OptiSpark. The name alone is enough to give '92-'96 Vette owners the jimjams and send even the most jaded auto techs scurrying for their shop manuals. Indeed, with the possible exception of the ill-starred "Crossfire" injection system of the early '80s, no single piece of engine hardware has heaped more ignominy on the Corvette's exalted powertrain history than this legendarily perfidious crank-triggered ignition unit.
That the OptiSpark turned out to be such a stinker is all the more disappointing in light of the technologically vanward thinking behind its basic design. By keying spark events to the crankshaft, the front-mounted Opti was able to provide a level of timing accuracy far superior to that of any conventional, top-mounted ignition unit. But when it failed-and boy, did it fail-the car's drivability tanked, leaving owners facing a host of drivability issues and a roughly $1,000 repair bill.
Fortunately, MSD now offers the Pro Billet LT1 distributor, a comprehensively upgraded OptiSpark unit designed to fit all LT1- and LT4-powered Corvettes. We covered the Pro Billet's particulars in a previous article titled "The OptiSpark Option," which appeared in our November, 2006 issue. This month, we offer an overview of an installation recently performed on this author's Polo Green '96 Coupe.
Because of the rather involved nature of the job, we strongly recommend having it performed by an experienced, Corvette-savvy mechanic. Fortunately for us, the folks at Brandon, Florida-based tuner Rev Xtreme had performed a number of Opti swaps over the years and were more than happy to help out. The highlights of the installation, performed by Rev X tech Kyle Briese, are included herewith.
While we didn't see a horsepower improvement with the MSD Opti, the modified car did seem to pull with more verve in the higher rpm ranges. Furthermore, we expect the MSD unit's timing-adjustment feature to prove a real benefit as our modification regimen intensifies.
In the meantime, the Pro Billet LT1 distributor's reasonable price tag ($515-about $200 more than a factory replacement), top-quality features, and ironclad reliability make it a welcome addition to our budget-oriented '96. It may be late in the game, but thanks to MSD, installing your final Opti is now a reality.