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Plugged In

The unlikely birthplace of a ubiquitous invention

championPhoto: Cara Brostrom


t’s now a hip neighborhood of restaurants and stylish condos, but if you look closely in the South End you can find the site of its decidedly blue-collar contribution to American civilization: the auto-supply store where Albert Champion invented his spark plug. Champion was a French bicycle racer who became interested in auto racing, moved to Boston, and lined up investors for what became the Champion Ignition Company in 1908. He called his plug the Nuport. A plaque marks the site of Champion’s shop, which was in the building that is now the Boston Center for the Arts.


Albert Champion’s investors made off with his company and his name. So he teamed up with Buick and started a new concern, using his initials—”A.C.” That company was later taken over by General Motors and is now AC Delco. (“Delco stands for Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company.)