This Incredible Plane: Mooney Porsche M20L PFM | Aviation

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The history of automotive-based powerplants in general aviation is not a great one. However, in the late 1980s, if anyone was determined to make it work, it was the engineering talent at Porsche and Mooney.

Porsche, riding high on the sales success of its classic 911 and its domination of sports car racing, including the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans, was looking to make a return to the aviation business. Mooney, which had much success marketing its Roy LoPresti-inspired 200-plus mph Mooney 201 and 231 models, was looking to create another marketing success. Just maybe the combination of these two-speed kings might produce the high-end product line anchor that Mooney needed and create the same kind of mystique that driving a Porsche 911 bestowed upon its owner.

Well, it was worth a try.

In the summer of 1981, Porsche decided to reenter the aviation market. Nearly 20 years earlier, it had adapted its classic boxer 4-cylinder engines, which began life in the back of countless Volkswagen Beetles, for small airplane builders and manufacturers. These Porsche 678 series engines measured just under 100 cubic inches and produced around 70 hp. Developed in the 1930s, about the same time as the initial air-cooled Lycoming and Continental 4-cylinder opposed engines, the little Porsche engine made the transition seamlessly into the engine compartment of many small homebuilt and limited production aircraft.

This time, Porsche was ready to get back into the general aviation market in a big way. The basis for its new GA powerplant was the race-tested, 6-cylinder, air-cooled boxer engine that powered the iconic Porsche 911. The Porsche-Flugmotoren (Porsche Flight Engine) PFM 3200 featured an air-cooled, 6-cylinder, opposed 3.2 liter (195 cubic inch) design. However, any similarity to other opposed aircraft engines of the time ended there.

The PFM 3200 featured a single-lever engine and propeller control, overhead cams, dual electronic ignition, automatic mixture…

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