Some might not be aware of this, but the Beaver was originally supposed to have the Gipsy Major engine rather than the 985. This is why the cowling and the fuselage are faired together so badly and why it has such awesome STOL performance--it was designed to have much less power. I wonder what the history of the Beaver would have been like if they had kept the Gipsy? Would we all be as obsessed and say that real engines are upside down ones?
More likely, it would have been relegated to the scrap heaps of history like the underpowered Fairchild Husky.
For an operator making money, looks and heritage come dead last. Operators who choose an airplane or engine because it is 'cool' and then try to make it work go broke fast. Most Otters are now turbine because they make far more economic sense as a turbine aircraft.
The TRACE engine though has much larger hurdles to make it through than looks and heritage. The power plant itself seems excellent. The performance looks amazing. Even the price--with some reservations--isn't that bad. This would look even more promising if we could start getting TBOs into multi thousand hour range.... it's competing with engines from the 1930s... how hard could it be? That not only translates to less engine reserve, but less downtime and potentially less overhaul cost.
But there are many potential problems How long will it be supported or is this another pie-in-the-sky venture that will go belly up in a few years? Will it be able to run auto gas or is this just a late comer to the pack of dinosaur 100LL engines slowly plodding towards extinction? People have sought to change the reciprocating engine game before in aviation with innovative ideas--remember the Porsche Mooney? It died an early death because that engine failed on every conceivable level from performance to economics to weight to simplicity.