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MSD Ignition System - High Voltage
Project C3 Triple Ex Gets A Modern Electronic Ignition System
Nov 12, 2009
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MSD Ignition System - High Voltage
Is the ignition system in your Corvette up to the task of firing your engine's mixture? Chances are it's not if you're still sporting factory components. This month we'll upgrade Project C3 Triple Ex with a new MSD ignition system to energize our Stingray.
When we got our project car, it had a factory points-style distributor that had been converted to electronic with now-defunct Crane internals. Since the distributor and coil were likely as old as the car, we decided to replace them with new MSD electronic ignition.
As the foundation for our new ignition system, we chose MSD's new 6AL-2 ignition controller. This is a high-energy ignition system capable of 535 Volts and 135 millijoules, and it's compatible with distributors or crank triggers.
Different Corvettes may require different mounting positions; just be sure you orient the unit so that you can access the rev-limiter rotary switches.
MSD offers a Pro-Billet distributor with a mechanical tachometer drive just for Corvette owners, allowing you to retain the factory tach in your early Vette. This distributor is a nice piece, suitable for race or street applications.
The Pro-Billet distributor comes with all the hardware needed to attain multiple timing curves. In our experience, the MSD timing graphs outlined in the instructions are dead on.
To change the timing curves, simply remove the distributor cap and rotor to gain access to the bushings and springs. The idea is to achieve as much initial advance as possible without dragging the starter, and to reach full total advance by 2,500 rpm.
Before removing the old distributor, mark the number-one spark plug, then pull the cap and verify the orientation of the rotor. The new distributor should be oriented the same as the old one.
The MSD distributor slides right in place of the original unit. By holding the housing and rotating the rotor, you'll feel the distributor gear mesh with the cam gear, and the distributor will drop into place.
The 6AL-2 offers digital circuitry, and the two stages of rev limiting are easily adjusted through the holes in the ignition housing. A small screwdriver is included with the ignition for this purpose. The LED light on the side lets you know the unit is working properly.
In addition to the detailed instructions, the wiring diagram for the unit is also embossed on the back. The wiring is very simple, almost as easy as wiring one of Editor Heath's guitar amplifiers.
The ignition unit should be mounted away from heat, and in an area that won't be exposed to the elements. After considering our options, we chose the back of the left (driver side) inner fender. Using the unit as a template, we drilled four holes and installed the rubber isolators provided with the ignition.
Using the coil as a template, we drilled four mounting holes and mounted our Blaster HVC coil on the firewall near the distributor.
Taking advantage of the Corvette's mechanical tach drive, we used the tachometer output on our new ignition unit to power MSD's programmable shift light.
With the major components in place, we installed new MSD Super-Conductor plug wires.
MSD systems aren't compatible with solid-core plug wires, so we recommend replacing the wires when you replace the ignition components.
Since the MSD ignition delivers much-higher energy, the company recommends opening the spark-plug gap. For engines under 10.5:1 compression, 0.050- to 0.060-inch of plug gap is the desired starting point.
This LED shift light mounts easily on the steering column or A-pillar and ensures we won't miss a shift.
The new ignition system not only serves important performance and safety functions, it also looks good under the hood. We can now be confident that Project C3 Triple Ex will have the high-energy, reliable ignition required for future upgrades.
We took our project car to the Lakeland Drag Strip after installing our MSD ignition and ran just over a tenth of a second quicker than our previous best of 8.94 seconds in the eighth-mile. More importantly, our Stingray now starts quicker and has better throttle response. Now the ignition system of Project C3 Triple Ex is up to the task of supporting further modifications.
Thanks to CARB (the California Air Research Board), MSD provides these decals with its ignition components. Thanks to good engineering, engines with MSD ignition generally run cleaner, so nearly all MSD components are legal in all 50 states.
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