Back in the day, a breaker-points ignition system regulated by a mechanical distributor was what controlled engine timing.
While that system worked o.k. for its era, “points” ignitions are now very much out-of-date and an upgrade to an electronically-controlled ignition system can make a night-and-day difference in your vehicle’s performance and reliability.
(By the late 1970s, most large auto manufacturers had switched to a electronic/magnetic-based ignition trigger–though distributors were still commonly used as the mechanism to control the spark delivery.)
PerTronix‘s Ignitor modules make the conversion to electronic ignition an easy and cost-efficient upgrade.
The system relies on the “Hall Effect” to trigger the spark timing. In short, it uses a sensor to read changes in a magnetic field, as opposed to a fully-mechanical breaker points setup. That means there is much less friction and wear in the system—e.g. no points that can grind down or burn up.
The Ignitor sensor hides under the vehicle’s distributor cap, so purists can maintain a stock-appearing engine bay. Better still, these modules are legal in all 50 states under CARB E.O. #D-57-2 (#D-57-8 for Ignitor III).
Installing one of these is a straightforward affair, OnAllCylinder’s contributor Wayne Scraba did a full distributor retrofit using a PerTronix Ignitor III module. You can read that story here.
Ignitor modules come in three flavors:
The original Ignitor works great in stock point-type distributors and is compatible with most multi-point coils. It delivers twice the voltage to the spark plugs than a traditional points-style system, and has a solid state design that’s virtually maintenance free—that’s a big deal for folks who are used to continually fiddling with points adjustments.
The Ignitor II system delivers, on average, four times the energy over the stock setup. Ignitor II systems also boast adaptive dwell, to allow for peak energy to be delivered across the engine’s entire RPM range. Spark timing is adjusted automatically to compensate for electronic delay.
The Ignitor III system delivers five times the spark energy over stock, and carries-over the adaptive dwell and high-RPM timing adjustment of the Ignitor II. Its neatest feature is an adjustable rev limiter, making it a smart choice for high performance setups.
You can check out more details on each Ignitor system at the PerTronix website here.
These modules are application specific, but PerTronix makes systems for dozens of common vehicles. PerTronix says for most systems, you should run suppression-style (spiral-wound) spark plug wires.