A guest piece from Heritage customer and author of The Automotive Restorers Guide, SW Barratt
As most vintage and classic car owners know, points (or contact breakers as they’re sometimes referred to) are often a weak link in the ignition system which can suddenly let you down. Around the early 1980s, coil boosters were often fitted to improve the spark, but of course you still had the points.
Apart from suddenly letting you down, the weakness of points could often be noticed in the engine not starting on a damp wet morning. This in turn would send you reaching for the moisture displacer spray. I am sure many of you being a certain age can remember these joyful times of motoring!
About 17 years ago, I was looking into different electronic ignition systems for my classic Mercedes. My criteria were:
- A proven track record
- No drilling modifications required to the distributor or engine bay
- Have a technical advice line and reliable spares back up service from the provider
As the car would be used for hire work, reliability was very important.
There were and still are a number of electronic ignition systems on the market, and some use a small light as the sensing method. These in general are ok, but if any dirt gets on the light it can let you down.
Electronic ignition systems which work off a magnet are often more reliable. The beauty of this system is that it is so simple: one of those cases in life where less is more! Fitting this type of ignition is often a simple operation. Another beauty of this system is that, once fitted, there is no longer any dwell angle or other adjustments. This electronic ignition uses a hall sensor which is switched by another circular magnet that fits under the rotor arm.
Another advantage of these magnetic ignition systems is that you often do not have to replace the distributor, and no drilling or permanent modifications to the distributor are required. Additionally, there are no electronic boxes to be fitted in the engine bay.