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8 & 10 cyl Bristol cars Type 407 onwards - restoration, repair, maintenance etc

Electronic ignition

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Old 28-04-15, 10:05 PM
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Default Electronic ignition

I decided to fit electronic ignition to my 1969 410 thinking that it would improve cold starting, make for better performance and reliability and possibly improve fuel consumption.

Having studied what was on offer I decided to go for the Pertronix Ignitor system, which had good reviews. The kit duly arrived and was, as promised, pretty straightforward to fit, apart from having to run a cable from the ballast resistor under the off side wing cover. I got the engine running on tickover and reset the timing to 7 btdc as stated in the manual.

All seemed fine until I tried to rev the engine when it popped and banged and fumes were sent shooting out of the carburettor.To cut a long story short, I tried everything I could, in consultation with the Distributor Doctor, who supplied the kit, Pertronix UK and Pertronix in the States but nothing worked and I have reverted to the old points. They all seem convinced that there is nothing wrong with the Ignitor kit and that it must be a problem with the car.

One thing I noticed was that there seemed to be no spark on No. 5 cyllinder. I checked the lead and the distributor cap but they seem fine and work perfectly with the points.

My question is, has anyone else fitted this system and, if so, have they had similar problems?
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Old 29-04-15, 02:25 PM
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I fitted a similar system made by Powerspark to a Bentley R Type recently,unlike the Petronix I was not so impressed with the fit but in it went, we had great difficulty getting the car to start and when it did it ran very badly seemed to be on 3 rather than 6 cylinders, rev the engine same effect you encountered. That evening I spent a bit of time on the web and came upon an Austin Healey forum with a lot of adverse comments on the powerspark and petronix system, the gist of what they were saying , reliability issues aside, was that you have to reset the timing to suit the system not what it says in the cars manual therefore if the unit failed you just could not put the points back in and away to go because the timing would be all to hell.
The next day out it came and the points went back in , the car ran perfectly, I would have sent the pwerspark back but my mechanic took me at my word when I said I was going to bin It!
Within days of this I met someone who fitted the Petronix system to his MK Vi Bentley and again had problems that forced him to revert to the points, our discussion on the relative merits of these systems took place while peering under the hood of my other R Type to which I had just fitted a Winterburn Capacitor Discharge Ignition System made and supplied by Fred Winterburn in Canada, this unit retains the points as a trigger, offers three settings CD , Points and Off so can be used as an immobiliser, wiring is straight forward the unit is not polarity sensitive and has totally overcome the hot start problem I had with these cars after standing for about 10 mins,
the only adjustment you might have to make is to the tickover speed which rises slightly after these units are fitted, because of the way they work they can be used on any 4, 6, 8 cylinder engine etc so unlike the competition you do not need a unit specific to your engine.
The car runs smoother and pulls better under acceleration, I was very impressed with this system which I have now fitted to my other R Type and to my V8 S2 and will at some time in the future be going on to my 410 and 401.
Fred tells me he has another customer in the UK who has fitted his system to a 401 with good results, this is not a sustem that fits in the distributor however it requires space on the bulkhead to mount the Black Box which measures 3"x 6" and approx 3" deep and does not look at all out of place.
If you seach for capacitordischargeignitionsystems you should find Freds site and a lot more info if you want to fit something that works is easy to fit and does not compromise the cars timing settings.
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Old 01-05-15, 01:48 AM
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The information about the Winterburn system is very interesting. I see that it is the inventor's son who is now producing the units. A primary disadvantage of CDI systems previously was that they only provided a single, albeit very nice and fat, spark, but apparently the new incarnation of it uses a multiphase spark, which is one of the strengths of the popular systems like Pertronix. Here is the Winterburn site:

http://www.capacitordischargeignition.com/

As to the OP's and your own experience with poor running with Pertronix, etc. systems, I have found that the way to overcome this is the way I used to time my ignition way back in the 1970's...... by loosening the distributor clamp while the engine is running and manually twisting the distributor. Once you have it idling nicely and picking up well when you pump the accelerator linkage, then take it for a run and fine tune it. The whole process shouldn't take longer than 15 to 20 minutes. I believe that if you try this with these systems, and have otherwise installed them correctly, you will get better starting, excellent running and increased fuel economy. I can however see some major arguments in favour of the Winterburn system, if the price is not too astronomically high. Originally the system was very inexpensive, way back in the early 1960's.

I would BTW be willing to wager that your mechanic's bin is a most curious one that does not lead to the dump. That's a mechanic I would be a bit cautious about using.

Last edited by Bryn Tirion; 01-05-15 at 02:23 AM.
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Old 01-05-15, 07:44 AM
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Thanks for your helpful responses guys. I am glad I am not the only one having problems with this.
The Winterburn sounds interesting - incidentally Bryn it is the son of the original inventor who is now taking this forward. I guess it has the advantage of a bigger spark that electronic ignition gives with the ease of retaining the points but making them longer lasting. However they are pretty expensive at about 160 which with VAT and postage would be near 200. I have seen other, presumably similar systems for sale - i.e. those that retain the points as a switching mechanism with a separate box of tricks outside the distributor - for far less but I wonder if you get what you pay for?

Re the Pertronix system, I have tried altering the timing as suggested but I have still not been able to get the thing to run properly and I have spent many hours on this. It may run fine on tickover but as soon as you open the throttle it bangs and pops and misfires terribly. Do you know what the setting should be?

Also I have the issue of the non firing HT lead. The Distributor Doctor, who I bought the Pertronix from, is sending me a new cam ring - the bit with the magnets on - to see if that will solve the problem. I will report back when I have tried it.
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Old 01-05-15, 10:54 AM
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That does sound dear at first glance, but a lot of expensive Canadian labour has gone into it, or so it is claimed on the website The Pertronix etc. are made in China by people earning a few cents an hour.... so which is better value if you excluded the profit margin of the numerous middlemen on the one hand as opposed to a small company marketing directly on the other? Entirely debatable. I have written to Mr. Winterburn and I think I shall buy one and try it on different cars, so thanks to Geoff for posting.

For your 410, I believe that a fully warm engine, at idle, with vacuum to the distributor disconnected, should be at approximately 15 to 17 degrees BTDC.

Has anyone tried one of the replacement distributors made by Pertronix?
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Old 01-05-15, 12:30 PM
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The Pertronix worked fine in my 410, until I left the ignition on for a while without the engine running. Then I fitted one of these:
http://www.summitracing.com/int/part.../make/chrysler

It looks original and works perfect for 2 years now. And I have the original distributor with points in the boot, just in case...
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Old 01-05-15, 01:06 PM
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Livermoreb.... how recently did you get the 160 quote? That would be about $295 Canadian at present exchange rates, but Winterburn quoted me $350 plus shipping. If your price was from a few months ago, then I can understand the difference, given our puny Canadian dollar.
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Old 03-05-15, 02:23 AM
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Well, I've gorn orff and bought one now......
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Old 06-05-15, 03:26 PM
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Having just done a 284 mile round trip from Fishguard to Llandudno in North Wales to attend the Festival of Transport in my Bentley S2 I thought I would share my experience of the Winterburn unit on fuel consumption , compared to its last trip there this improved by 8% despite towing a bigger trailer tent this time compared to a much lighter camping trailer with tent two years ago.
At the rate the old girl drinks fuel however this worked out at about an extra mile per gal and a modest saving of about 10.50 on the trip, if the car was in regular use say 10000 miles p.a. and if my maths are right this would equate to a saving of over 367 in a year.
This is a bonus as the units were not bought with that in mind.
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Old 06-05-15, 04:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryn Tirion View Post
Livermoreb.... how recently did you get the 160 quote? That would be about $295 Canadian at present exchange rates, but Winterburn quoted me $350 plus shipping. If your price was from a few months ago, then I can understand the difference, given our puny Canadian dollar.
I found something on the internet that said the price and did the conversion calculation in my poor old head so may have got the sterling price wrong. Anyway I will be interested to hear how you get on with it - both the installation and the results once it is in.
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Old 06-05-15, 04:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoff Kingston View Post
Having just done a 284 mile round trip from Fishguard to Llandudno in North Wales to attend the Festival of Transport in my Bentley S2 I thought I would share my experience of the Winterburn unit on fuel consumption , compared to its last trip there this improved by 8% despite towing a bigger trailer tent this time compared to a much lighter camping trailer with tent two years ago.
At the rate the old girl drinks fuel however this worked out at about an extra mile per gal and a modest saving of about 10.50 on the trip, if the car was in regular use say 10000 miles p.a. and if my maths are right this would equate to a saving of over 367 in a year.
This is a bonus as the units were not bought with that in mind.
That's not bad at all Geoff. I had a Silver Cloud 3 that did around 12 to the gallon so any improvement would be worth having. The problem is that I used to do about 1,000 miles a year in it so it wasn't really worth changing it from that point of view.

Similarly a friend who had converted his TR8 to gas tried to get me to convert the Cloud but it would have taken decades to recoup that investment!
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Old 06-05-15, 04:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom410 View Post
The Pertronix worked fine in my 410, until I left the ignition on for a while without the engine running. Then I fitted one of these:
http://www.summitracing.com/int/part.../make/chrysler

It looks original and works perfect for 2 years now. And I have the original distributor with points in the boot, just in case...
That is interesting Tom. How did you get it to run properly with the Pertronix? Did you have to make any major changes to the timing? I tried to get mine running at 7 btdc as it says in my handbook but that was no good. It ticked over fine at around 19 btdc but as soon as I tried to accelerate it started misfiring.

Also, what did you do about the vacuum advance? As soon as I reconnected that it seemed to go haywire.
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Old 07-05-15, 11:19 AM
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In hard cash terms for cars like ours with limited use some improvements are not worth making LPG being a good example. The need to do something with the R Types and their hot start issues (very bad on the early car) led to the purchase of the Winterburn units. I was so pleased with the results that it just seemed a good idea to fit a unit to the S2 as well as it was getting a lot of short local runs then stood for a while and of course there is always the cost factor for the twin points which hopefully will last longer.
The nice feature of the winterburn unit is the ability to switch back to points, going back to the CD setting the cars have a smoother slightly faster tick over and rev smoothly when cold, and as I see it these units offer all the advantages of the Petronix and Powerspark without the disadvantages.
The electronic ignition systems from the Rolls/Bentley parts suppliers in the uk are not cheap and the Petronix system and associated coil I bought a good few years ago for my 403 cost more than the Winterburn units. This was never fitted as the poject stalled. I am open to offers!!, it's a neg earth unit .

Last edited by Geoff Kingston; 07-05-15 at 05:18 PM. Reason: missed a word out
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Old 08-05-15, 07:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by livermoreb View Post
That is interesting Tom. How did you get it to run properly with the Pertronix? Did you have to make any major changes to the timing? I tried to get mine running at 7 btdc as it says in my handbook but that was no good. It ticked over fine at around 19 btdc but as soon as I tried to accelerate it started misfiring.

Also, what did you do about the vacuum advance? As soon as I reconnected that it seemed to go haywire.
I think it is essential to keep the gap between the pickup and the magnetic ring as small as possible. And check if the coil and the HT leads are suitable for electronic ignition.
I had to disconnect the vacuum line anyway, as the unit itself was broken. After timing was set to spec the engine ran pefectly smooth and revved easily.

But I had a similar problem to yours with my Fiat 2300 S Coupe after I fitted a Pertronix. I found one of the small screws that came with the kit was to long. So the centrifugal advance was blocked, hence the timing at higher revs completly out.
Another time I trapped the wires of the pickup between cap and distibutor body...
Hope that helps.
Tom
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