As noted, installation of the equipment is rather basic, however, setting up the engine to "dial-in" the system is a little more complicated. First thing is to set the timing. The instructions describe the distributor plug's purpose, which is to provide a cam synch to the computer. This signal must be phased in roughly 22 degrees before the maximum timing setting of the engine. To do this correctly, the CPC system, including the crank trigger, should be in place and wired.
Setting up the crank trigger requires positioning the number one cylinder on the compression stroke, at the desired maximum timing (say 36 degrees). Next you must add an additional 4 degrees to offset the CPC's built-in timing compensation circuit. (Tabulating our example, you'd have 40 degrees of advance at the trigger.) With the crank trigger and pickup aligned and tightened down, at this point you will back up the engine and add another 22 degrees of advance. This is the approximate lead of the cam synch sensor and will put you right in the neighborhood of getting the engine to fire.
On our test engine, we played with this for a little while before the engine fired. We came to find out that we hadn't programmed the engine's firing order into the program on our PC, so despite having set up the mechanical hookups correctly, the engine still popped and backfired as we tried to start it. (I guess we hot rodders still have a way to go before we're fully computer literate.)
With the computer set and all of the components in place, our 468-inch test Rat came to life and idled smoothly. At this stage, we were ready to start pushing buttons on the PC's keyboard.
As pointed out earlier, tuning the MSD CPC has infinite possibilities. Since our test centered mainly around creating a smooth transition from the distributor to CPC systems, we didn't spend a lot of time changing the setups. We did, however, do a baseline dyno test with the conventional timing and then again with the initial CPC timing. Results were an instant increase of 7 ft-lb of torque and 3 hp.
Not stunning numbers, just an indication of the high-output accuracy and programming control possible with the CPC ignition system. Furthermore, it was an indication of just how easy it would be to fully tune as much performance out of a specific engine as possible. With individual cylinder timing matched with a fuel-injected, supercharged engine, it's easy to see how playing with the computer to put in or take out timing where it was needed most would have a positive effect on squeezing out every last pony.
Once again, this was just a scratch on the surface of the capabilities of the MSD digital coil-per-cylinder ignition system. As we studied the software further, it was apparent that the ability for the user to program such things as an electronic timing curve; an advance that correlates to the engine's vacuum (just like conventional vacuum advance); a launch timing curve for use on the dragstrip; a boost timing curve that will (with the optional MAP sensor) control the timing in relationship to the supercharger's boost; a multi-step retard that can be activated by either engine speed or a separate wire; gear rpm and retards, which allow for a different shift point for each gear in addition to a separate retard for each gear change; and a set of three different rev limits in 100-rpm increments.
While this high-end ignition system isn't for the average grocery-getter, it does offer complete engine ignition management for those applications that see more than one type of use. And, for non-normally aspirated situations, the ability to tweak the combination for maximum performance is worth the price of admission.