According to East Coast Auto Electric (a company that offers a number of different mini-starter configurations), when the engine displacement exceeds 500 cubic inches, and when the compression ratio increases past 12:1, it may be necessary to use a larger mini-starter (which seems like a contradiction, but it isn't). By using a motor with larger field windings, a stronger armature and bigger brushes, torque increases over a conventional mini-starter can multiply by an extra 40 percent. In terms of hard numbers, a conventional mini-starter produces roughly 1.6 HP. In contrast, East Coast Auto Electric's "Super-Mini-Starter" produces 2.4 HP. The only sacrifice when switching to the higher capacity mini-starter is a minimal increase in length. East Coast Auto Electric's Super Mini is 1.0-inch longer than a conventional mini-starter.
Weight Savings & Installation
In terms of overall size, you can easily see that a typical mini-starter is considerably smaller than something like a vintage heavy-duty Delco starter. This small size allows for added exhaust clearance, oil pan clearance and in some cases, ground clearance. The added room allows for increased airflow around the starter, and that lessens the heat predicament. Just as important, the latest mini starters are approximately 10 pounds lighter than an aluminum nose Delco. Compared to an iron-nose Delco (such as the models used on countless vintage Corvettes) or a big Chrysler gear reduction starter, the weight savings are even more considerable.
What about installation? If you look closely, you'll see that a starter such the one shown in the photos comes complete with a pair of mounting holes. By mounting the starter inward or outward, it can fit small and large diameter Corvette flywheels or flex plates. Adjustment for correct pinion mesh is also taken into consideration. Included with the starter are shims to move the pinion down and another set of shims to move the pinion out. Mounting bolts are also included with the starter package.
How difficult is the wiring? If you have a look at the solenoid, you'll see two threaded (8-mm) studs and one male spade (push on) terminal. The (+) battery cable attaches to the top stud and the starter switch wire goes to the spade terminal. In some applications, an ignition resistor bypass is used. In this case, the wiring is the same, but a second wire from the distributor goes to the starter. Connect the distributor wire to the lower 8-mm stud (closer to the starter motor body). A 10 amp, 12-volt diode will have to be spliced into this wire so that feedback voltage does not reach the starter. Although the diode isn't supplied with the McLeod starter, they advise that any 10 amp, 12-volt diode will work.
So far so good, but what fits what? Mini high torque starters are readily available for almost all Corvette applications from vintage C1 Corvettes all the way up to today's LS-powered models. For example, Power Master's XS starter weighs just 8 pounds and is recommended for 12:1 compression or higher LS engines. The Power Master XS mini starter is an excellent choice for highly modified Corvettes with large tube headers and big oil pans due to its small size. Like the LS-engines, LT-series small-blocks were equipped with starters that were smaller than the Delco jobs of old, but they too can readily accept today's even smaller, high torque gear reduction starters. As pointed out previously in the article, McLeod, Power Master, East Coast Electric and likely a dozen other companies offer high torque mini-starters for conventional Corvette small and big block engines. The bottom line here is the sky is the limit if you need a small, powerful, reliable starter for your Corvette.
The Bottom Line
In the end, you'll find that the newer gear reduction, miniature starters aren't frazzled by large displacement, high compression, heat or cold. They're light, small, provide more header and oil pan clearance and just as important, they're consistent from a starting perspective. For a daily-driven and modified Corvette, that could be the most important asset.
|Difficulty Index - Wrenches|
|Anyone's Project: no tools required||1 Wrench|
|Beginner: basic tools||2 Wrenches|
|Experienced: special tools||3 Wrenches|
|Accomplished: special tools and outside help||4 Wrenches|
|Professionals Only: send this work out||5 Wrenches|