PerTronix makes a complete line of billet Plug n Play distributors, HEI and Race HEI-style
For something that’s everywhere, but can’t normally be seen, electricity is pretty amazing. It can produce light, heat, and something that’s important to most of us: it can jump an air gap in a pressurized cylinder and ignite a combination of air and fuel.
When discussing electricity there are three terms you need to know: voltage, current, and resistance. Simply put, voltage is electrical pressure that pushes electricity through a wire, current is the measurement of the amount of electricity flowing, and resistance is the opposition to the flow of electricity. As resistance increases, it takes more voltage to overcome it and make electricity flow. A great example of this is an engine’s ignition system. The 12V battery in your car has enough “push” to make electricity flow through the headlights, the radio, or even the starter motor, but because of the plug gap that must be jumped and the pressure in the cylinder, more voltage is required to create a spark.
Increasing the voltage in the ignition system is the function of the coil. A type of transformer, the coil has two separate circuits: the primary, which is connected to the battery, and the secondary that leads to the plugs. Again in simple terms battery voltage flows through the primary windings of the coil and creates a strong magnetic field. When the flow of electricity through the primary windings is shut off, the magnetic field collapses and passes through the secondary (which has many more turns of wire) and the voltage is increased to 20,000 (and often much more) to fire the plugs.
It didn’t take long for the original Ignitor to find favor. While some changes have been m
At one time the magnetic field in the primary windings of the coil was turned on and off by a mechanical switch, aka the points, and they were the weak link in the electrical chain. Points have a number of problems: They have to be adjusted, replaced regularly, and they can only handle a small amount of current—and to get more spark out of the secondary side of the coil requires more juice on the primary side, and that’s the advantage of electronic ignition. By replacing the mechanical points with a solid-state device, or electronic switch that can carry more current the result is a hotter spark at the plugs. The OEM’s figured all this out, but what rodders and restorers needed was a way to retrofit point distributors with electronics; they eventually got it, albeit from an unlikely source.
As Don Lindfors, of PerTronix Performance Products, explains it, in the early ’70s an engineer at Per-Lux, a manufacturer of foglamps commonly used on trucks, heard one of the drivers complaining about points burning out of their forklifts and wondering out loud why someone couldn’t come up with a electronic replacement. That engineer went to work and came up with a working model for an electronic points and condenser replacement module. The product was quickly patented and soon Per-Lux was selling the Ignitor primarily to the forklift and industrial engine markets. The Ignitor gained acceptance with fleet operators and shop foremen and soon there were requests for more applications than just industrial engines.
Racers and rodders found the Ignitor and Ignitor II could be used to control aftermarket i
A smattering of automotive applications followed and in particular the kits for the Ford V-8 were selling well. The conversions became known for easier starting and smoother-running engines, and a whole new audience was paying attention to Ignitors.
Per-Lux was sold in 1990 to another large truck lighting company that wasn’t interested in the electronic ignition business. Tom Reh, the former CFO of the company, put together a team to buy and expand that division and in 1991, PerTronix was the new name for the company now devoted to the electronic ignition business. The company quickly expanded its offerings, adding more than 80 new applications for the Ignitor as well as introducing new products like Flame-Thrower Coils, Digital Rev Limiter, Second Strike, and the Billet Plug n Play Flame-Thrower distributors.
The Ignitor III features a built-in digital rev limiter and produces multiple sparks so an
PerTronix continued to expand on the Ignitor technology, the Ignitor II was introduced in 2000 and featured a microprocessor with “Adaptive Dwell” control added. The microprocessor senses both current and movement within the distributor and if it sees voltage but the car is not trying to start, it will shut itself off so the ignition system is protected against overheating, which can burn up components along with the ignition coil. The Adaptive Dwell portion of the microprocessor senses the coil’s current level and uses a micro controller to adjust the dwell to maintain peak energy throughout the entire rpm range.
The latest version is the Ignitor III, which eliminates the need for an external box. This unit incorporates a second spark that continues to redline and a digital rev limiter and it all fits inside the distributor. The Ignitor III can be installed in popular V-8 factory distributors or is available in the Flame Thrower Billet Ignitor III distributor.
We had a vintage dual-point Flathead Ford distributor, we installed an ML-189 PerTronix Ig
To go along with their line of ignition conversions and complete distributors, PerTronix manufacturers their own line of coils under the brand name Flame-Thrower. Coils are manufactured with different resistance values to match the module being used. The Ignitor uses the Flame-Thrower 40,000V coil, the Ignitor II uses the Flame-Thrower II 45,000 V or Flame-Thrower HV 60,000 V, and the Ignitor III utilizes the Flame-Thrower III 45,000 V or Flame-Thrower HC 60,000 coil.
PerTronix offers a variety of billet distributors for popular engines, as well as their new “as cast” version for those who want the advantages of electronics but want the OEM look. And for those who want to the benefit of electronics in an original distributor, there’s an easy-to-install Ignitor to make almost any engine pointless.
The ML-189 has the Ignitor attached to a mounting plate and comes with a magnetic ring tha
After removing the points we cleaned and painted the housing; the original external conden
The Ignitor is secured with screws that set one of the points in place. The magnetic ring
With the original rotor back in place the conversion is complete.
After installing the cap the conversion is hidden; the only clue that something has change