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Old 08-04-2015, 07:00 AM
CKrause CKrause is offline
Join Date: Jul 2015
Location: Canada
Posts: 2
Default Renovating an RV-4?

Greetings, all

I've been looking at the whole build/buy dilemma on the RV-4.

Buy looks like it could (initially) be quite a bit less expensive; with the caveat that you're only buying a partial engine reserve.

The Build option looks like a lot of fun - but it's also 1500-2000 hours of time, while the buy option is pretty much "instant gratification". I don't mind the work, but the idea of being grounded for 2-10 years of build time doesn't appeal. Buying has the drawback that I get the plane as someone else decided to build her.

What are people's opinions on a third option: renovation.

The idea is to buy a serviceable airframe, get a full AP mechanic inspection / sign-off on the "bones" of the aircraft, then do a full engine / avionics / interior / paint job replacement.

From what I can tell, this isn't any less expensive.

From what I can tell from Barnstormers, an RV-4 in serviceable condition, with ~50% engine reserve comes in around $USD45K / $Cdn55K. Some of this could be "clawed back" by selling/trading-in the existing engine ($Cdn20K? more? less?).

Are there other options here? For what I'm thinking, I don't need the aircraft to be flyable - just that her airframe is intact (or repairable?).

Throw in a new Lycoming OI-360 (~$Cdn45K installed), $Cdn15K in avionics/instrumentation (say a Dynon 7" panel, with autopilot servos, airspeed and altitude steam guages + a TruTrak Gemini PFD as backup, manual backup engine/oil gauges, Dynon 2.25" dial sized transponder and VHF radio, tac, hobbs, chronometer). Throw in $Cdn 5K to have her professionally repainted, maybe $Cdn10K to have the interior/panel redone.

Prices are pessimistically figured at the "I hire someone else to do it" level. I realize that doing as much of it as I can myself is a trade off of time for money.

By my "spitball" calculations, this comes out to around $Cdn100K "all in", for a fully tuned RV-4, with new engine/interior/panel, "turnkey". From what I can tell, that's about the same as the build cost would be for a comparable configuration.

Renovation isn't saving any money, but it might save time - say 6-8 months of renovation (by professionals - more time for me), vs. 2-10 years of build time, while still ending up with as custom an aircraft as I would be able to develop as a kit build.

Plus, it potentially saves one of these beautiful planes from the scrap yard

What do you think? Does my logic hold - or am I missing some major consideration here?


Last edited by CKrause : 08-04-2015 at 07:02 AM. Reason: typos
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Old 08-04-2015, 07:23 AM
BillL BillL is offline
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Central IL
Posts: 4,925

There are several 4's that have come up for sale on here that are very nice and not very pricey. If it were me, keep a keen eye out for a good deal, get an RV'er to do a pre buy and buy one in good shape. Post a WTB for one too to get ahead of a line. Good ones here usually go in a couple of days, so set your triggers for classifieds. It might take a year, might come in a week. Be ready to act decisively.

Then, if after you know the plane, decide of you want to build one to your specifications, and keep the flyer for reference. Just one opinion, or 2 cents.

1st Flight 1-27-18
Phase II 8-3-18
Repairman 11-15-18
Instrument Currency 12-17-18
Shrunken Exit = ??
No Photo? => PM me.
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Old 08-04-2015, 08:15 AM
eisnerrv4 eisnerrv4 is offline
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Halifax, NS
Posts: 168
Thumbs up RV-4

It took me 9 years of looking, especially on Barnstormers then one finally popped up in Guelph Ontario. I had my good friend who built and flies an RV-4 check out the aircraft and give his ok. Once the deal was done he flew it back to Nova Scotia and checked me out the following summer. Only concern I had at the time was the time on the engine. My friend told me as long as compressions were good and it didn't burn to much oil it wouldn't stop him from purchasing it. I have been flying it since the summer of 2010 and have had no major problems with it. It uses 1 litre of oil every 13.5 hours.

As Bill said just keep looking and be patient and you'll find a good one for the price out there. Definitely get an RV guy to give you a hand.
Brian Eisner
Bedford Nova Scotia
Dues paid for 2018
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Old 08-04-2015, 08:33 AM
acam37's Avatar
acam37 acam37 is offline
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Lufkin Tx
Posts: 666

Look for a kit that is almost complete. I think that's your best bet. Then you can finish it to your liking.
Arlie Conner
RV-4 (N124TT) Sold
RV-8 (N269CP) Sold
RV-4 (N684ML) completed 3-17-19
KOCH Nacogdoches
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Old 08-04-2015, 09:16 AM
Mike S's Avatar
Mike S Mike S is offline
Senior Curmudgeon
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Dayton Airpark, NV A34
Posts: 14,651
Default Welcome to VAF!

Originally Posted by CKrause View Post
Greetings, all
Charles, greetings back at ya-----------and to VAF
Mike Starkey
VAF 909

Rv-10, N210LM.

Flying as of 12/4/2010

Phase 1 done, 2/4/2011

Sold after 240+ wonderful hours of flight.

"Flying the airplane is more important than radioing your plight to a person on the ground incapable of understanding or doing anything about it."
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Old 08-04-2015, 12:13 PM
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flyboy1963 flyboy1963 is offline
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Lake Country, B.C. Canada
Posts: 2,365
Default sounds like a project!

Hmm, that's a tough one. If you found one on the gear, without everything closed up, it would sure be easier to renovate, in my silly opinion.

these 2 currently on Barnstormers give some food for thought eh? Where are you located? you could get someone on the island checkout the Comox one, some (most) guys like doing that!

RV4 DAY VFR, TTAF 430+ O-320 $47,000 FOR SALE TO GOOD HOME 160HP 430+ SMOH Recent mags, MGL EMS, MGL Rdo, Trig mode S, Aera 500 GPS. Email for details and pics Contact Ron Ulmi, Owner - located Comox, BC Canada Telephone: 250-898-4316 Posted July 24, 2015

RV-4 PROJECT $21,500 FOR SALE Vans RV-4 project. 90% finished. lycoming 320, 700 smoh. Everything is there to complete. Call for details. Contact Lanny L. Hanson - WINDSOCK SKYPARK, Owner - located Fort Peck, MT USA Telephone: 406-263-1154 . 406-526-3535 Posted July 22, 2015
Perry Y.
RV-9a - SOLD!....
Lake Country, BC
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Old 08-04-2015, 12:40 PM
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Snowflake Snowflake is offline
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Victoria, BC, Canada
Posts: 3,361

CKrause, with all the things you're looking at doing to an already flying -4, i'd say that this part of your post stands out the most for me:

Originally Posted by CKrause
...the idea of being grounded for 2-10 years of build time doesn't appeal...
The reality is that all the work you're talking about would be at least a 2 year project on its own, especially for someone with no former RV experience. I've been around RV's for 20 years and owned one for 5, and I wouldn't expect to complete such an extensive upgrade without a couple of summers having passed me by in the process.

Now, if you're not in a hurry to have *all* of those things done at once, then you might consider something in-between. Find a good solid airframe, airworthy and flying. Then upgrade it a bit at a time... Panel one year, engine another year, paint another year, etc. Put a year or two in between each of these, and the cash flow won't bankrupt you or get you divorced, either.

The nice part about this is that it will get you flying an RV, and after you've owned and flown one for a while you'll be better able to evaluate what you want when you upgrade.
Rob Prior
1996 RV-6 "Tweety" C-FRBP (formerly N196RV)
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Old 08-04-2015, 03:12 PM
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ppilotmike ppilotmike is offline
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 1,932
Default Seems to me..

.. the best of all worlds would be to find a project that's almost complete, airframe-wise, but not flying. Then you could either finish it up yourself or pay someone else to do it (like you would for a renovation). In the end, you'd have a new, customized bird for a fraction of the time and cost..
Mike Rettig
EAA Chapter 301
VAF Dues Current: Paid for 2019 on 12/03/18
RV-10 Working on the "Dreaded Doors"
F-14 (Pedal Plane - Daughter's Project) "Flying"
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Old 08-04-2015, 03:59 PM
Yobo Yobo is offline
Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: Dallas, TX
Posts: 23
Default Buy or build?

Biggest question is: are you a builder or a flyer? I am a flyer so I bought. My opinion, buy a flying RV-4 that is a good airframe and even a high time engine. Then fly a ton and really KNOW what you want or need, then you will know whether to invest money in avionics, engine, prop, paint, ....

When I bought my Rocket, I just wanted to go fast then I got with a group doing formation so my needs changed. Once you have the RV then don't change a thing for 1 year and get 100 hours under your belt. Then start fixing, upgrading, cause then you will know how YOU use the plane.

First thing, jump in with both feet and get an RV now!!! How many guys here are on plane 1, 2, 3, ... 8?

For me: big engine, C/S prop, IFR to be legal, smoke system, desire inverted fuel/oil. Shoot, you might decide to sell and buy an 8 or Rocket!!! But buy, fly then decide!

My humble opinion, (once you have a plane budget, never let it go away or your wife will spend it for you!)
Kent "Yobo" Yohe
Bought Harmon Rocket
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Old 08-05-2015, 07:41 AM
CKrause CKrause is offline
Join Date: Jul 2015
Location: Canada
Posts: 2

I really appreciate all the feedback; thank you

The general vibe I'm getting is that I might be trying too hard to do everything all at once - and that might not be the wisest option.

I can certainly see the merit to that argument!

If I really want everything "turnkey perfect", then maybe an Experimental isn't for me, and I'd be better off with something registered or LSA/AULA.

However, the ability to roll up my sleeves, get "under the hood", really understand the aircraft from spark plugs to aerodynamics is something I really want.

So, maybe it can't be "perfect" at first.

I really like Snowflake and Yobo's advice: get flying asap, and work toward that "perfect design" - especially as that design will change with time and experience. Maybe the second RV will be a home built, based on what I know I really do want, from experience.

So - maybe time for some serious talk with my financial adviser, and with the wife, and haunt Barnstormers looking for a plane that will do what I need now (whether that's RV-3,4 or 8).

Thank you
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