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Electronic Ignition Distributors
Posted by: Seth Emerson ()
Date: October 25, 2020 04:28PM

About 6 years ago, I worked with a company in Southern California, Top Street Performance, to adapt “their” design of a “ready-to-run” electronic distributor to the Corvair motor. It took a while to get them into production. I know several folks at that company. They are mostly marketing and logistics folks. They rely on the design engineers at the distributor manufacturing company for advice. And I rely, somewhat, on the people at TSP. TSP sells many products that parallel those made by MSD. (MSD does not make a Corvair distributor). In fact, many of the MSD products are now made in the same “place” as the TSP products. (Not necessarily in the same factories.) Prior to working with TSP, I had adapted 10 of the MSD, inline-6 distributors for the Corvair, making several new parts to convert them. All of those units are still running in race cars around the country. Those converted MSD units were what the industry calls “Pro-Billet” units. They have no electronics inside, feeding out a magnetic pulse to one of several external ignition boxes, such as the MSD 6A or Intellitronix box, or one of a dozen others.

The TSP unit has the electronics package internally mounted and hooks up to the coil, 12V power and ground. Very simple. This design is subject to some external variables. The voltage fed to the power connection of the distributor should be 12 volts in regular operation. That means bypassing the dropping resistance wire in the Corvair engine compartment harness. (All except a few Spyders that had an external resister). Many folks had already done that trick to feed a Pertronix Ignitor II, which can also run on a full 12 Volts. The easy method to do this is just feed 12 volts to the coil and hook up the power to the TSP dist at the coil. However, feeding a full 12 volts to the coil can drastically increase the current through the coil - that the TSP distributor has to switch, unless a higher resistance coil is used to replace the OEM coil. Worse, many of the aftermarket coils are even lower in resistance than the original coil. When TSP released the Corvair distributor, they recommended their low-resistance coil. It is essentially a clone of the MSD Blaster 2 coil. When MSD recommends it with their “electronic- Ready-to-run” distributors, they recommend adding a resistance in the coil feed to limit the current. This resistance isn’t needed with their external ignition boxes, because battery voltage is never fed directly to the coil in a “Capacitive Discharge” system. Using the MSD blaster coil – or any equivalent – will increase the current through the distributor switched ignition circuit. Although that will increase to maximum voltage that the coil can put out, it will severely shorten the life of the internal electronics. For a new installation, I recommend using a 3.0 Ohm (Primary Resistance) coil, with the standard installation, including the bypass to feed 12 Volts. The higher Ohms rating of the coil will limit the current through the circuit. There is a list of 3.0 Ohm coils at the end of this note. (I am sure there are others available)

If you are already running one of the internal electronics TSP distributors and want to prolong the life of the unit, I suggest this approach. If you already have a low resistance coil – anything 1.5 Ohms or lower qualifies in this particular instance - (An MSD Blaster 2 is rated at .7 Ohms) I suggest using the factory resistance wire to feed the coil, but split-off the 12 volt feed ahead of the resistance wire (at the firewall plug), and feed the distributor this 12 Volt feed. This way, the coil gets the higher resistance feed, but the distributor power feed would always get full voltage. This will require some minor wiring changes, but it is easy to do.

When the distributor first came out, I relied on the information from TSP and their coil recommendations. Shortly after the distributor came out, TSP released their own coil. It is virtually the same as the MSD Blaster2 coil (.7-Ohms). I added their coil to the list of recommended coils. I no longer recommend this coil, or any other low Ohm rating coil, unless additional resistance is added in the feed circuit. TSP has provided me with replacement electronics packages, and they are also available on their web site. The distributor has to come apart to replace it.



I have swapped out more than a dozen failed units, and I will continue to support units in the field. It has been more than 18 months since I have supplied any of the TSP “ready-to-run” units. But several other companies are supplying them. If correctly wired, they can supply a powerful, reliable system. TSP offers a 12 month warranty on the units.

The only distributors I now supply are the racing-oriented Pro-billet units – with no electronics inside. These magnetic-pulse units utilize an external box and make a great integrated ignition system. If you have any questions or concerns, or need help with your installation, drop me a note.



3.0 Ohm rated coils:

- Pertronix Flamethrower Coils– Not Flamethrower 2

P/N 40511 - P/N 40501 - P/N 40611 - P/N 40601 - P/N 60130



- Standard Motor products P/N UC15 or P/N UC15T



- Comp-U-Fire P/N 30352 - P/N 30354 – P/N 30356



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/26/2020 12:06PM by MattNall.

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Re: Electronic Ignition Distributors
Posted by: JimBrandberg ()
Date: October 25, 2020 05:50PM

I've printed off this information just in case I run into something later.
When I wired UV 420 with a Pertronix 2 and Safeguard I used a ceramic ballast resistor and fed some parts 12 V and some parts the reduced voltage. I don't remember the specifics but similar to what's discussed in the text above.

Jim Brandberg
Isanti, MN
CorvairRepair.com



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Re: Electronic Ignition Distributors
Posted by: joelsplace ()
Date: October 25, 2020 09:46PM

"TSP has provided me with replacement electronics packages, and they are also available on their web site."
The way this is stated it sounds like the replacement parts will support the higher current drawn by the low resistance coil. Is this true?

Joel
Northlake, TX
5 Ultravans, 114 Corvairs and counting...

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Re: Electronic Ignition Distributors
Posted by: toms73novass ()
Date: October 26, 2020 03:05AM

Is there any performance advantage to using one of the listed coils, vs the stock setup and feeding the distributor 12v directly?

-Tom


63' Monza Spyder Convertable (in process) MY Build Thread
65' Monza MY Build Thread
73' NovaSS 454 Big block (Sold)
86' BMW 325es
98' VW Jetta TDI, for daughter
01' Audi Allroad Stage 3 twin turbo
67' UltraVan 211 "Violet"
NFCC, UMCC
Grand Island, NY

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Re: Electronic Ignition Distributors
Posted by: Seth Emerson ()
Date: October 26, 2020 11:04AM

Please correct the list of Pertronix coils. I transposed some numbers. The list should read: P/N 40511 - P/N 40501 - P/N 40611 - P/N 40601 - P/N 60130

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Re: Electronic Ignition Distributors
Posted by: Seth Emerson ()
Date: October 26, 2020 11:12AM

Joel - I do not believe the replacements will tolerate the lower resistance any better. Please note, there are hundreds of these systems running with the lower resistance coils. But I don't think they are designed for the higher current over the long haul. So for regular street use, the higher resistance coil is the way to go. With a 12 Volt feed, you still get plenty of coil capacity.

Seth Emerson

Check my new Performance Corvair Web site [www.perfvair.com]

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Re: Electronic Ignition Distributors
Posted by: Seth Emerson ()
Date: October 26, 2020 11:19AM

Tom writes:

Is there any performance advantage to using one of the listed coils, vs the stock setup and feeding the distributor 12v directly?


Seth:
I don't see a big difference, if you feed the stock resistance wire to the coil, that will drop the current down. The coil doesn't really need 12 Volts, but the distributor - according to TSP - does.

Keep in mind, the ignition system will produce only enough output to fire the plug gap.

Seth Emerson

Check my new Performance Corvair Web site [www.perfvair.com]

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Re: Electronic Ignition Distributors
Posted by: CoCoCo ()
Date: October 26, 2020 11:22AM

For the standard looking coil to fit the stock mount, I like the 40601 and 40611. Those are the high-vibration and heat resistant epoxy filled versions. Rather than the more traditional oil-filled models.
Seems like a good fit with an air-cooled engine environment and it's what we put in dad's turbo car.

Of course the E-core style 60130 seems like the way to go these days. If you don't mind having to re-work the mounting and don't mind the different look that is.
I kind of like the modern look, but I'm sure it's not to everyone's taste.

Paul

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Re: Electronic Ignition Distributors
Posted by: jamesolefjensen ()
Date: December 02, 2020 10:39PM

Hi kids!

Santa arrived early and dropped off a TSP electronic ignition distributor.

I plan to use my standard coil with the ballast resistor and the 12 volt line from the starter (i.e. the one that is energized during cranking). The extra voltage to compensate for the starter load on the battery seems like a good idea.

I also plan to change the advance springs and add the bushings to the pin stops so the curve is closer to the 140 curve (I found the how-to on the interweb). My current distributor started life on a late 110 and adding similar bushings seemed to liven up the low end (from having more advance).

My engine is a 140 with an Otto 20 cam and a 390 vacuum advance Holley. The transaxle is a 4 speed, 3.55 final drive ratio.

I'm looking for a little affirmation or constructive criisism (be kind, after all it's the holidays). Real world experience with this distributor is also appreciated.

Happy holidays!

James
65 Corsa
SF Bay Area

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Re: Electronic Ignition Distributors
Posted by: Seth Emerson ()
Date: December 06, 2020 12:50PM

The distributor needs a full battery voltage in regular operation, not just on start-up. You can feed the red wire from the other end of the resistance wire, at the main engine compartment plug.

The resistance feed to your coil will work okay.

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Re: Electronic Ignition Distributors
Posted by: Wagon Master ()
Date: December 06, 2020 01:06PM

James, PM Sent.

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Re: Electronic Ignition Distributors
Posted by: jamesolefjensen ()
Date: December 06, 2020 09:57PM

Wagon Master,

PM reply sent...I think

James
65 Corsa
SF Bay Area

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Re: Electronic Ignition Distributors
Posted by: jamesolefjensen ()
Date: January 09, 2021 11:50PM

Hi kids!

I hope everyone is safe and sane.

I installed my new electronic distributor today. I'll post a more in depth account but suffice it to say that it went pretty smooth.

I do have a question about the vacuum advance canister thingy. It appears to be an adjustable unit. I suspect this because it has a hexagonal shape to it (just like the adustable unit on my HEI in my Chevelle). However, I can't seem to get a 3/32" hex key to engage in the internal mechanism.

He's my question; does anyone know for sure if this is adjustable?

The distributor came from California Corvair (via Santa, of course).

I'll post pictures soon.

James
65 Corsa
SF Bay Area

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Re: Electronic Ignition Distributors
Posted by: 66vairman ()
Date: January 10, 2021 10:01AM

jamesolefjensen Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Hi kids!
>
> I hope everyone is safe and sane.
>
> I installed my new electronic distributor today. I'll post a more in depth account but suffice it to say that it went pretty smooth.
>
> I do have a question about the vacuum advance canister thingy. It appears to be an adjustable unit. I suspect this because it has a hexagonal shape to it (just like the adustable unit on my HEI in my Chevelle). However, I can't seem to get a 3/32" hex key to engage in the internal mechanism.
>
> He's my question; does anyone know for sure if this is adjustable?
>
> The distributor came from California Corvair (via Santa, of course).
>
> I'll post pictures soon.

Just guessing, but did you try a METRIC hex wrench? I had a 90 Vette that was half SAE and half METRIC. What a fiasco to work on!!!!

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Re: Electronic Ignition Distributors
Posted by: jamesolefjensen ()
Date: January 10, 2021 10:11AM

Yes, I did try my metric hex keys. Good point.

When I had it on the bench, I tried several different sizes. It seemed like the 3/32" hex engaged. I didn't try to make any adjustments though. Now that it in the car, I'm not getting a good feel.

As soon as I get a chance, I'll post some pics.

Has anyone installed one of these distributors lately? If so, does it have an adjustable or non-adjustable vacuum advance?

James
65 Corsa
SF Bay Area

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Re: Electronic Ignition Distributors
Posted by: Seth Emerson ()
Date: January 10, 2021 08:00PM

James - If the Vacuum advance unit is stamped into a big hex shape where the hose fits on, it is adjustable. If it is just a cone-taper to a flat where the tube sticks out, it is not adjustable.

Seth Emerson

Check my new Performance Corvair Web site [www.perfvair.com]

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Re: Electronic Ignition Distributors
Posted by: jamesolefjensen ()
Date: January 10, 2021 08:13PM

Thanks Seth. I was almost positive that's the case but didn't want to force a tool in there until I wasn't sure. I've been around SBC go-fast parts since the 80s but the Corvair stuff is still relatively new. I'll fiddle with it some more.

James
65 Corsa
SF Bay Area

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Re: Electronic Ignition Distributors
Posted by: playerpage ()
Date: January 11, 2021 04:58AM

Hey Seth, great thread.

So, from memory this is my setup:

I'm running a Patronix II electric ignition from California Corvairs. Low resistance coil, the one that came with it.

To this I've added an external Mallory Hyfire 6 series box. It runs great as far as I can tell, but then that isn't very far. Any thoughts on this setup?

____________________________________________

Eric C. Player, Fargo, ND, USA
MEMBER: CORSA National, Central Coast CORSA, South Coast CORSA, Vintage CORSA, Sfba CORSA, and the San Joaquin Valley Corvair Club. Those may change. winking smiley
THEN:
1965 Monza 110, Canary Yellow
1965 Corsa 180 Turbo, Red
1966 Monza 110, Purple
1967 Monza 140, Red
1966 500 110, Black; nicknamed "Shadow"
1965 Monza 110, Camaro Yellow; nicknamed "Silver"
NOW:
1966 Corsa 180 Turbo, Blue; nicknamed "Bluvair"

"He cautioned me not to take notes. It would not have helped if I had, as he would start a paragraph with, 'It is therefore obvious. . .'
and go on from there to matters which may have been obvious to him and God but to no one else."
-- Robert A. Heinlein, character of Daniel B. Davis, 'The Door Into Summer.'

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Re: Electronic Ignition Distributors
Posted by: Seth Emerson ()
Date: January 12, 2021 01:30PM

Eric do you know the Mallory P/N for the box? They have several "Hy-Fire" units.

James - the Electronic dist you have uses all Chevy V8 (prior to 1973) accessories, like vacuum advance units, springs weights, etc. If yours is not adjustable, there are several replacement adjustable units sold that will fit. (The big-cap HEI units will not fit!)

Seth Emerson

Check my new Performance Corvair Web site [www.perfvair.com]

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Re: Electronic Ignition Distributors
Posted by: jamesolefjensen ()
Date: January 16, 2021 04:47PM

Hi Kids!

I hope everyone is safe and sane.

I wanted to post an update on my electronic distributer. I'm still tuning it a little bit and will probably start another thread on that.

First of all, hats off to Seth. This is a very well made distributer. I bought mine through California Corvairs for $130. This is a borderline ridiculous price point for this product. I know Seth had a lot of help along the way (I have some insight on getting a product on the market) but without his genius and perseverance, I doubt anything close to this distributer would be available to such a small (yet enthusiastic) market.

According to the numbers, the old distributer I have is a later 110 variant. I added an advance stop (which helped low end performance) and swapped in a Pertronix Igniter.

The biggest improvement is idle quality. No more heel toe at stop lights! The other big improvement is how little warm up time is now needed. With the old distributer, it was prudent to let things warm up for at least 5 minutes. Now I can drive off no problem as soon as the choke kicks off (I am running a 390 Holley by that is another storey).

I want to say peak power is improved but I think that might be wishful thinking (164 cubes is after all, only 164 cubes). However, the seat of my pants swears the mid range (3000ish RPM) has more push. Perhaps that’s the extra advance in this range doing its thing. It starts right up hot or cold (the old distributer was pretty good also).

My only reservation so far is road side service. Though completely serviceable, this distributer design does not lend itself to quick and dirty repairs. For daily driving, I have AAA towing but for those long overnight road trips, I may add the old distributer to the hand full of spares in my trunk. That being said, I have no reason to doubt the reliability of this distributer.

For installation, the biggest change I had to do was re-clock its position. The vacuum advance on the old distributer was pointed at the tail lights (that’s the old distributer with the cap off). I had to rotate the new distributer 2 gear teeth clockwise. The vacuum advance now points at the license plate. Rotation was necessary to avoid the cap retainer fastener thingy from interfering with the engine shroud. The cap itself just cleared the shroud so no sheet metal massaging was required, although it is very close.

The new position necessitated a special 3/32” hex key (this distributer was in fact delivered with an adjustable vacuum advance canister). I could not get a standard hex key in there so I chopped one down to fit.

I had already reconfigured the ballast resistor for the Pertronix so the hook up was all there. I am running 12 volts to the module and am feeding the coil through the resistor. The coil is a MSD Blaster 2 (came with the car).

Pictures are posted. I hope this helps. I am by no means a master mechanic but I figured my experience might leap frog someone else’s efforts.

One more thing about my engine compartment as seen in the photos: I don’t let perfection get in the way of progress.

James
65 Corsa
SF Bay Area

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