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World war two had reached America, and a young air plane mechanic named Joe Hunt was learning just what it took to keep fighting machines in the air when the going got rough. One of the features that often saved the day for both man and machine was an ignition system that didn’t rely on batteries and put out its hottest spark at maximum engine speed. This wonder-device was called a magneto. Completely self-contained, the magneto made its own electricity and carried its own internal coil. Bolt it on, hook up the plug wires and go flying.





indy.jpgJoe Hunt soon figured out how to adapt magnetos to race cars and starting with Johnny Parsons Indy 500 win in 1950, Joe's magnetos became standard circle track equipment. All this might sound like ancient history if it weren't for the fact that nothing has quite replaced the magneto in all the years since! Sure, stores are now full of battery powered electronic ignition systems that can put out a lot of voltage, but the simple elegance and dependability of a magneto has never been challenged. USAC Vice President Tommy Hunt, son of Joe, thinks he knows why: It's the old bullets-through-the-propeller thing -- magnetos keep bringing the patrols safely home. Many a racer has used a high tech battery ignition system, reports Tommy, until silicon gremlins started playing keep-away with the electrons, and the racer then reached into the back of his bag of tricks for a trusty old magneto -- problem solved.




In 1960 Joe Hunt didn’t stop with automotive applications, he turned his genius to motorcycles. Joe adapted the "Fairbanks Morris Magneto" for use in Harley Davidson motorcycles, this proved to be a very exciting and popular ignition system for the Motorcycle world. Not to be overlooked, magnetos for the British bikes followed in 1962.






So, just what is it that makes a magneto work? How can it make sparks without any electric power applied to it? Well, imagine you hold a generator in one hand and a distributor from a conventional ignition system in the other. Now slam the two together with metal-molding force. What you wind up with is a distributor with generator-guts wrapped around its shaft. Next, peel a conventional coil like a banana and stuff the innards under the cap of a magneto. You now have a traditional, self-contained, moderately bullet resistant magneto ignition unit.

A less traditional variation is currently gaining popularity: a magneto with an external coil. While this makes one more part for the bad guys to shoot at, the external coil also allows for a more powerful spark. This brings us to Joe Hunt Magnetos' hottest product, the H-3 magneto system. Consider first that their basic automotive magneto with internal coil is rated at 1.7 amperes -- plenty for countless race wins over the last sixty years. By taking the coil out of the magneto housing, Joe Hunt Magnetos can now offer power ratings of 2.3 amps with conventional magnets and 4-7 amps with the top of the line H-3 which uses rare-earth magnets

A look around the still-thriving shop that was founded by Joe Hunt sixty years ago shows magnetos and parts for all makes and models of automobiles and motorcycles. As a practical matter to keep cost down and servicing simple, all applications use the same housing and basic working parts. The difference is in the base and shaft, which can even be changed if you trade your engine for a different brand and want to keep your magneto.

Admittedly, a magneto is not cheap. But as with most things, you get what you pay for, and in the case of a Joe Hunt magneto, you get the personal attention of a human when calling for support, rather than a recording.