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Street Race Truck More... The Toolbox

Ignition Upgrades


We all love our spark. It’s that miraculous little guy that makes our engines purr like they are supposed to. And with the nearly 900 different options available at Speedway, we have you covered for when you want to make that spark the best that it can be. It can be daunting picking the right kit or components, but we want to help you make the right choice, either by these articles, or calling in and talking to one of our techs.

The ignition box is essentially an amplifier for the coil, creating a hotter spark. For an overview of the differences in some of the MSD boxes we offer, Click Here. HEI has been around since the mid to late 70’s in response to the failing technology of points. Speedway Motors offers several different electronic ignition options, from Ready To Run MSD and Mallory systems, to Crane conversion systems, where all you need to do is remove the old points and condenser, install an ignition module on a conversion plate, and run a couple wires. Everything in these kits is designed to fit under your OEM distributor cap for a nice clean look.

The disadvantage of the mechanical system is the use of breaker points to interrupt the low-voltage high-current through the primary winding of the coil; the points are subject to mechanical wear where they ride the cam to open and shut, as well as oxidation and burning at the contact surfaces from the constant sparking. They require regular adjustment to compensate for wear, and the opening of the contact breakers, which is responsible for spark timing, is subject to mechanical variations. In addition, the spark voltage is also dependent on contact effectiveness, poor sparking can lead to lower engine efficiency. Meaning, as soon as you install a set of points, they are already losing performance.

Electronic ignition solves these problems. In electronic ignition systems the contact breaker points are replaced by an angular sensor of some kind - either optical, where a vaned rotor breaks a light beam (Mallory Unilite), or more commonly using a Hall effect sensor (HEI, MSD Pro-Billet, Crane), which responds to a rotating magnet mounted on the distributor shaft. The sensor output is shaped and processed by suitable circuitry, then used to trigger a switching device such as a thyristor, which switches a large current through the coil.

There are a few options to choose from when selecting your coil. Most experts are going to recommend you stick with the manufacturer of the other components you use. This is fine, if you buy a kit. MSD, Mallory, Accel, and Crane are all good choices, but the best advice we can offer is read some reviews, and talk to people running similar setups to what you are looking at. Get their opinion, talk to one of our techs, and then make your decision. We’ll be here ready to ship you what you choose.

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