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J.W. Founder John Winters Talks
Converter Technology

Photos Courtesy Good Communications

Few pieces in today's automatic-equipped drag racing vehicle are as critical as the torque converter. After all, no matter how much horsepower your motor is making, if you can't get it to the rear tires, it won't matter. While the transmission itself keeps the engine within its usable powerband, the converter is required to harness that power between the two units. It is a tribute to the companies involved that performance torque converters work as well as they do, considering the environment in which they must live.

J.W. founder John Winters, Sr., is widely recognized for automatic innovations such as the patented UltraBell bellhousing and UltraCase, which replaces stock Powerglide cases. J.W. has been building competition torque converters in-house since 1976.

For John Winters, Sr., founder and C.E.O. of J.W. Performance Transmissions in Rockledge, Fla., developing aftermarket converters has been an ongoing task for the last quarter-century. The former NHRA Stock-class racer and his wife, Helen, started J.W. in the back of their race-car trailer. Today, this family-operated business employs more than two dozen people in a modern facility which manufactures and sells a wide range of transmission and driveline products. John remains a hands-on guy, despite his success, and works hard to continue the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs for which the company has become known.

Today, two generations of the Winters family are involved in the operation of J.W. Performance Transmissions. Assisting founders Helen and John (center) are daughter Tracy, who directs sales and marketing, and son John, Jr., who oversees transmission production. The company recently broke ground on a huge new building adjacent to J.W.'s existing facility in Rockledge, Fla.

Referring to the automatic aftermarket as a whole, John says, "We all basically build torque converters using the same ideas, based on the clearances and stator selection. I even sell parts we have developed or are manufacturing to some of the other companies. There are many quality converters available and it is a very competitive market."

Converter design and selection have taken on some new directions in the last decade. For instance, bigger motors displacing 500 cubic inches or more are now commonplace in the Sportsman ranks. The day of the stock-displacement 327 Chevrolet is long gone. In that regard, the smaller converters may no longer be as fashionable as they once were. Plus, the eight-inch-diameter cores from the Buick Opel that once made up a bulk of that market have dried up. Though one competitor is now manufacturing the eight-inch units at a higher cost, J.W. was among the companies that began looking for a viable alternative.

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