Lotus Elan

Any coaching on distributor / electronic ignition?

PostPost by: tdskip » Thu Oct 03, 2019 6:55 pm

Hello gentlemen. Doing more planning on the build and wanted to get your thoughts on how to approach the distributor and ignition. My SOP has been to get the distributor rebuilt and the run a Pertronix. This has always worked well as I’ve never been stranded (well, due to the ignition anyway).

Are there good new drop-in set ups that work well with our cars I should be aware of as an alternative approach?


Thanks!
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PostPost by: JohnCh » Thu Oct 03, 2019 7:37 pm

If you are planning to de-smog the engine and change carb needles to UK spec, you should also change the ignition curve to match. The US curve was severely retarded for emissions, robbing some torque and impacting throttle response.

The 123 Ignition is another drop-in option. It has a user settable curve based on 10 movable points, an adjustable rev limiter, anti-theft feature, and can be programmed via a bluetooth connection to your phone. It also has a programmable vacuum advance feature (unlike vacuum retard of the Federal distributor), which in theory should help light throttle behavior and fuel consumption, but I haven't had a chance to play with that yet so can't confirm the impact.

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PostPost by: tdskip » Fri Oct 04, 2019 1:21 am

Thanks John. I think a 123 sounds like a good option but they are a bit spendy if I remember.
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PostPost by: StressCraxx » Fri Oct 04, 2019 2:27 am

+1 on the 123. They work as advertised and are reliable.

Your old distributor likely has worn bushings and gear causing timing scatter.
The Pertronix kits are now made in China and reliability is very poor. Pertronix doesn't care if yours fails and you're stranded.

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Dan
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PostPost by: 1963 S1 » Fri Oct 04, 2019 2:47 am

++1 on 123. Pertronix is not reliable, not from my experience.
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PostPost by: mbell » Fri Oct 04, 2019 3:13 am

I'd vote for 123 also, a good deal more money but a lot more features, like customizable advanced and good quality.
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PostPost by: JohnCh » Fri Oct 04, 2019 3:30 am

Spendy, but you get a lot and the installation is easy. I think the best option is a real 3D system, but those are a lot more work to install, and depending on the system you select, can be a lot more expensive.

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PostPost by: webbslinger » Fri Oct 04, 2019 4:29 am

I've got to put in a plug for the Pertronix. I have about 16k miles on a Pertronix III with no problems and have had previous models with no problems either.
The Bluetooth adjustable advance on the 123 sounds like an attractive feature, but from my experience, I wouldn't switch for concerns about reliability.
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PostPost by: tdskip » Fri Oct 04, 2019 3:56 pm

My assumption is on the surface yes but in detail no, but does Pertronix make a drop in distributor with the right curve?
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PostPost by: RichardHawkins » Fri Oct 04, 2019 8:00 pm

I notice that all previous contributors suggest retaining the distributor, and are from the USA. In Britain I have come to the opinion that an EDIS (Electronic Distributor-less Ignition System) is the way to go. My thoughts are as follows.

1. All modern gasoline engines that I am aware of use this system.

2. With the distributor removed there is no ignition source beneath a leaky pair of carburettors.

3. Back in the 1960's three friends had their Elans catch fire.

4. As there is no mechanical link between the crankshaft and the spark there is no scatter.

5. The timing is controlled by a programmable ECU.

On the downside, by the time I have finished I expect to have spent at least $1500, and will also need to spend time on a rolling road.

Hope this helps,

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PostPost by: tdskip » Fri Oct 04, 2019 9:46 pm

Please keep us posted Richard-it sounds like a fascinating project. It does, if I may say so, make the price point of the 1-2-3 seem more reasonable
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PostPost by: JohnCh » Fri Oct 04, 2019 11:36 pm

Richard, we're on the same page - you missed my earlier comment about a true 3D system being the best option. I had good conversation with Roger King many years ago on this topic. At the time he was one of the leading crossflow builders in the UK and had modified a lot of those engines. People were often torn between a Kent 234 and 244 cam for their Caterhams and Westfields, as the 244 could be a little too compromised for some with borderline drivability and partial throttle low-end torque compared to the milder 234. In his experience, a properly mapped 3D ignition system gave the 244 comparable characteristics to the 234 in those areas and added a significant boost to fuel mileage.

I nearly went this route but decided I didn't want to deal with the installation hassle and determined that for the Elan I would try to keep the under-bonnet appearance close to stock. Besides after investigating the costs associated with a 3D installation, the 123 suddenly looked inexpensive :)

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PostPost by: mbell » Sat Oct 05, 2019 9:21 pm

One strike against the pertronix (and possibly 123) is they need a minimal voltage to work. I've had some issues with my car dropping below the the min voltage when turning over and not starting due to lack of spark.

Easy to jump start but a total pain, especially if your need the car to start "now"... (Don't ask!!!)
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PostPost by: SENC » Sun Oct 06, 2019 2:49 am

I went back and forth for a while, ultimately I had Distributor Doctor build up a new 23D4 distributor of the appropriate curve for my non-federal stromberg engine (to match my original 40953) as well as send me some parts to rebuild mine, which will be in my travel kit as a backup. I like the simplicity of points, the only real trouble in my mind is the change-out, but with a complete distributor to swap that problem is solved.
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PostPost by: Donels » Sun Oct 06, 2019 3:58 pm

Aldon in the UK will do you a drop in distributor fitted with an Aldon Ignitor of your choice, which is a Pertronix. They will also do you a curve to suit your engine.
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