History of Spark Plugs
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This data used by permission and belong to their respective owner.
Courtesy of The
Early Day Gas Engine and Tractor Association.
The first known spark plug was invented on February 2, 1839 by
France dominated the spark plug market in the early 1900s, supplying gasoline
engine manufacturers with only a limited line of plug configurations. They were
also known to be quite costly and had substandard quality.
Albert Champion was born in France in 1878. In 1889, a renowned bicycle and
motorcycle racer, Champion came to America to compete in a series of races.
He had brought several bicycles and motorcycles, but found parts very hard
to find in the United States. As a result, Champion made his own. To help
pay bills and cover expenses, Champion began making spark plugs and sold
them to friends.
Champion's love of motors slowly turned towards automobiles and he later
returned to France to open a shop that manufactured spark plugs and
In 1900, Champion returned to America after being hired by Charles Metz to
race bicycles and motorcycles for the Waltham Manufacturing Company. In 1904,
Champion moved to Flint, Michigan where he founded Champion Ignition Company for
the manufacturing of spark plugs. With the help of investors, Champion was able
to turn his racing hobby into a successful business. Unfortunately, problems
with the investors soon lead to a break up. Champion soon found himself without
a company. The investors continued to manufacture the spark plugs under the
Champion name, but Champion himself was out of a job.
In 1908 with the backing of the Buick Motor Co., Champion began a new company
called the AC Spark Plug Company. Albert Champion was appointed president. In
1916 Alfred P. Sloan formed United Motors Corp. and eventually acquired Buick
and AC Spark Plug.
On October 27, 1927, Champion died of a heart attack. General Motors
purchased the remaining stock held by Champion's estate and took over the AC
company. On December 1st of that year, AC became a full division of General
Motors. In 1971, United Motors Service was renamed United Delco Division. A few
years later United Delco and the AC Spark Plug Division combined to form the
company we know today as AC-Delco. To this day Albert Champion's name lives on
with every AC and Champion spark plug made.
Some known AC Spark Plug Facts:
1927- AC spark plugs were used in Charles Lindbergh plane in his
1932- Amelia Earhart's plane was equipped with AC spark plugs when she made
her trans-Atlantic solo flight
1969- AC igniter spark plugs were used to fire the second and third stage
rocket engines that took Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins to the
Other form's of Ignition for early day engines before spark plugs were Hot
Tube ignition, Wipe Spark ignition, and Low Tension Igniter.
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Last modified: 02 / 23 / 2012