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Electronic Ignition

It is a major component of the Ignition System.


Electronic ignitions make our cars more reliable and easier to maintain. They eliminate points, make timing more robust, provide transistorised ignition and as a result eliminate a lot of the common problems that are caused by these components. Many different varieties are available. Some of the more popular ones are:

Some modify your existing distributor and insert a clever, miniaturized box of parts on the rotor. Some supply a brand new distributor, hiding all components inside. And some put an opto-electrical pickup in your existing distributor and add a small box of parts elsewhere.

The choice of which device is best for you depends on:

  • your budget
  • the state of your distributor (if it is shot, buying a brand-new 123-Ignition is cheaper
  • your need for originality (eliminating additional box solutions)
  • ease-of-installation. The Crane is tougher to install.

Pertronix Ignition

I've installed the Pertronix in a couple of older points cars. I have to say that I loved it. Very neat. No box to bolt in. You can't tell it's there except that the distributor has no visible condenser. Install it once, in about 30 minutes and drive forever. 100,000 miles has been suggested as the expected life of the system. I'm probably going to install the Pertronix kit on my SL this winter. I'm still looking for the ceramic resistor in the cramped space under the hood but once found and given the time to do the work I'll complete the job.

A Pertronics system in a Bosch 051 Vacuum Retard Distributor

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Has anyone had experience with converting a 113 to electronic ignition? What results? I think that a company by the name of Crane may make a conversion unit for the 113.

My mechanic has just finished a lovely restoration on his personal 230 SL and installed the 280 SL factory transistorized ignition. The price (about $1,000) shocked me, but his idle and overall pickup seem markedly better than my car (which is in well-tuned shape). Has anyone had any experience with the stock MB system? Does it offer real improvements? Does it require an all-new distributor as well? Does the cost seem reasonable? Is there a better aftermarket alternative?

For those living in Europe, there's a UK company (Luminition) that makes an electronic ignition module for the W113's as well. It has an optical pick up unit in the distributor and an external control module. I bought one recently (around $120) and installed it myself, some minor modification was required to the distributor plate. It works very well, no more points and no dwell to worry about. One thing to watch is how the wire from the pickup unit to the control module is routed, ensuring no interference with the moving parts in the top of the distributor.

I have installed a Crane XR700 in my 1969 280 SL. It works perfectly and eliminates the points; a major source of engine tune problems.

My 70 280 SL used to burn points about every 6-8 thousand miles. I picked up a magnetic pick up set up called the Ignitor by Pertronix and it works great.

Another approach to the points is a Crane-Allison Optical ignition. I had one installed in 1994 and the results were beyond expectations. No more points replacements, maintains timing for years and consistently perfect ignition. Cost $126 +labor.

I have done/used/tested both and find the Hall Effect to lack performance at idle/low rpm.[ Starting].. Optical switching is just cleaner, faster switching and it shows up on a scope. The only advantage I have found in the Pertronix is it can be hidden as there is no switchgear.

I installed the Crane about a year ago. Installation was simple and it has worked flawlessly ever since. No noticable performance improvement over conventional points in my case, but it's one less thing to adjust.

I installed a set of electronic points in my 230sl about 2 years ago, and cannot recommend it highly enough. I enjoy working on my car, but constantly messing with the points is a real pain. These points are one of only a very few deviations from standard on my car, and they are worth it. There has been no drift in timing, and the darn things just keep running and running. I realize they reduce the charm of constantly replacing pitted points and the condenser.

Does someone have any experience with installing a small electronic ignition system? Does a system that is not noticeable exist for our cars?

Cees: since I replaced my points with an electronic set-up, dwell and gap are no longer relevant test equipment features (I think the $110 I paid for the electronic ignition will pay itself back quickly). I bought a relatively basic strobe light to set the ignition timing. Available at any auto-parts store I would think. I did look into dwell, angle etc equipment before and there's a wide range available, also at wildly varying prices. It seems a CO2 meter would be a good thing as well.

Te Colortune glass spark plug is a good and practical way to set air/fuel mixture without getting expensive equipment. Tom Sargeant told me about a CO2 meter from Colortune that he has, that would be worthhile to look into.

What we perhaps need is some kind of "approved" list of tools for the basic home mechanic that would be "90-95%" ok to use, including the tools to check/adjust valve clearance, change the oil, adjust the brakes etc etc. Beyond that would be the "100% ok" list of tools/equipment that a properly equipped shop would have to tune and check our prized possesions.

I put in a new pertronix unit, and a used bosch blue coil, new plugs....the car sems to misfire intermittantly. If I hook up a timing light, I will get a ignition on a random cyl. I'm now armed with 6 new platinum plugs, new cap and rotor, and a new coil. The only remaining possibility is the there anything else I should be concerned about?

You should DEFINITELY check the wires. My latest Miss Intermittent was caused by a (Bosch) wire that had gone bad after only two years. The problem got progressively worse so I replaced ignition (moved to electronic), spark plugs, adjusted timing etc. It was the wires.

One more thing to check-see if there is a leak around one of the injectors or one of the fuel lines to the injector that originate at the pump. This can be the cause of a rough idle.

I have been dealing with the points on my 66, they were burning out and causing the car to run poorly. I have been frustrated in dealing with the issue so I called and ordered the Pertronix electronic ignition and installed it last Saturday.

WOW what a difference my car has NEVER run this well EVER in the 7 years I have owned it. The installation was all in all the easiest thing I have ever done regarding ignition systems. I removed the hood to make the install easier and pulled the points out and made a <very> minor alteration to the bracket that connects the vacuum advance arm. I replaced the cap rotor and ran the wires. The car fired right up with no problems and

I believe I am driving a completely different car. It does not hesitate and pulls right off the line, revs cleaner at high RPM’s and shifts better it is amazing. If you have been bothered by your points I recommend making the swap, it looks stock and works great.

I just installed the Pertronix and it took about an hour. I removed my hood and it made it infinitely easier. The kit has everything you need and there is no drilling or hiding of external parts. All you do remove the points and screw the plate in place of the old points then screw the magneto to the plate.

The only modification you have to do is take a dremmel and grind the vacuum plate a little bit so the magnet will slide down far enough on the distributor shaft. Then run the wires to the distributor and put the rotor and cap back on and you are done. I did not need to mess with the timing at all I turned the key and she fired right up. I did have to adjust the idle and that was it.
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