It doesn't matter how stellar an engine you build—if the spark isn't there to light off the air/fuel mixture, you've just built yourself a giant paperweight. Yes, there are lots of aftermarket ignition boxes and distributors on that market that put out a time traveling–like 1.21 gigawatts of spark energy, but for the guys who want a more stealthy look to their ignition systems, sometimes it can be tough.
But Pertronix is there to make sure your vintage-looking engine fires up every time, any time, without the need for big, bulky boxes, coil-in-cap HEI units, or something that would intrude on the cleanliness and simple beauty of an engine compartment. At the same time, the company adds the reliability of a modern electronic ignition that provides constant and high-spark energy.
Our AMD '67 Chevelle project car needed an upgrade in the ignition department for its 413-inch Rat, and so not to spoil the car's factory look, we called Pertornix to get the right stuff to keep our big-block happy and running smoothly. We selected the company's Ignitor III ignition system, which not only does away with the points, but is said to have as much power as an aftermarket ignition box—but without the bulky box. Follow along and you'll see just how easy an upgrade this is.
1. With what's destined for our AMD '67 Chevelle and the nature of its built 413-inch big-block, having the best and most reliable spark energy possible was critical. Yes, it was time to say goodbye to our factory distributor with breakerless points ignition. After hand-rotating the engine to have the No. 1 cylinder at top dead center, we unbolted the hold-down clamp on the distributor and pulled it out.
2. Our new distributor from Pertonix is from its Stock Look line of cast distributors. On the outside, the only thing that gives it away as not being a points unit is the second wire coming from the housing, but that's easily hidden once installed.
3. When it's set next to the stock distributor, you can see where the Pertronix distributor looks like a brand-new factory unit, right down to its functional vacuum advance unit.
4. At the heart of our new distributor is Pertronix's Ignitor III ignition module. The Ignitor III is fully electronic, picking up the crankshaft position either from the distributor cam lobe or the Pertronix magnetic sleeve. It cranks out five times the spark energy of a stock points ignition, meaning a hotter spark that will help overpower detonation, stay lit even against high compression, and provide a full burn of the air/fuel air mixture in the cylinder. It is also a multi-spark unit through the entire rpm range, providing a more consistent and full burn in the combustion process even at high rpm.
5. Here's the factory points system. When points are fresh and new, they put out quite a bit of spark energy. The problem is, they wear as they operate, so the spark output diminishes from the first time the engine fires. They are also vulnerable to moisture-induced corrosion, which can inhibit their performance. Anyone who lived through the days of points-style distributors most likely hates them.
6. Compare that to the Ignitor III unit, which fits snugly right into the spot where points would normally live. You can install an Ignitor III in a factory distributor with no problem (Pertronix includes the adapter plate for such a scenario). It will provide five times the spark energy of the factory points, no matter how many miles are on the unit. It's also fully sealed so moisture won't affect its performance, and it features a built-in rev limiter.
7. Along with the distributor, we also upgraded from a stock coil to an Ignitor III coil (right). With an ultra-low 0.32 ohms of resistance, the Ignitor III coil charges to peak capacity 30 to 70 percent faster than regular coils.
8. After installing the new Pertronix distributor, the red and black wires from the Ignitor III unit are hooked to the positive and negative leads on the new coil, per the instructions. It's that easy.
9. Another upgrade we installed was a set of 7mm Stock Look plug wires. On the outside, they look factory, on the inside they feature a carbon-impregnated fiberglass core as the secondary path of spark energy and a spiral-wound stainless steel alloy as the primary path. All this is encased in an outer silicone jacket and an EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Methylene) rubber inner insulation that provides superior resistance against engine heat that can degrade performance, and prevents arcing and voltage leaks that diminish spark energy.
10. To set the rev limiter on the Ignitor III, turn the ignition key to the On position, then rotate the +/- dial clockwise until it stops. If the LED light blinks slowly, you've successfully started the setting procedure. Turning the dial clockwise sets the rev limit. Long flashes indicate rpm in thousands, while short flashes indicate hundreds. The unit comes set from the factory at 5,500 rpm. It can go as high as 9,000 and as low as 4,000. Once you have the rev limiter set at the desired rpm, let it go through the full blink sequence at least three complete cycles. This verifies you've set it properly and prepares it to be saved. Then turn the ignition key to the Off position, and you're done.
11. And there you have it. All that's left to do is hook up a timing light and get the timing set properly, then it's nothing but fun cruising ahead!