By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Petersen Archive
The Senter of it All
There are names synonymous with automotive performance: Iskenderian, Edelbrock, Hilborn, Weiand. Those who know Louis Senter and understand his achievements in performance and the automotive aftermarket rank him right up there with those other pioneers. Yet his isn’t the same kind of household name in this industry. That’s because when Louis and his brother Sol took on Jack Andrews as a partner in their new Los Angeles speed shop in the mid ’40s, they named it Ansen Engineering, a combination of the principles’ last names.
When people connect Louis with Ansen, the recognition is immediate. The Ansen name is probably most closely linked to the Sprint slotted aluminum wheel Louis developed in 1963, but his company also manufactured pistons, rods, cranks and other engine parts; the first floor-shift conversion kit (called the Posi-shift); and a bellhousing that became a compulsory piece of safety equipment in the NHRA. It’s that scattershield, hooked to a small-block Chevy engine, that Louis is displaying in this photo taken in April 1959 by Petersen Publishing Company’s Eric Rickman.
Yet even those accomplishments only scratch the surface of Louis’ performance legacy. He wasn’t just an engineer and fabricator; he was a racer, too, running on the dry lakes, at
Bonneville, and in midgets and sprint cars. He was among the first to sell speed parts via mail order, printing his first catalog in 1945. He has been involved with the Indianapolis 500 for decades and operated dragstrips in Santa Ana and Saugus. He worked with George Barris building TV and show cars.
In 1963, Louis was among the aftermarket manufacturers who formed what was then called the Speed Equipment Manufacturer’s Association—now SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association. He was inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame in 1978, with several other men whose names still mean performance to this day: George Hurst, Ed Iskenderian, Boots Mallory and Harry Weber. Louis’ name does, too. You just have to know where to look.