The starter motor typically isn’t at the top of the priority list when building a high-compression engine or performing a V8 engine swap. However, a premium-quality, high-torque starter is essential for cranking over a high-compression V8 or a special application engine. If you’re using a stock starter on a modified engine, you could be left stranded or stuck in your garage. And if you’re a racer using an underpowered starter, you may be stuck in the pits trying to turn over your engine when you need to be lined up for your run.
For 25 years, Powermaster Performance starters have fired up stock, mildly modified, and the highest compression engines for a wide range of muscle cars, hot rods, competition vehicles, trucks, off-road and specialty vehicles. A starter is one of those engine parts you can barely see, but if you pay attention, you’ll notice it’s logo on a majority of cars out there. Powermaster is continually working with it’s customers to improve it’s products and one way they do this is through it’s repair program. We asked Vice President of Sales Denise Lawrence about the program. She had this to say, “We are always learning from the people out there using our products. We have a repair program, so we are constantly learning how the product is getting abused, whether it’s with race or street, and we’re improving upon that. The newly manufactured product coming off the line is better, in that respect, than the product we made a year ago due to continual improvement.”
The relentless pursuit of improving quality has made Powermaster the go-to starter for many enthusiasts and engine builders. Its 150,000-square foot manufacturing and distribution center is located in West Chicago, Illinois, where the company manufactures and assembles its own starters and alternators in house.
A stock starter motor may be capable of turning over a stock or mildly modified V8. But once the compression ratios rise above 11:1, underpowered stock starters, often made with light-duty components, won’t provide consistent cranking power. Powermaster offers a full range of starters, which are the Original Look, PowerMax, PowerMax Plus, Mastertorque, XS Torque, Ultra Torque, Ultra Hi-Speed, and Diesel Truck.
The OEM Look starters provide ample cranking power for engines up to 10:1 while the XS Torque and the Master Torque starters capably spin engines with 11:1 to 18:1 compression ratios. Denise says, “The bulk of the business is in the XS Torque and the Mastertorque [starters]. We sell about an equal amount of starters between street and race.”
The benefits of these high-torque aftermarket starters are several fold. Powermaster starters are lighter, more compact, and more efficient than OEM starters. Beyond the physical size and weight savings of these aftermarket starters, Powermaster’s proprietary armature, magnets, brushes, and solenoids are far superior to common components in OEM-type starters made overseas. Denise says she can’t go into the specifics on the proprietary technology, but she says, “We’re using the finest steel, copper, and aluminum for our starters.” The starters offer the properly calibrated gear reduction to produce maximum torque for a wide range of vehicles and applications.
Often, they are an absolute must when running a high-performance or race engine. These extreme-performance engines produce enormous heat, and a more efficient starter is able to crank over a heat-soaked engine far easier than a stock starter. In addition, these starters are far smaller than stock and often solve clearance problems for headers and wide oil pans when performing a V8 engine swap.
Several important factors should be considered when selecting a starter. First and foremost, the torque rating should match the cranking needs of the engine. You also need to consider kilowatt output, gear reduction, and horsepower output because these factors are all interrelated. Some engines require faster cranking at a lower compression while other higher compression engines are suited for less aggressive cranking. For example, the Ultra High Speed model is built for race engines on alcohol or with magnetos that need to be cranked over faster to fire, so it has 2.2kWh and 3.0 hp rating. But the key is the 3.75:1 gear reduction ratio allows for faster engine turn over. On the other hand, the XS Torque has 1.4kw, 1.8 hp and is suitable for engines up to 18:1 compression ratio. The gear reduction is 4.4:1 for a slower rotational rate, yet it delivers higher torque starting and is lighter and shorter with 360 degree rotation to handle header and oil pan clearance issues.
You need to consider all these factors when selecting a starter. Generally, you need 160 lb-ft of torque for 10.5:1, 180 lb-ft for up to 12:1 (but, you need at least 200 lb-ft). In addition, your vehicle needs to be equipped with a battery that provides enough cranking amps to keep up with the starter, so the battery needs to have correct voltage for the starter. If the voltage is too low or impedance too high, the torque will be maintained but the output shaft speed will be reduced.
The Ultra Torque resides at the top of the lineup, and it’s offered in several different versions for max-performance and race engines. The Ultra Torque spools out 259 lb-ft of torque with 2.5 kWh and 3.4 hp with a 4.4:1 gear ratio for engines up to 18:1. The Ultra High Speed is designed for alcohol and other race engines that require a faster rotational rate than the standard Ultra Torque. The Hi-Speed offers 200 lb-ft of torque, 2.2 kWh and 3 hp output with 3.75:1 reduction ratio for engines up to 15:1. It features a billet machined-aluminum mounting block and is compatible with 12- and 16-volt electrical systems.
The top-selling XS Torque is a popular choice for many different engines that have up to an 18:1 compression ratio, and thus it has more than enough cranking power for max-performance street engines, race engines, and off-road engines as well. For an 11:1 or milder compression ratio, this starter would be overkill. This compact starter is much smaller than stock GM starters, so it has become a favorite for LS swaps, and builders of high-compression engines. It delivers 200 lb-ft of torque with 4.4:1 gear reduction for quick, consistent starting. It offers up to 1.4 kWh and up to 1.8 hp output. Mounting these starters is typically an easy affair with two bolts holding the beefy billet mounting plate to the block.
Among the high-performance, high-torque starter motors, the Mastertorque handles the cranking duties for engines up to 14:1 compression ratio. The Mastertorque delivers 180 lb-ft of torque, and it features 3.25:1 gear reduction with 1.4 kWh, and 1.8 hp output. This particular starter uses Powermaster’s Inficlock system that allows for 360-degree mounting, so it resolves many mounting and clearance issues. It also has a machined-aluminum adapter block, and the compact design accommodates most oil pans and headers.
The next starter in the lineup is the PowerMax Plus. The PowerMax Plus is offered in several models for 11:1, 14:1, and 16:1 compression ratio engines. While these feature OEM-style mounting, these particular starters are suited for modified, high-compression engines.
The PowerMax Original Look is the entry-level high-performance starter that’s a step up from the OEM-type starter. It retains the OEM appearance, so it looks inconspicuous tucked in at the front of block. These starters are suited for engines with up to a 10:1 compression ratio and offer 160 lb-ft of torque, 5:1 gear reduction, 1.4 kWh, and 1.8 hp. These starters do not contain the modern mounting plate. The gear insert is compatible with both EFI and carbureted engines and are an exact fit which clears most oil pans and headers without requiring shimming. Most OEM starters have the battery, ignition, and motor lead terminals located on the solenoid of the starter.
The Original Look retro-style starter produces 100 lb-ft of torque, 1.4 kWh, and 1.8 hp. It also features a direct-drive, large armature, and a big field coil for applications up to 10:1 compression ratio.
As we all know, diesel truck engines run high-compression and often the stock starters do not readily start modified engines, especially in colder temperatures. Powermaster’s Diesel Ultra starters are designed for these large displacement V-8s, and produce 260 lb-ft of torque, 2.7 kWh, 3.6 hp, and feature a 3.8:1 gear reduction ratio.
Whether it’s a muscle car, truck, competition car or specialty vehicle, Powermaster offers a premium high-torque starter for most popular V8-engine platforms and virtually all applications, so you can enjoy consistent, reliable starting. You can find out more about Powermaster and its entire catalogue at Powermasterperformance.com