61 TBird starter

Hi, I have recently bought a 61 TBird coupe with a new hi torque starter. A few days ago it stripped the teeth off the pinion gear. I thought it might have been the wrong starter as I suspected the pinion was to small but after installing a starter with a larger pinion gear it wont even engage at all, so now I have no idea what starter to buy. It is still running the stock Fordomatic and 390, except it now has custom headers ,so using a stock starter is not possible. Can anyone tell me what hi torque starter I should look for, make and maybe part number. Thanks in advance
 
I'm surprised that I am the very first 61 TBird owner to sort this problem out. After posting this and receiving no responses I done my own investigation, so will now share what I have learnt.
Early 390s have a 153 tooth ring gear and no one makes an aftermarket starter for them, later 390s use an 184 tooth ring gear and have many after market options for starter motors. So what I had on 61 was a starter for a 184 tooth ring gear trying to engage with my 153 tooth ring gear, hence the grinding and destruction of the starter pinion. The clue to what ring gear you have is simple, if you are using a starter that pulls the pinion into the ring gear, it is definitely a 153 tooth ring gear. They are a huge starter with a long shaft with the bendix at the end. Later 390s use the more common "clapper" starter, which are smaller and lighter and push the bendix into the ring gear. The after market hi torque starters for 390s are also suited for the 184 tooth ring gear only. I found a company in the US that actually makes a bendix for the clapper starter that is suited for the 153 tooth ring gear. They are called Total Performance, hard to contact but I finally spoke to them. Rather simple to swap out and good if you want to keep it sort of original looking. I ordered one as well as buying a clapper starter locally. While I was waiting for it to arrive I took a closer look at my ring gear and it was not worth the risk, it had been ground down to far so I bought a new flex plate with 184 tooth ring gear and swapped it out. I used the hi torque starter I bought locally which was slightly chewed but still usable. It starts like it should now, no grinding and a positive start.
I hope this helps others that might find themselves in a similar quandary. Oh yeah, anyone in Oz with an early 390 that wants to buy my clapper starter and bendix, give me a message.
 

64ZCODE

Well-Known Member
Hi Pep. Do you know what the cut off year was when 390s moved from the 153 tooth ring gear to the 184 tooth version? I suspect from your description that my '64 is the 153 tooth version. I've not eyeballed the starter however the shop manual description of the starter sounds like the long shaft with bendix at the end version.
 
Hi 64ZCODE

Apart from taking the inspection plate off and counting the teeth you might be able to see the starter shaft as well. If it’s long and extends into the bulge at the rear of the bell housing, you will have the 153 tooth version. I’m no expert on TBirds and I’ve only had mine a couple of months, driven it about 100 miles but I’m on a fast learning curve
 
I'm surprised that I am the very first 61 TBird owner to sort this problem out. After posting this and receiving no responses I done my own investigation, so will now share what I have learnt.
Early 390s have a 153 tooth ring gear and no one makes an aftermarket starter for them, later 390s use an 184 tooth ring gear and have many after market options for starter motors. So what I had on 61 was a starter for a 184 tooth ring gear trying to engage with my 153 tooth ring gear, hence the grinding and destruction of the starter pinion. The clue to what ring gear you have is simple, if you are using a starter that pulls the pinion into the ring gear, it is definitely a 153 tooth ring gear. They are a huge starter with a long shaft with the bendix at the end. Later 390s use the more common "clapper" starter, which are smaller and lighter and push the bendix into the ring gear. The after market hi torque starters for 390s are also suited for the 184 tooth ring gear only. I found a company in the US that actually makes a bendix for the clapper starter that is suited for the 153 tooth ring gear. They are called Total Performance, hard to contact but I finally spoke to them. Rather simple to swap out and good if you want to keep it sort of original looking. I ordered one as well as buying a clapper starter locally. While I was waiting for it to arrive I took a closer look at my ring gear and it was not worth the risk, it had been ground down to far so I bought a new flex plate with 184 tooth ring gear and swapped it out. I used the hi torque starter I bought locally which was slightly chewed but still usable. It starts like it should now, no grinding and a positive start.
I hope this helps others that might find themselves in a similar quandary. Oh yeah, anyone in Oz with an early 390 that wants to buy my clapper starter and bendix, give me a message.
Hi, I'm in a similar situation that you had with your starter. If you get a chance, could you please call me to discuss starters for mu 61? Phil 303-587-3054
 
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