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New MSD Ignition System - Dis Is Hot
MSD'S New Coil-Per-Cylinder Ignition Gives Total Control
Sep 1, 2003
Vrbancic Brothers Racing
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New MSD Ignition System - Dis Is Hot
MSD's new Digital Coil-Per-Cylinder (CPC) ignition system offers state-of-the-art control over all ignition-related operations. The components required include two control boxes (system and ignition), eight individual coil packs, a Hall-effect synch distributor plug, a Flying Magnet crank trigger assembly, PC-based software, and all of the requisite wiring.
The first step to installing the MSD CPC system is to sit down in your most comfortable chair and read the instructions. At first glance the installation may seem a bit daunting, however, once you read it through a couple of times you'll see that it's really quite simple.
In the case of the test engine, the first thing George Vrbancic did was to remove the conventional water pump and V-belt pulley arrangement.
If you look under the hood of today's performance machines you'll likely see individual spark plug wires connecting one coil pack to one spark plug. Gone are the days of a centralized distributor along with its cap and rotor. Retrofitting this type of system to a classic engine, such as this 468-inch Rat, not only adds an air of modernization, but more importantly provides the engine tuner with virtually unlimited ignition control.
Here he's installing the requisite crank trigger assembly. Since the CPC doesn't use a distributor/rotor combo, MSD's Flying Magnet trigger sends the signal to the computer to let the coils know when to send the multiple sparks to the plug.
The next step was to add an electric Meziere water pump. While a street engine may not need this, it works quite well on the dyno. In a real world situation, you'll need to set up all of the engine's accessories with the crank trigger in place since it will require spacing everything out an additional 1/4 inch.
Mounting the coil packs poses the most variable element of the install. A lot will depend on where your combination has room. Also, a big-block will require different spacing as opposed to a small-block. To ease mounting on our dyno test engine, George used a long piece of threaded rod. The coils were fit in place, a nut was threaded on the rod on both sides of the coil and then tightened down when the coil was positioned correctly. Plain and simple-and it worked great. But remember, you could mount the coils on the car's firewall or inner fender panels. But we feel that keeping them as close to the plugs is the best idea.
Here's how neat the coil system looks mounted above the engine's valve covers.
And see how clean the short MSD 8.5 wires look going from the coil to the plug!
With the timing, plus 4 degrees set, the next step is to align the crank trigger's magnet with the center of the non-magnetic pickup. At this point the pickup is tightened down. An additional 22 degrees will be set at the crank after the Hall-effect synch distributor plug is installed. This additional timing is the approximate lead of the cam synch sensor and should be enough to get the engine started.
Since we won't be using them, the old distributor the cap and existing wires were removed as was the distributor body.
With the coils in place, George set out to line up the timing marks on the harmonic balancer. The instructions spell out exactly what is necessary to gain a starting point for ignition timing. Basically, you must determine the amount of total timing you want in the engine. Next, you must add an additional 4 degrees to offset for the CPC's built-in timing compensation circuit.
In the same fashion as all of MSD's billet distributors, the cam synch plug is a nicely machined part. In addition to providing the computer with the cam's position in relation to the crank, the gear is driven off the cam and rotates the oil pump in the same manner as a stock distributor.
This is the electronic "business end" of the cam synch. The Hall-effect pickup accepts a wiring harness that is connected to the two control boxes. Notice the adjustable slip collar, which allows for this plug to fit Chevy V-8s in tall- and short-deck configurations.
This chart from the instruction booklet gives a basic description of how the cam synch works.
Wiring the coil packs is simple. Just route the included harness over the front of the engine, towards the back, and plug in the connector. The separate wire with the ring end is a ground. We cut the ring and fit it over the threaded rod that was used to mount the coils.
MSD made it simple to connect all of the electronics together with easy-to-install weatherpak-style connectors. Of course, numbering them to correspond with their correct counterpart was the thing we liked most. Foolproof!
The CPC system offers a multitude of options to go along with its basic ignition timing capabilities such as a Pulse Width Modulated Output that can be used to add fuel, control an electric fan or pump, or a waste gate on a turbocharger.
Other options are simply a wire away such as rpm launch limits, burnout limits and a plethora of retard steps.
Getting the CPC controllers to communicate with the crank trigger is a simple matter of plugging together this connector.
The hot wire required a female spade connector. Other than that, all other connectors needed for our dyno test were provided.
The brains of the MSD CPC system came on this floppy disc. A PC-based laptop was used to "dial-in" the system.
Here's where the fun began. After the initial test run, which yielded a basic 7 ft-lb and 2-horse increase over a conventional distributor, high-tech engine guru George Vrbancic played with the CPC's settings with his laptop (and continued to do so long after this editor was gone).
The bottom-line? Aside from its state-of-the-art appearance, the MSD Digital CPC system offers the tuner and almost endless amount of control. Especially for those running blown and/or nitrous-equipped motors, using the CPC's capabilities can bring out the most performance those engines have to offer. For us, we think this system will be a great addition to our Vortech-blown street Camaro. Can't wait to give it a try.
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