Vintage Ads: AC Fire Ring Spark Plugs Power GM’s Dream Cars – “AC” Stands For Albert Champion, Who Also Started Champion Spark Plugs

Of course AC spark plugs were used in GM’s concept cars: AC (ACDelco) was a division of GM. But did you know that AC were the initials of Albert Champion, who gave his name to that eponymous spark plug company. So how did that all happen?

Curiously, Albert Champion had been a bicycle champion in France when he came to the US in 1905, to import French electrical components. He joined the Stranahan Brothers in starting the Champion company, specializing in spark plugs. But his deal with the Stranahans left him without any control over the company, so in 1908 he went to see William Durant at Buick. They decided that they could produce a similar spark plug themselves cheaper, which fed right into Billy Durant’s obsession with vertical integration.

They called the company “Champion Ignition Co” which soon had to be changed when the Stranahans firmly informed them that was off limits. So they changed it to AC Spark Plugs, reflecting Champion’s initials.


But AC wasn’t yet a division of GM; it was under the United Motors umbrella, one of Durants companies set up to provide parts not only to GM but also to other manufacturers. Only in 1918 was AC sold to GM for $45 million, and in 1927 it became a division of GM.

United Motors also included Alfred Sloan’s Hyatt Roller Bearing Co. He was made president of United Motors, and eventually took on the same role at GM in 1923.