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ford msd distributor Q&A Review

Is ignition coil and coil pack the same thing?

First let’s talk about the coil. A common misconception is ignition coils are all conventional transformers. This makes people wonder why they are not called ignition transformers. Even though ignition coils have a primary and secondary, they are generally not functioning like a conventional transformer where turns ratio determines voltage transformation. They are energy storage devices that “charge” magnetically during a dwell period until flux levels are at or near magnetic core saturation. The charging path was interrupted by a switch in the distributor called “points”, like early vehicles had. up through the 1960’s. The points were later replaced by a transistor switch, like Ford used in the 1970’s through 1990’s. When the points (switch) or semiconductor supply current turns off, the field collapses and the voltage becomes very high on both primary and secondary. All of the stored energy built up over a long dwell time releases all at once as the coil tries to hold flux at the same level without the aid of charging current. This is a fly back action, ,not, a transformer action. The disadvantage of this single coil flyback system is it has maximum spark energy at lower engine speeds, but commonly runs out of full core charging time (dwell time) at very high RPM ranges. The Ford TFI, for example, tails off in energy in the 7000–8000 RPM area in a V8 engine. The next advancement in common SI (spark ignition) engines came with capacitor discharge systems. The capacitor discharge system was made practical by high-voltage high-current very reliable semiconductors. In this case energy is stored in a high voltage charged capacitor. The capacitor is dumped into a primary and that induces a voltage in the secondary. This is a different mode than a breaker point or solid state ignition. It is more in line with a tradition transformer, rather than a flyback coil system. An example would be the popular aftermarket MSD systems. CD ignitions became fairly common. These systems can be made to have the same energy even into the 10,000 RPM range on a V8, and the coil can be more compact. The ignition box does all the energy storage. Coil packs are functionally like the old flyback single ignition coil systems, except the engine uses multiple coils. This increases available dwell time, because each coil only had to fire one per crank turn or less (depending on if it is waste spark or not). Each coil has a much longer dwell time available, so the coils can fully charge even at high RPM. A second advantage is long high voltage plug wires and a mechanically complex distributor are eliminated. The disadvantage is the electrical system is more complex. My small block Ford turbo engine is about 1600 HP at the drive tires and 8200 RPM or so. It works perfectly fine with a 200–250 mJ CD ignition I designed and built. I use a single good coil and Ford OEM distributor and my homemade CD ignition system never misses a beat even at pretty high cylinder pressures.

How can a fuel injection engine change to a carburetor?

It depends on the engine and it's more common to go from carburetor to fuel injection not the other direction. On some engines you would still have an ECU for spark and timing control or the transmission. On other engines it's relatively straight forward. The lower intake has to be changed for one with a place to mount a carburetor. On some throttle body fuel injection setups you can swap one for the other without changing the intake. In most cases a different manifold is required. The fuel pressure for fuel injection is higher 40+psi, a low pressure pump is ideal and a fuel pressure regulator for carb level psi around 5psi. Is needed. The fuel rails or fuel lines need changed at least for the last few feet. The ignition system needs to no longer be computer controlled. That might mean an MSD style ignition box or just a coil and distributor swap, it depends on the engine and what it originally had. Your ignition and computer are probably the hardest parts, getting the engine to fire up again might take some extra effort. Air, fuel and spark will all need some attention. Going from carb to throttle body fuel injection is more common lately and it might be less effort to upgrade your fuel injection from stock to something better instead of going to a carb. On a small block Ford or Chevy it's really pretty easy to convert and probably -$1000 especially if you use used parts you could probably convert for under $500. Finding out what your car needs to start without an ECU or how to confuse it to be able to start is something you'll have to look up for the specific engine/car in question. On some engines the conversion is probably impossible without fabricating an intake manifold. Others, you can find the parts on Craigslist or the junkyard and it might only take an afternoon or two.

Would you have a problem with me putting an already built SBC 388 stroker with a B&M blower into a 1940 Ford business coupe street rod?

There are tons of small block Chevys in Ford hotrods. Light small and the cheapest of parts huge availability of everything. It’s the hotrodders choice every time. They have quite a square compact design so they can easily fit into most engine bays without too much cutting and chopping. When they’re dressed they look fantastic. I have a 40 with a 383 in it. Has a turbo 400 and a Halibrand Champ rear. It has Brodix heads Hooker headers MSD etc I can light the tires with a blip of the gas pedal. The only issue I’ve had is overheating. I’m using a Griffin racing radiator 16 inch electric fan at the front end I have the plates which direct the air directly into radiator. I’m using two oil coolers engine and transmission forward mounted and a finned sump on the transmission made by Derale. Here’s the thing these little coupes have quite a small engine bays and getting the air flowing through the compartment is key. My inner fenders are generously vented which all helps to keep the engine from overheating. Blowers are famous for producing heat. They’re size can be restrictive too. If you’re using a 6–71 you’ll likely to be cutting up your hood to get it to fit as with the carb or carbs and filter assembly it’ll stand quite proud. Here’s something I discovered along the way to solving my heating issues. Question : Can changing your alternator stop your hotrod overheating? Answer : Yes. Here’s why. Once you fire up your hotrod and take it for a ride, while cruising, your alternator will run comfortably at a decent rpm on the freeway or interstate and provide a healthy 13–14 volts for your battery to get a sufficient charge and to run all your electrical appliances radio cooling fans heaters wipers lights etc. What I noticed with my old alternator was that around town the voltage output changed according to the engine rpm. So more revs the voltage went up less revs it went down, but here’s the thing as the voltage went down so did the rpm to my electric engine cooling fan and thus less air flow through the radiator as the fan ran more slowly. Ironically I’d have to try to keep the revs high to drive the alternator harder to keep the voltage up to turn the electric fan faster and try to cool the motor. I fitted a very nice polished aluminum 150amp alternator from Powermaster. This alternator has an “exciter” circuit. When you fire up your motor a circuit inside the alternator flicks a switch and you get a constant 14volts output from the alternator regardless of your engine rpm. Now my electric cooling fan runs at max rpm whether cruising in town or out. Cooling issue resolved ! The constraints of the engine bay may make running a blower motor more of a challenge. If you’re thinking of running a 3inch or more Gilmer style belt drive then your motor will have to be well set back with possible distributor against the bulkhead interference issues, not insurmountable but worth thinking about. You could go with a serpentine drive belt system and gain some clearance or possibly even a traditional V-belt would do the trick. Any true hotrodder or car person would love to own or drive a car with a healthy blower motor in it. If you go about pre-planning your transplant carefully and keep an eye on potential cooling problems you should be fine. Let’s face it’s all been done before. Personally I’ll stick to my torquey lil SBC and while others do the bench rodding stuff discussing what brand to use I’ll be cruising and driving and having fun. Good luck!

What are the benefits of older cars with ignition points changing to an electric ignition? Is it a big or hard job to do by yourself?

By far the easiest, and almost cheapest, is to buy a “ready-to-run” HEI distributor made by Ningbo of China. These bolt right in and have an integral HEI module (different than GM’s). You simply connect IGN power and the spark plugs. One for my 1965 Chrysler small-block was only $45 (ebay), and amazing they can sell them profitably for that. But, only available for a few common U.S. engines (small-block and big-block V-8). There have long been conversion kits available. I think Chrysler was first with electronic ignition ~1972, at least in the U.S., but even in an older Chrysler engine I wouldn’t convert to that because later ones like the GM HEI were much better and are actually easier to retrofit even in an earlier Chrysler engine. HEI doesn’t require a ballast resistor (has electronic “dwell control”), which gives a hotter spark and is more efficient. The best & easiest GM version is their “small-cap” distributor with external coil, found in 1985–95 trucks and to 1993 in cars, with small-block V-8 engine (350 cu in, etc). I suspect you can take the whole distributor, coil, and cable which attaches the two from a junkyard engine and it will fit on an older GM small-block, perhaps even back to 1955. Cut the red (+12 V) and white (tach) wires from the main harness as long as you can. The ground is thru the distributor body. For a Chrysler, you can use the above GM ignition if you substitute a later Chrysler electronic distributor for your engine (slant-six, small-block, big-block, or raised block). Its VR pickup will trigger the GM HEI module fine, though you have to get the polarity of the 2 pickup wires correct to get a steady spark. Remove the 8-pin HEI module from the GM distributor’s base, and cut the wires to their pickup coil as long as you can (to connect to Chrysler pickup). The GM coil is still a simple connection w/ the GM cable. Don’t use your old Chrysler coil. You need an e-core type like the GM (could be the coil from a Chrysler Magnum engine to keep in-family). Mount the module on a good heat-sink w/ thermal paste, at least a flat aluminum plate if not an old PC CPU heat sink and twist the pickup wires route them so it won’t self-trigger from the spark wires (like microphone feedback). If a Ford, it might be easier to upgrade to a similar-era Ford TFI ignition, which is like HEI. For others, study what type of pickup is in a later e-distributor for your engine. The GM system uses a VR-type, but a Hall-effect pickup (5 V square wave) may also work (3 wires). The extra connector on the 8-pin module is for computer-control of spark timing. You can leave unconnected and it drops to base timing (test-mode). Some after-market engine controls like Holley’s Commander 950 offer a cable to connect to the 8-pin module and control spark timing. If your distributor already does vacuum and rpm advance, the Commander 950 can just add tweaks to that timing (based on rpm and Pman sensors). You can also retrofit an existing points distributor. Many kits for that. An early one was Crane Cams XR700, which I put on a 1965 and 1969 Chrysler. It has an optical pickup wheel you install inside your points distributor and an external box. You still find them new on ebay. Downside is that it requires using a ballast resistor, so older tech. I had an optical sensor fail in one and a module fail in another. They cover many engines in their various kits, including some British, Italian, and Japanese. The earliest Pertronix Ignitor required a ballast, so is also old tech. Better is their Ignitor II (no ballast like HEI). Even better, Ignitor III adds multi-spark and rev limiter, but available for fewer engines. All the Ignitor systems fit under the distributor cap, so keeps the original look. You can spend much more money for a large external box like MSD (red) or Accel (yellow), plus their coils. Racers love them. Be careful because some fake Chinese MSD boxes were sold on ebay and all inside the big box was a tiny transistor, which works but doesn’t give the multi-spark you paid for. Those all had the same SN (google). Much more ambitious, you can install crank-triggered distributor-less ignition. For some engines, you can use parts from a later engine. Ex, for a Chrysler small-block you could use the flex-plate w/ “toner ring” (pickup slots) from a later Magnum 5.2/5.9L small-block and its pickup (requires cutting a slot in your transmission bell-housing), but would need its controller to process that signal. Most people install a custom 36–1 toothed wheel and pickup at the front crankshaft. You can buy custom kits for that. I have seen some older BMW engines retrofitted. Processing that signal to spark commands can be done w/ a late 1990’s Ford module (for 6 or 8 cyl), which outputs to a coil pack, but also requires a timing advance command (via SAW signal). Many use a custom megasquirt controller for that. See the megasquirt and BinderPlanet websites for more info. The hottest spark is from a “coil per cylinder” system. Many retrofit such coils from a current GM LS V-8 engine since easiest. They only need a 5 V signal to fire and are “coil near plug” so flexible mounting choices.


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