First order of business was to find a new starter. I wanted to upgrade to something more modern with more torque and less amp draw than the old unit. Also, I wanted to know that the new starter would work better than the old design with a hot engine where in the past spinning seemed to struggle the most. I found an online article on hi-torque starters in Mopar Muscle magazine then searched Mancini Racing, Summit Racing, and JEGS comparing brands, torques, and prices. Once I settled on a modern hi-torque starter I “Bing’d” the ‘Net for comments on reliability and satisfaction. I ran across an article which basically stated that most modern Mopar hi-torque starters regardless of brand were really Nippondenso (Denso) designs used on late model Chryslers…so your Caravan has a Denso that drops into your big block B-motor! Searching the ‘Net further I ran across a re-distributor in Florida (“RE” or Rare Electrical) that sold a no-name Denso knockoff for half the price of JEGS or Summit. The company sells direct or through eBay where it enjoys a 99.8% satisfaction rating. Paypal jumped in for me and a few days later my new toy arrived. As shown in the pic, the new version is not only dimensionally smaller but weighs only 8 lbs compared to the OE’s hefty 16 lbs.
As you well know one of the worst repair jobs on a Mopar B-body is replacing the starter especially if you have headers (mine are Hookers). Jack up the car, turn the steering wheel hard right to move the tie rods out of the way, unbolt the motor mounts, disconnect the exhaust pipes from the header collectors, disconnect the battery cables, pull the spark plug wires and remove the spark plugs, unbolt then pull off the driver’s side header, jack up the engine, wrestle the humongous OE starter away from the bellhousing held by two bolts, and check your watch because several hours just got chewed up!
Look closely at the OE battery cables which connect to the side of the original starter. The new connections are on top of the starter body so none of the existing battery cables were long enough to work. I did not discover this little tidbit until AFTER I installed the starter, buttoned everything underneath up, and lowered the car to replace the header onto the engine. I exasperated this “cable length problem” by pre-installing the cables to the starter before bolting it to the trans bellhousing in an attempt to save knuckles connecting them from on top. No such luck was in store for me today so since I was forced to buy longer cables I opted for some heavy duty 2 gauge wire to help carry some serious amps to the new hi-torque hummer…stock cables were 4 gauge. One more fly in the ointment occurred when I realized my header gasket was so brittle it disintegrated when touched…a few phone calls later had me calling it quits for the day as the counter kids at O’Reilly, Autozone, Carquest, and NAPA didn’t know what a header gasket was and couldn’t look up a 1969 anything…back to the ‘Net to find gaskets and more patience as I wait for the UPS man to arrive again sometime next week…
We never had this much trouble getting a job done back in high school or college days…everything we needed was readily available at the local parts house or San Bernardino Racing Equipment (Super Shops). I’m finding that parts availability is quite the challenge for resurrecting the ‘Runner…it’s a good thing I’m not in a hurry!