Inspiration in the automotive industry can come from a multitude of places. There have been countless hot rods built that begin with just an idea — a connection to something that seemingly has no place in the car culture.
For instance, the 1968 Ridler award winner, built by Chuck Miller, is a custom rod that is a crazy mix of a fire truck and a C-cab Model T. Yes, you read correctly: a fire truck! As another example, Saab famously made the connection from the aircraft industry to the cars it manufactures. There is even a supercharged backhoe hot rod that tours the country launching off the lines at dragstrips.
The point is, cool and zany ideas can come from anything. It doesn’t stop with Complete vehicle builds, either. Performance components have jumped industry lines before, too. Recently, Pertronix Performance Products did just that when the company announced a new high-torque starter for V8 engines.
“Let’s face it, [the starter] is one of the ugliest and least changed parts on a car, until now.” – Don Lindfors, PerTronix Performance Products
Don Lindfors, director of research and development for Pertronix, gave us some insight into what prompted the use of starters originally meant for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. “Harley motors are notoriously hard to start due to the combination of a long stroke with an odd firing order that places the two pistons coming up on top-dead-center, one right after the other. There is also a long dwell time. This puts a huge load on the starter. Add aftermarket high-compression pistons and short duration cams, and it gets even worse,” he says. “We figured if these starters could start these beasts, with many Harley-type motors now in the 140-plus cubic-inch range [which is like trying to start a 572 cubic-inch big block with six of the plug wires disconnected], we could use that technology to start V8s. So, we adapted the technology into a unique swoopy looking body.”
These starters are stylish, beefy, and small — something beneficial to many hot rods. Pertronix spent the time and utilized the technology to build starters for many popular hot rod powerplants. “Let’s face it, the starter is one of the ugliest and least changed parts on a car, until now,” explained Lindfors.
The sleek design of the new Contour Starters by Pertronix is more than just about good looks. The fully-enclosed aluminum body protects the components from road grime and heat, and keeps the starter much tighter to the powertrain for easier fitment.
When swapping a big engine into a small engine bay, a Contour starter could be the difference between dropping the mill right in, or a sheetmetal and frame modification. Factory starters vary widely in size, however, the Contour starters are smaller — by at least 25-percent.
In addition to the small stature, Contour starters pack a powerful punch with a powerful Nippondenso motor combined with a 4.4:1 gear-reduction drive. This combination pumps out 200 lb-ft of torque. Serious high-compression engines can benefit from the extra grunt, while traditional-compression engines will also see a huge benefit in crank times.
Depending on camshaft choice, a Contour starter can start an engine with up to a 15:1 compression ratio. Typical factory starters offer around 50 lb-ft of torque. The strength of the Contour starters is usually only seen in race-only units that are far more expensive.
Another huge plus to the Contour line is clockability. This improves clearance around headers and other components in the engine bay. Ford units can be clocked 360 degrees, in 20-degree increments. GM units get 80 degrees in 20-degree increments.
What Engines Can Benefit?
Available applications include Chevy small and big blocks, all LS-series engines, and all Oldsmobile and Pontiac engines from 1965 to 1981. There are also units for Ford 221 through 302/5.0-liter engines, 351 Windsor and 351 Cleveland.
The 1962 to 1966 318 polysphere Mopars are also covered, as well as the L-head six-cylinder and small-block LA engines. PerTronix even has an offering for the 426 Hemi.
Prior to the Contour line of starters, Pertronix Performance Brands was made up of ignition and exhaust components. In 1962, formerly known as Per-Lux, the company built auxiliary lights for industrial and heavy equipment.
In the 1970s however, an engineer in the team designed an electronic ignition system, destined to eliminate the need for points in distributors. After securing a patent on the design, the company started selling the system for the same equipment they were building lights.
Fleet managers and technicians saw an immediate benefit to the low-maintenance system and it wasn’t long before the automotive market took notice. Soon, a complete electronic distributor was developed. Business got bigger, product lines expanded, and PerTronix jumped into the exhaust game.
Patriot Exhaust Products, The Original Doug’s Headers, and JBA Performance Exhaust all became members under the Pertronix brand umbrella.
If the history of Pertronix and its quality components is any indication, expect the Contour starters to be top-notch units that will provide you with years of use and dependability. Find out more at www.Contour.Pertronix.com and www.Pertronix.com.