By now Henry Ford had come out with his new car, the Model A, powered by a bigger four cylinder engine. At an estimated 40 horsepower, this engine seemed just the thing for Bernard Pietenpol’s new aircraft design’s needs, and having been on the
market for several years, junk yards were starting to get as many of them as Model T engines. So Bernard went to work converting the Ford Model A engine for his new monoplane. In May 1929 he test flew his Air Camper with the new engine. It was a complete success – a perfect match of airframe to powerplant.
Bernard’s big break occurred in 1930 when aviation editor “Westy” Farmer attended a fly-in at Minneapolis. In previous columns in Modern Mechanics and Inventions Flying Manual, Farmer had declared that he was not a big fan of using automotive engines in aircraft and specifically said that the Ford’s Model A engine was not usable at all.
Pietenpol decided to make the flight in his Air Camper up to Minneapolis to prove the editor wrong. In fact he had Finke fly a second Model A powered airship to the fly-in. Once face-to-face with Farmer, Pietenpol told the crowd, “I believe that this is the safest plane for the beginner that has ever been built.” He made such an impression on Farmer, and the rest of the crowd, that Modern Mechanics and Inventions Flying Manual published his Air Camper plans serialized in four 1931 issues. That really put Bernard Pietenpol, the Air Camper, and Cherry Grove on the aviation map. Letters arrived in bunches.