Starter clearance is a unique situation for many header installations, especially when we're installing headers on a 30-70+ year old vehicle. Just imagine how many times the starter may have been replaced on these applications. Was the correct, originally specified starter installed at each replacement? Not likely!

Do Your Headers Fit Using a Stock Starter?

Yes, but with a caveat. Every one of our headers are designed on engines using OEM starters. Does that mean that every OEM starter is equal, or the proper starter is installed on the engine? No!

Yes, our headers fit on stock-starter applications "If" the starter on the application is equal or less in size---and with the proper clocking---as the starter on the application the headers were built upon. If you wish to use a OE-style starter on your application, find one that fits! You may end up searching through dozens of boxes of newly rebuilt starters at your local parts store (or over many different parts stores) to find the correct one. I'll explain below.

But How Do We Know If We Have The Correct Starter?

You won't until you try to install your Sanderson headers. We know this sounds like a cheesy response. Please continue reading....

Why is this a problem?

Most automotive electric rebuilders (those companies who take used starters and rebuild them for resale) have long lists of every vehicle and every OEM starter number. However, instead of offering a specific starter for a specific vehicle in every possible application, they make efforts to merge together as many part numbers as possible. This is how we can go to the local parts store and have the counter person pull out a stack of starters for our vehicle (all the same part number on the box) and notice clear differences between each one. Maybe it is the clocking of the starter solenoid, the length or diameter, or something else. Maybe it is the actual OEM part number on the unit itself that is different, along with the visual differences. By merging part numbers, the rebuilder can offer the part store a smaller number of products that cover a wider variety of original vehicle applications. They do not take into account aftermarket exhaust components or anything else. All they care about is that it bolts to the engine.

For example, is the starter for a 1967 Ford Galaxie hardtop with an 390 FE the same as an identical 1967 Galaxie convertible? No, the original OEM installed starters are quite different. In fact, the 352, 360, 390, 427, and 428 Ford FE engines in varying applications (cars, trucks, vans) often had different starters. This is often true for any vehicle manufacturer on every engine group they offer. However, the rebuilder who just rebuilt one of these starters and put it in the box for the part store to sell as an exchange lumps them all together as one part number that fits all of the applications. For example, the much larger, often called "coffee can" starter on the Ford convertibles will not clear any of our headers.

Both of these are Ford FE starters, and are said to fit the same applications. The top starter is closer to common dimensions of the Ford FE starter. However,the lower one will not fit a variety of passenger cars.

Or how about this short list of small block Ford starter styles? Three of these five are labeled as the same in most rebuilder catalogs.

Header Design

When our headers are designed, we build them on vehicles using the OEM starter for that application. Therefore, if someone tries to install the header on an application with a starter with dimensions different from the OEM starter, there may not be adequate clearance. Ford applications might have issues with the size of the starter. In GM applications, there might be an issue with different clocking of the solenoid or the offset differences between flywheel diameters. These variations in what starter is on a particular application are out of our control.

Why are Aftermarket Mini-Starters Recommended for ALL Sanderson Header Applications?

I'm fairly comfortable that this has been explained above. We have no control over what OEM-style starter a customer has on their vehicle. We had no control over the rebuild process, or the part numbers the rebuilder has decided to merge into one "fits all" replacement number. We cannot build every header for every possible starter a customer may use. However, we can recommend aftermarket mini-starters to alleviate all clearance problems while providing additional benefits. Yes, we also understand the cost involved in purchasing a quality aftermarket starter. However, it is important to understand that this recommendation does not lie solely on header clearance. Other benefits of mini-starters include:

  • Less weight
  • Gear reduction (more power)
  • More torque (easier starting of high compression, high timing applications)
  • Less energy demand
  • Smaller overall size
  • Multiple (or infinite) clocking locations
  • Virtually eliminates "heat soak" issues
  • Longer life
  • ... and of course, increased clearance for headers

Do yourself a favor and install an aftermarket mini starter.