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jrhone

123 Ignition Distributor....any Info Or Personal Experience?

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I was watching Wheeler Dealers and Edd Chyna replaced a distributor with a new "electronic" one in an old Jag.  I did a google search and BAM...this place makes one for the BMW M10.  Any personal experience?  

 

 

Here is the link....

 

http://www.123ignitionusa.com

 

 

123-bmw-6-r-v_med.jpeg

 

Looks like it has completely tunable advance curves via USB and laptop as well as rock solid timing.  I'm curious as to how it compares to a MSD ignition, or the stock with a Crane optical pickup or Pertronix. 

Edited by jrhone
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I did consider it, but went with MegaJolt. Not sure if I regret that decision. You need to know that there are two types of 123Ignition for our cars: The "Standard" one, with 20-something curves to choose from, by just flicking switches on the unit, or the 123Tune. The latter is the one that can be tuned by USB. Short comparison:

 

MegaJolt: Better tuning abilities, EDIS is rock solid, and it distributorless is great. My cars starts and runs very smoothly. Downside: Takes some time to install, is very DIY and does not look original. 

 

MSD/Pertronix: Cheaper, easy to install, works well, tested and tried, but not as good as MJ or 123

 

123: New unit, no wear on it. As good as distributors can get in our cars I guess. Still, it seems to have a couple of "bugs". I think Eurotrash runs 123Tune. Not as good as MegaJolt according to those who have tried both, but it takes 20 minutes to install, and looks original. Probably "more than good enough" for most stock/slightly modified 02s. I am sure MegaJolt really comes into its own when its cold, or you have a really modded engine. 

 

If I were to choose again; I would have gone with 123 Ignition, it costs a bit more than MegaJolt, but it would have taken me a fraction of the time, and it would look a lot better, IMO. I might even go with 123 on my next engine build. 

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I know steve in nola is really happy with the 123 in his 3.0Cs.

 

Cheers,

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My friend has put them in various Alfa's over the last few years and he likes them a lot.

John

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I used 123ignition with a customers car and had good results with timing but a couple of bumps along the way. I would say that rock solid timing is an understatement, these are a great update for our ignition systems.   I did have an issue with a damaged shaft that required exchange of the unit after 25 miles, the replacement is working fine after a couple hundred miles or so. I will report back if we have any other issues with it.

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I've been running a "Tune" version for several years now. Simple to install. Initially programmed in the Tii curve than played with it so the max advance is

now 35deg.

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Ray speaketh the truth, I suggest getting the programmable version.  By using a manifold vacuum source you can have extra advance at idle for lower idle temps, dropping out for mechanical only at WOT, added advance at highway cruise for better mpg, and a retard function for shifts, all changeable via laptop.  And mechanical advance can be dialed in on a dyno, not possible by having to physically recurve a traditonal distributor.

 

Here is an example of a curve:

5-17-14Curve.jpg

 

 

I know steve in nola is really happy with the 123 in his 3.0Cs.

 

Cheers,

 

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Ray speaketh the truth, I suggest getting the programmable version.  By using a manifold vacuum source you can have extra advance at idle for lower idle temps, dropping out for mechanical only at WOT, added advance at highway cruise for better mpg, and a retard function for shifts, all changeable via laptop.  And mechanical advance can be dialed in on a dyno, not possible by having to physically recurve a traditonal distributor.

 

Steve -

 

Are you able to build in vacuum retard, like is found on a '74 tii?  I understand from "one who knows" that BMW put that in to avoid backfiring issues under chopped throttle situations.  I would be tempted to keep that feature if it made sense.

 

Thanks,

J

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Yep, the Tunable model allows you to build independent curves for Vacuum Retard, Vacuum Advance, and Centrifugal Advance. 

 

I installed mine in January and it has been FANTASTIC with my sidedrafts!

 

Ed Z

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Yes, see my diagram in previous post.  At high vacuum 0-34 on the scale (overun), it "retards" back to zero from 10 degrees advanced, you could actually make it retard more by going below the zero line into the negative area.

 

Like Ed says, it's a fantastic device.

 

 

Steve -

 

Are you able to build in vacuum retard, like is found on a '74 tii?  I understand from "one who knows" that BMW put that in to avoid backfiring issues under chopped throttle situations.  I would be tempted to keep that feature if it made sense.

 

Thanks,

J

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I ended up ordering a tunable one, and will be putting it in this weekend.  It appears that I can apply a lot more finesse into how the vacuum impacts the timing.

 

Do any of you (particularly among the tii folk) have data on vacuum pressure under the following conditions to allow me a baseline set:

- Idle

- Cruise (3K RPM, part throttle)

- WOT, at various RPMs

- Chopped throttle - WOT at 6K, then chop the throttle (I understand this is a good spot for some spark retard)

 

TIA,

 

John

 

PS - If not, I will try to collect this data this weekend and play with the tuning a bit

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I have had one for about a year.  Its been good to me.. 

 

I am trying to find the time to research vacuum advance, to really get how and when it works.  I bought cloth covered line and fittings to add in the feature, I just want to know it inside and out first.  I'm running Dellortos that have the port for it.

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This is a good read, to really get the concept of Vac. Advance.  It's from a Chev forum, but the same principal applies.

TIMING AND VACUUM ADVANCE 101

The most important concept to understand is that lean mixtures, such as at idle and steady highway cruise, take longer to burn than rich mixtures; idle in particular, as idle mixture is affected by exhaust gas dilution. This requires that lean mixtures have "the fire lit" earlier in the compression cycle (spark timing advanced), allowing more burn time so that peak cylinder pressure is reached just after TDC for peak efficiency and reduced exhaust gas temperature (wasted combustion energy). Rich mixtures, on the other hand, burn faster than lean mixtures, so they need to have "the fire lit" later in the compression cycle (spark timing retarded slightly) so maximum cylinder pressure is still achieved at the same point after TDC as with the lean mixture, for maximum efficiency.

The centrifugal advance system in a distributor advances spark timing purely as a function of engine rpm (irrespective of engine load or operating conditions), with the amount of advance and the rate at which it comes in determined by the weights and springs on top of the autocam mechanism. The amount of advance added by the distributor, combined with initial static timing, is "total timing" (i.e., the 34-36 degrees at high rpm that most SBC's like). Vacuum advance has absolutely nothing to do with total timing or performance, as when the throttle is opened, manifold vacuum drops essentially to zero, and the vacuum advance drops out entirely; it has no part in the "total timing" equation.

At idle, the engine needs additional spark advance in order to fire that lean, diluted mixture earlier in order to develop maximum cylinder pressure at the proper point, so the vacuum advance can (connected to manifold vacuum, not "ported" vacuum - more on that aberration later) is activated by the high manifold vacuum, and adds about 15 degrees of spark advance, on top of the initial static timing setting (i.e., if your static timing is at 10 degrees, at idle it's actually around 25 degrees with the vacuum advance connected). The same thing occurs at steady-state highway cruise; the mixture is lean, takes longer to burn, the load on the engine is low, the manifold vacuum is high, so the vacuum advance is again deployed, and if you had a timing light set up so you could see the balancer as you were going down the highway, you'd see about 50 degrees advance (10 degrees initial, 20-25 degrees from the centrifugal advance, and 15 degrees from the vacuum advance) at steady-state cruise (it only takes about 40 horsepower to cruise at 50mph).

When you accelerate, the mixture is instantly enriched (by the accelerator pump, power valve, etc.), burns faster, doesn't need the additional spark advance, and when the throttle plates open, manifold vacuum drops, and the vacuum advance can returns to zero, retarding the spark timing back to what is provided by the initial static timing plus the centrifugal advance provided by the distributor at that engine rpm; the vacuum advance doesn't come back into play until you back off the gas and manifold vacuum increases again as you return to steady-state cruise, when the mixture again becomes lean.

The key difference is that centrifugal advance (in the distributor autocam via weights and springs) is purely rpm-sensitive; nothing changes it except changes in rpm. Vacuum advance, on the other hand, responds to engine load and rapidly-changing operating conditions, providing the correct degree of spark advance at any point in time based on engine load, to deal with both lean and rich mixture conditions. By today's terms, this was a relatively crude mechanical system, but it did a good job of optimizing engine efficiency, throttle response, fuel economy, and idle cooling, with absolutely ZERO effect on wide-open throttle performance, as vacuum advance is inoperative under wide-open throttle conditions. In modern cars with computerized engine controllers, all those sensors and the controller change both mixture and spark timing 50 to 100 times per second, and we don't even HAVE a distributor any more - it's all electronic.

Now, to the widely-misunderstood manifold-vs.-ported vacuum aberration. After 30-40 years of controlling vacuum advance with full manifold vacuum, along came emissions requirements, years before catalytic converter technology had been developed, and all manner of crude band-aid systems were developed to try and reduce hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen in the exhaust stream. One of these band-aids was "ported spark", which moved the vacuum pickup orifice in the carburetor venturi from below the throttle plate (where it was exposed to full manifold vacuum at idle) to above the throttle plate, where it saw no manifold vacuum at all at idle. This meant the vacuum advance was inoperative at idle (retarding spark timing from its optimum value), and these applications also had VERY low initial static timing (usually 4 degrees or less, and some actually were set at 2 degrees AFTER TDC). This was done in order to increase exhaust gas temperature (due to "lighting the fire late") to improve the effectiveness of the "afterburning" of hydrocarbons by the air injected into the exhaust manifolds by the A.I.R. system; as a result, these engines ran like crap, and an enormous amount of wasted heat energy was transferred through the exhaust port walls into the coolant, causing them to run hot at idle - cylinder pressure fell off, engine temperatures went up, combustion efficiency went down the drain, and fuel economy went down with it.

If you look at the centrifugal advance calibrations for these "ported spark, late-timed" engines, you'll see that instead of having 20 degrees of advance, they had up to 34 degrees of advance in the distributor, in order to get back to the 34-36 degrees "total timing" at high rpm wide-open throttle to get some of the performance back. The vacuum advance still worked at steady-state highway cruise (lean mixture = low emissions), but it was inoperative at idle, which caused all manner of problems - "ported vacuum" was strictly an early, pre-converter crude emissions strategy, and nothing more.

What about the Harry high-school non-vacuum advance polished billet "whizbang" distributors you see in the Summit and Jeg's catalogs? They're JUNK on a street-driven car, but some people keep buying them because they're "race car" parts, so they must be "good for my car" - they're NOT. "Race cars" run at wide-open throttle, rich mixture, full load, and high rpm all the time, so they don't need a system (vacuum advance) to deal with the full range of driving conditions encountered in street operation. Anyone driving a street-driven car without manifold-connected vacuum advance is sacrificing idle cooling, throttle response, engine efficiency, and fuel economy, probably because they don't understand what vacuum advance is, how it works, and what it's for - there are lots of long-time experienced "mechanics" who don't understand the principles and operation of vacuum advance either, so they're not alone.

Vacuum advance calibrations are different between stock engines and modified engines, especially if you have a lot of cam and have relatively low manifold vacuum at idle. Most stock vacuum advance cans aren’t fully-deployed until they see about 15” Hg. Manifold vacuum, so those cans don’t work very well on a modified engine; with less than 15” Hg. at a rough idle, the stock can will “dither” in and out in response to the rapidly-changing manifold vacuum, constantly varying the amount of vacuum advance, which creates an unstable idle. Modified engines with more cam that generate less than 15” Hg. of vacuum at idle need a vacuum advance can that’s fully-deployed at least 1”, preferably 2” of vacuum less than idle vacuum level so idle advance is solid and stable; the Echlin #VC-1810 advance can (about $10 at NAPA) provides the same amount of advance as the stock can (15 degrees), but is fully-deployed at only 8” of vacuum, so there is no variation in idle timing even with a stout cam.

For peak engine performance, driveability, idle cooling and efficiency in a street-driven car, you need vacuum advance, connected to full manifold vacuum. Absolutely. Positively. Don't ask Summit or Jeg's about it – they don’t understand it, they're on commission, and they want to sell "race car" parts.

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(edited)

I suggest you map your own settings, each engine will be slightly different in vacuum levels generated based on age, mods, etc.  Then once you know what the vacuum levels are for each of your scenarios, you can graph accordingly in the curve builder of the software.  For example, you want the vacuum advance to be in while cruising but drop out when accelerating to pass, your data will tell you when this happens then just graph it accordingly.

 

I've seen that article and it was the reason I only use manifold advance and no ported advance or retard.

 

I just returned from a 1300 mile round trip and the 123 dist with vac advance and tweaked curve delivered an easy 1.5-2mpg improvement over the stock setup.

 

 

I ended up ordering a tunable one, and will be putting it in this weekend.  It appears that I can apply a lot more finesse into how the vacuum impacts the timing.

 

Do any of you (particularly among the tii folk) have data on vacuum pressure under the following conditions to allow me a baseline set:

- Idle

- Cruise (3K RPM, part throttle)

- WOT, at various RPMs

- Chopped throttle - WOT at 6K, then chop the throttle (I understand this is a good spot for some spark retard)

 

TIA,

 

John

 

PS - If not, I will try to collect this data this weekend and play with the tuning a bit

Edited by Stevenola
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