Some people reading this may well have already heard of PerTronix as they are a market leader in electronic ignition. As PerTronix point out:
“Over 3 million users can’t be wrong!”
“Never change points again”
Most period car owners are aware, points or contact breakers as they are sometimes referred to are a weak link in the ignition system and can suddenly break down. In the early 1980’s aftermarket coil boosters which were then quite popular would sometimes be fitted to improve the spark at the spark plugs. These were good but the points were still present!
Electronic ignition systems
There are a number of electronic ignition systems on the market and some well known ones use a small light as the sensing method. These in general are ok, but if any dirt gets on the light it can fail.
I spoke to a contact many years ago, who said that a German contact of his had been fitting the PerTronix systems for a while with faultless reliability. After some research I decided to purchase this system for my Mercedes 6.3. The beauty of this system is that it is so simple, one of those cases in life where less is more.
When you open the small PerTronix ignitor box there is hardly anything inside and fitting this ignitor is a simple operation. The instructions provided are clear and simple with easy to follow diagrams. There is excellent, friendly service from PerTronix should you have any queries.
Another beauty of this electronic ignition system is that, once it is fitted, there is no longer any dwell angle to adjust. The PerTronix ignitor uses a hall sensor which is switched by another circular magnet which fits under the rotor arm. Once fitted, there are no ongoing adjustments to make inside the distributor.
The image above shows the removal of both sets of points and intermediate base plate, with a fitted PerTronix ignitor.
The rotor arm is not fitted to show a clear view of the new ignition layout.
PerTronix is an American company and the ignitor units are manufactured there. Mark Hannaford, the English sales manager, explained to me that PerTronix USA has been in business for approximately 40 years. The English branch is PerTronix Europe and has been here for over 25 years. They also sell cast and billet distributors, HT leads, exhausts etc.
Mark Hannaford has extremely good technical knowledge and is very efficient and friendly in sending your purchases out on time. The electronic ignition ignitor units are guaranteed for 30 months. PerTronix manufacter ignitor units for many different vehicles.
No drilling or permanent modifications
Another important selling point of these electronic ignition systems is that there is no drilling or permanent modifications to the distributor required. Additionally there are no electronic boxes to be fitted in the engine bay. In the case of the distributor fitted to the 6.3 you remove both sets of points, intermediate distributor base plate and condenser. All these items, along with their screws and clips, can be safely put away so that if you ever want to return the car to its original set up it can be easily done
As I also purchased the high-energy (Flame-ThrowerII) coil I could remove the ballast resistor as well. This is possible as PerTronix coils are internally resisted.
Once I fitted the system I noticed the engine was slightly more responsive – and I will no longer have to replace the points or condenser or run the risk of them letting me down. In my opinion, if you fit the Flame Thrower coil, the PerTronix system also makes the engine more economical, due to the increased spark size and hence better combustion. Engine reconditioning in older cars is obviously important, electronic ignition will not fix or compensate for a worn engine.
If you do not have a good timing light, i.e. one that gives a clear white light, then you could purchase the Draper TL3 Xenon Timing Light. This is available from motor factors or on-line stores. Having purchased this light I am very pleased with it – you can easily see the bright white light on the crankshaft pulley during daylight. The quality of the light is comparable with those found in far more expensive units. I already had a good tachometer to set the engine idle speed at tick over and to make sure the timing is correct, but if you have not got one these are fairly inexpensive to purchase.
The fitting instructions apply to many ignitor units for different models. It is essential to check for wear in the distributor cap, rotor arm, HT leads, spark plug caps, and of course spark plugs. It is advisable to replace these items at the same time if they are showing signs of wear.
Fitting a resistor to avoid tachometer needle bounce
You may encounter a small amount of tachometer ‘bounce’, this is a result of the extra sharp signal from the ignitor and is nothing to worry about. If you wish to remove it, as I did then a 50,000 to 100,000 ohm resistor should be fitted on the negative side of the coil. When I fitted this I soldered in connections, and heat shrink wrapped them to blend in with the original wiring, likewise should the resistor fail then it can easily be replaced when fitted onto connectors. On some vehicles it may be possible to adjust the tachometer internally to stop the bounce.
Electronic ignition is without doubt a reliable alternative to the traditional points and condenser set up. PerTronix being one of the market leaders offer a simple, reliable, quality product.