2020, 04:48 AM
RV7ForMe RV7ForMe is offline
Join Date: Jul 2015
Location: Europe
Posts: 650
Default Looking good!

That Prop OMG
VAF dues paid for 2021
RV7-A (N137MX Reserved) - Wings Started...
RV7-A - Rebuild Done - Flying!
Cessna Rocket 210HP - Best dang 172 Ever made! (sold)
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Old 05-11-2020, 11:28 AM
elev666 elev666 is offline
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Kincardine Ont,Can
Posts: 226

Very nice ,, no expense spared by the looks of that engine & prop combination, since you did it the homebuilders way , your self, what would an upgrade like that cost you in 2020 dollars & I hope you were able to buy both threw Van?s since theirs a limit of once per airframe
1946 C85 J3
RV 7 A project
Grounds keeper @ CKS9, 2021 dues pd
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Old 05-11-2020, 12:30 PM
jhiggins jhiggins is offline
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Lake Wylie, SC
Posts: 58
Default Costs

Everything was purchased last year, the engine with starter and 1 mag ans Avstar FI was around 37k and the prop and spinner were 15k through Vans. Unfortunately I couldn't get the prop/engine discount since Van's does not support the IO-390 in this aircraft, although everybody including Thunderbolt were very nice to deal with.

Last edited by jhiggins : 05-12-2020 at 10:38 AM.
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