Skip to main content

As some of you are no doubt aware, I am a bit of an outlier with some of the things I have done to my car. Most of them, actually.

A few years ago, before my life got (really) crazy – I converted my 2276 Type 1 to twin plug ignition. It was a bit of a science project, and truthfully the results were somewhat mixed before today. I read what little information there is regarding twin-plug heads, etc. on various forums (most of which is malarkey) and discussed some of the esoterica involved with Len Hoffman from HAM. For those who do not know of him, Len does all of Jake Raby's Type 4 heads. He'd never done a twin plug set up with Type 1, but he was pretty free with information regarding what works with twin-plug ignition (as it pertained to Type 4 engines).

According to Len, the second set of plugs should allow for one full compression point above what can safely be used with any given camshaft.  Armed with this information, I had Blackline Racing in SLC built a 10.5:1 FK8 2276 with thermal coatings, using a set of Revmaster 049 twin-plug heads.

It took about a year to get everything I needed, and only after an idiot from theSamba destroyed a brand new $1000 set of Super-Pro heads. This actually was the easy part.

Firing two sets of plugs at the same time was the hard part. If I would have had any sense at all, I would've just done a Megajolt crank-fire setup. I actually started down that road by buying all of the stuff besides the trigger wheel (my crank pulley is smaller than stock, due to the dry-sump pump) before I changed my mind. Anyhow, I REALLY wanted a "bundle-o-snakes" distributor, so I switched gears mid-stream.

I bought a couple of CB Performance "Black-Boxes" and sent them to Mario Velotta for conversion to two coil drivers. It was a custom project Mario really didn't want to do, and it cost way more than it should have for the first one, and almost nothing for the second-- so I had him do both (one for spare).

Clark Callis from Awesome Powdercoat converted a locked out 009 with some machined adapters and an early 80s Datsun 4 cyl twin plug cap and rotor, and I reused my Pertronix points replacement module. This (the module, not Clark's work) was a bad mistake.

I never could get the thing to tune in the way I had hoped. I knew it couldn't be the hated 009 because it was 100% locked out, as per the Black-Box requirements. There was a lot of spark scatter, and it started horribly hard. I read a lot of hate-mail over on theSamba about the Black-Box and it's cranking performance. 

I called CB and talked to Mark, who walked through everything I'd done with me step by step. When I got to the part about my Pertronix, he said, "I'll bet that's your problem". I thought, "yeah, right", thanked him for his time, and hung up. 

Everybody was banging on the Black-Box and nobody's ever complained about the Pertronix. It's a pain in the rear to replace that module with this distributor, so I didn't.

I've struggled with preignition since I did this conversation, but it IS 10.5:1. I thought I had going to bridge too far with the compression, and was candid about that with several people who communicated with me privately. I was actually making plans to dial my compression back about one point (which isn't easy and involves dished pistons) once I finished the various building projects consuming all my time and treasure.

Last year I drove my car exactly 3 times due to not having a garage, etc. I'm still in the thick of it, but today I decided it had been long enough. It's 90° and sunny. I'm not going to Carlisle. My house still isn't done. Dad has a terminal cancer. I lost an important client last month. I'm broke until I sell one of the pieces of real estate eating my... well, everything. 

I really needed some "speedster therapy" today and determined that it was now or never.

I had purchased a Comp-u-Fire module last winter, mostly just to satisfy my curiosity and to fill out an order with CB. This morning, I dug the car out of its hole in my business shop, pulled the distributor, and changed the module. I threw the thing back together without checking anything. I jumped in the car, twisted the key… and it lit right off.  I did not adjust the timing, I did not play with the advance map, I just got in and drove it with last year's gas and oil.

The transformation was astounding.

It did not matter how hard I drove the thing (and I "may" have been speeding)-- there was not a hint of preignition. It's fast-- not "fast for what it is", but legitimately fast. I shut it off and restarted half a dozen times, and it always fired right up.

It's finally everything I hoped it would be in the beginning of this long and tortured odyssey.

The reason I'm sharing this is that I think there is some real utility for more sensible applications. There is no shortage of guys using these modules, and blaming the 009 for all manner of ignition issues. There are even more who are running way less compression and/or advance then would be optimal because if they try to run more, the engine tells knock-knock jokes that aren't funny.

I'd bet there is no small number of problems ("carburetor trouble" included) that should have the blame squarely laid on the Pertronix. 

I spent many, many thousands of dollars on this project. I have hundreds and hundreds of dollars in the ignition system. In my mind, I was blaming the Black-Box, the compression ratio, and almost everything besides a crappy $75 module. I wish it hadn't taken so long, but I'm glad I found the problem.

The CB Black-Box is an excellent bit of kit, and I suspect their electronic distributor is as well.

If you're struggling with spark-scatter and running one of these modules in an 009, I'd recommend that you to try a set of points or something else before you condemn the distributor. It should be noted also that the same manufacturer (Pertronix) of this crappy module also makes a crappy copy of the 009 distributor that a lot of guys are running. After today, I'd buy any of CB's ignition products without a second thought. Pertronix will not get another dime of my money  

Forewarned is forearmed. 

"BlazeCut®(TM) woulda' saved it!!"

Last edited by Stan Galat
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

When you go through all that and the simple stuff fixes it .... your happy but it does show you how much it cost at times to learn, sometimes R&D can be real easy but sometimes atrocious in wasted time and money... Sticking with a good supplier is worth a lot of trouble free miles.  

Good that you found the issue.  


Good on ya, Stan!  I'm happy that you found the latest problem.  As you have learned and taught, wrenching is about more than automotive skills.  It's about an approach to life that encompasses the need to learn, and, even more importantly, the need to admit what we don't know.

Some guys in your position would bury the truth.  No one really follows our automotive exploits as closely as the guy involved, so it's not hard to BS a presentable excuse that avoids a central axiom of automotive engineers: all roads don't lead to the same place.  

Many of us take the road less traveled.  Not all of us have the juevos to warn others when one of those trails leads to a drop-off.  Thanks, podna, for manning up.

Terrific post, Stan.

I don't like Pertronix from a long list of friends who have used them, had them die outright or screw up in other ways and most, if they didn't go back to points, ended up with either an MSD setup (and hired a Druid to keep it going) or Comp-U-Fire.  The Pertronix really doesn't like either high voltage (over 14 volts) or high temps (over 150°F  and God help you if it sees both at the same time) regardless of their sales specs.  They are pretty fragile electronics living in a very hostile environment.

I have the old, basic, CB electronic set-up and it has been problem free for almost 20 years.  If it ever dies, I expect to replace it with a 123ignition setup

It looks like you get most of the features of a crank-fired setup, a bunch of selectable advance curves AND you can change curves (on the fly) with your smaht phone - don't know if that's good or bad.  

So, in my "stash" of stuff I'll never use I've got:

  • An 009
  • A Bosch 034 SVDA (Mexican)
  • A Mallory Uni-Lite (non vacuum)
  • A Mallory Uni-Lite (vacuum)

The Mallory vacuum advance distributor (the one that was de rigueur 10 years ago) is an impossible piece of junk-- spark scatter that must be seen to be believed.

The non-vacuum Uni-Lite is better, but not by much. The SVDA was my go-to before twin-plugging it. The 009 sits pretty much unloved waiting to be gutted and locked out.

For tunability, it's the Black-Box, hands down. It's got load sensing capability (vacuum), (although I think a TPS might be better with a big cam), so a guy could replicate the big cruising advance numbers of an 034 SVDA if he wanted to. Regardless, it's got a completely tunable 21x21 spark table and costs $200. It's hard to imagine something doing more for less money.

It can be added to the Magna-Spark distributor for a completely tailored spark curve.

CB should be supported and congratulated for almost single-handedly keeping this hobby alive.

Last edited by Stan Galat

Kelly:  I have two data points on the 123ignition system, both on original 356's and both owners love them.  However!  2 data points do not a proven product make.  Until I get more confidence in them, (they do sound pretty good, but so does the Pertronix ads) I would recommend the Magna Spark, same as Stan.  I know of a large handful of those out there (including my 20-year-old basic system) and everyone likes them, especially those with the CB Distributor.  You can't beat success!


As I say to my guy(s) regarding troubleshooting:

  • One point is a point.
  • Two points is a line.
  • Three points is a trend.

My observation regarding the Pertronix module doesn't exist in isolation, I just wasn't paying attention to the (real) trend, and instead was looking at the fake one (Black-Box fear and loathing). I was hoodwinked by a bad model.

The problem with anecdotal evidence is that everybody in this hobby is inclined to defend bad decisions they've already made (even when they become aware that they are bad decisions) because of the amount of time, treasure, and reputation they have invested in them. Nobody wants to admit they are wrong when they are the world's foremost Ptolemaic System expert.

Lots and lots of "folklore and common knowledge" passing for empirical observation. 

Last edited by Stan Galat

Ahhhhhh....The old RFI - No, not 'Radio Frequency Interference', but "Rumor, Folklore and Innuendo"!    I used to run up against that constantly when I was working (especially amongst the "Senior Staff").  And yes, it usually refers to BS (especially amongst the Senior Staff!)

I'm encouraged that there are a few people on here (I like to count you and me among them) that can not only admit being wrong, but then spell it all out in detail so maybe others can learn from our 'misplaced intelligence'.  OK, so we sometimes make it a loooooong story, but people learn from it, right?  (God,....I hope so.)

Did I tell you about how I did an oil change on my Rogue and left the oil filler cap off?    Looks like I'll be slip-slidin' into Carlisle.

Wow…..    Locking out the advance mechanism is super easy on the CB Magna-Spark distributor!   (I guess that shows that I didn’t read all of the installation notes, right?? )

I had a Magna-Spark I for 20 years and thought it was a very good distributor.  Then, in a mis-guided effort to overcome a dull spot in my RPM range, I upgraded to a Magna-Spark II (Mitch Toll made me do it) which has been just as good, of not better, than the MS I.  The rpm dull spot was overcome by having a professional re-work my carbs to more match my engine characteristics and that cured the dull spot.

My spark advance with the Magna-Spark, OTOH, has been dead-stable at all speeds with no spark scatter that I can see.  That’s one helluva decent distributor.

@edsnova and I are the only people I know of on this forum with firsthand experience with the Black Box, so there's not a huge subset of people loving it. One point in isolation is just a point. Two points (which is what we have here) is a line. Three or more points is a trend. We have no SOC trend with the Black Box.

I'm not using it presently, but I liked it. Everybody else is going on hearsay and second hand knowledge. I'm in the midst of a really, really bad situation with a new engine because I based choices on hearsay and hype. This isn't the first (or second, or 22nd) time this has happened to me in this hobby. I'm deeply over it. I've had low points in the ACVW hobby, but this one is as deep as I can remember.

So, take this for what it is: one guy's experience:

Pertronix points replacement modules are evil little pieces of junk. I've had one module fail in a CB Magnaspark, but it might have been trying to get too tricky with a ballast resistor that wasn't a part of the recommended wiring.

The Magnaspark right out of the box is not bad. The curve is fairly customizable, and the spark is pretty steady. Unless you have some compelling reason to use a Black Box (and I did in the original post from 6 years ago) or just LOVE to tinker --I'd just run what is in the distributor.

Your mileage may vary.

@JoelP posted:

And I'll be the point to make a trend, eventually. Where is your black box located, @edsnova? I'm not an electrics guy, so the wiring part is a bit daunting - not that I've really looked into it yet. It just seems that nothing is the source of more consternation in my life than wiring issues in vehicles.

I put it on the firewall in the engine bay, in a bracket, in the spot where, on a real Spyder, the voltage regulator went. 383F1B27-3C9F-4B9D-8997-09DB973E2016


Images (1)
  • 383F1B27-3C9F-4B9D-8997-09DB973E2016
@JoelP posted:

And I'll be the point to make a trend, eventually. Where is your black box located, @edsnova? I'm not an electrics guy, so the wiring part is a bit daunting - not that I've really looked into it yet. It just seems that nothing is the source of more consternation in my life than wiring issues in vehicles.

Since the Black Box plug clearly doesn't use any type of waterproof connector(it appears to be a non-sealed Molex), I would NOT install it anywhere in the engine bay.

The same goes for JPS mounting the aftermarket ECU(Stinger) on the firewall with the same type of non-sealed plug.

Eventually, moisture and corrosion will have their way.

The one exception I've seen is the Microsquirt, which has a sealed, automotive-grade  connector.

Add Reply

Post Content
Link copied to your clipboard.