Project Sucker Punch Gets Ignited With Vintage Wires

Details. For hot rod builders, the work is always about the details. Whether the intention is to build a car that looks like it doesn’t care about the small things to 100-point show cars, everything is planned and every detail is specific. For our ’54 Bel Air, we wanted a clean and classy vintage look.

We rounded up everything that would be needed to crimp the wire ends on these vintage looking spark plug wires.

Everything was coming along great, except for the modern silicone spark plug wires. The rest of the engine bay looked vintage, with a lot of retro hot rod features. As the eyes crossed each feature of the engine and surrounding compartment, that pleasing feeling of a job well done was felt. Yet, every time we gazed at the engine bay, our eyes were immediately drawn to the shiny spark plug wires that seemed out of place. Frankly, these modern wires didn’t fit in and hurt our eyes.

Pace Performance Shows The Way

We reached out to a trusted advisor and performance confidant, Chuck Fitch at Pace Performance. Sounding like a slick-talking easterner, Fitch told us, “I’ve got just what you are looking for.” Not surprisingly, Pace Performance DID have exactly what we were looking for.

Pace carries a full line of universal spark plug wires, made by Vintage Wires, that are designed for customization. The kit is designed to cut each wire to the length that is required for the application, then finish it off with the terminal and boot that works for the build.

We started by stripping the spark plug wire down to the conductor wire, exposing about an inch.

These universal wire sets have a factory terminated spark plug boot end and include both male and female style distributor connectors and boots. Fitch told us that the spark plug ends are available in straight, 90-degree, or 135-degree boots.

According to Vintage Wire’s Jared Cunningham, “The wires are 7.8mm spiral wound suppression core, insulated with  EDPM and Silicone. They are wrapped in a vintage style cotton braid, available in multiple color combinations, with lacquer coating,” he said. “Custom sets are also available. Just send in a sample wire set and Vintage Wires will build a set specifically for you.”

About Vintage Wires

“The company was born out of the desire to blend vintage and modern technology,” said Cunningham. “The Vintage Power electrical division is offering Vintage Wires as the first step in exploring this combination of ideas.”

Crimping the wire end on the plug wire was a snap with the MSD ratcheting pro wire crimper tool.

Well known innovators from the early 1900’s, Vintage Power created amazing machines made with painstaking craftsmanship and hardy materials. “Many of these innovations were before their time and their efforts fell short,” said Cunningham, “They had the right ideas but were missing the materials, machining or some other technology that would come about years later.”

Cunningham proudly states that “Vintage Power, as a company, is actively developing new offerings, all brought about by these ideas.”

A perfect factory style crimp.

Our Choice

Nothing fits a classic engine bay loaded with chrome like red cotton braided with black and yellow tracers and 90-degree boot ends (Pace Performance part # VNW-99-003-00). The plug wire’s spiral wound suppression core is insulated with EDPM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) a synthetic rubber that is valued for it’s resistance to heat, ozone, and weather. Topped with a layer of silicone insulation before being wrapped with the cotton braid and lacquer coating, these plug wires are the perfect blend of modern technology with classic vintage looks.

Wire lengths included in the VNW-99-003-00 kit:

  • 34.5-inch (2)
  • 36-inch coil wire (1)
  • 38-inch (2)
  • 46-inch (1)
  • 50-inch (1)
  • 53-inch (2)

Normally we would install the boot first and slide it down the spark plug wire, providing some room to work, then sliding the boot over the wire end after crimping. For photography purposes (and to mess with the technician doing the work), we opted to install the boot after the wire end was crimped.

Installing The Spark Plug Wire Ends

While any crimper and stripper can be used to perform the operation, we still love using our MSD pro wire crimper tool (Part #35051). It is designed for use with standard and dual crimp wire ends. The ratchet action provides secure and factory quality crimps every time.

It typically helps if you start the operation by applying a little dielectric grease inside the boot, then slide the boot on the plug wire first. This prevents having to fight installing the boot over the terminal after it has been installed. As you can see from these photos, we had a rookie performing the wire end installation. After a little on-the-job-training, our rookie learned that boot installation first, made the job a lot easier. Don’t be a rookie!

MSD’s stripper/crimper tool allowed us to strip the outer layers of cotton braiding, silicone, and EDPM rubber, leaving just the core conductor wire. Exposing 3/4-inch to a full inch of bare conductor wire is all that is needed to for the wire end installation.

The Vintage Wires added a real “throwback” look to the engine bay.

The exposed conductor wire should be folded over and positioned in the wire end where it cannot slip out. Using the MSD crimp tool, we applied pressure until the wire end terminals were securely crimped into the spark plug wire.

The wire end should be checked to ensure that the connection is solid on the wire. This is also the perfect time to check the plug wire’s resistance to ensure continuity. Then it is simply a matter of sliding the boot over the terminal end, and repeating this procedure seven more times.

About Pace Performance

When it comes to GM performance needs, Pace Performance is considered on the most complete sources of parts from Chevrolet Performance Parts to Genuine GM accessories. A super store that handles a complete line of GM automotive products and truck parts with thousands of performance components in stock.

We were making special plans for routing the wires to get the optimal effect.

Not dedicated solely to GM, Pace Performance also carries performance parts for Ford, Mopar, and foreign car and truck enthusiasts. The company has become known for their performance packages where several performance parts are packaged together as a performance kit and sold under one part number at one price. These performance kits have been developed by the company’s technical department and the company’s history of custom requests to compile these very complete kits.

For more information on Pace Performance or their line of parts, visit them online at

About the author

Bobby Kimbrough

Bobby grew up in the heart of Illinois, becoming an avid dirt track race fan which has developed into a life long passion. Taking a break from the Midwest dirt tracks to fight evil doers in the world, he completed a full 21 year career in the Marine Corps.
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