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Mike W

Very Cool Ignition Upgrade

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So a little background on my ignition system before I get into this post.

I changed my OEM ignition system about 2 years ago and decided to go with the Mallory Unilite distributor (mechanical advance only), as well as an MSD 6AL system. Despite the many reports of the robustness of the Mallory electronic unit, I have never had an issue with mine, although I also installed the recommended "power supply filter" from Mallory as well. Despite that I always did carry a spare electronic unit. I also had to utilize Mallory's Active Tach adapter to get my OEM tach to work correctly over the RPM range.

All in all I was pretty happy with this setup, and my car ran very well, but one of the primary reasons I purchased the Unilite was the ability to change timing advance curves. Getting timing optimized on our cars, especially with triple Webers, was very fundamental, and so I wanted the ability to try and fine tune my ignition timing and optimize it for my car / setup.

As a result I also purchased the Advance Timing Curve Kit from Mallory, which was essentially a set of springs and clips that could be used to adjust the overall advance curve of the dizzy. However the task to changes these springs turned out to be pretty involved and so I never took the time to do the fine tuning and just accepted the performance of the car with the stock Unilite springs, which was actually quite good.

Fast forward to last weekend when I attended a local car gathering. Met a guy who had just purchased a Triumph TR6. He saw my Weber setup and asked if I could help him tune his car, so we went over to check out his car. In the course of discussion he tells me about a number of upgrades the PO has completed including a 123 Ignition. So I ask "what is a 123 Ignition"? He tells me that "it is this totally electronic distributor where you can tune any advance curve desired through USB. There are no weights, springs, etc and the unit can control both centrifugal as well as vacuum advance. You can even adjust timing dynamically as you are diving the car by using their PC application. It was developed in Europe primarily for European cars. Not likely you will find one for the Z."

Sounded pretty cool so I checked them out when I returned home. Turns the out unit was developed in the Netherlands by a company called 123 Ignition and they also have a US distributor of the product. Their European site had no mention of Datsun or Nissan, but when I checked out the US site, lo and behold there was a link for Datsun. The link showed one of their dizzys as well as a billet locking plate and adapter necessary to mate to the top of the Datsun oil pump shaft.

Called them the next morning and talked to the owner of the US operation named Ed. Was very informative on the ignition product and in fact uses one on his own classic. Turns out it was Ed who developed the version for the Datsun Z cars. Apparently he had received sufficient interest to get a Datsun version in the market. I believe that he used an existing 123 dizzy and adapted it to fit the Z cars. Also needed to have a mounting bracket that would wok as well.

Ed informed me about a lot of the capability of the 123 Ignition and some of his own personal experiences. Everything was sounding great until he mentioned that he was not sure if the 123 would work with an MSD 6AL. He told me to contact their chief engineer in the Netherlands and he could confirm, one way or another.

I sent a mail with the MSD question as well as a few others, and received a response the next morning. Turns out MSD is not a problem at all and he gave me the correct hook up directions. Also answered my other questions, so I pulled the trigger and purchased one.

Received it on Thursday and took the day off on Friday to complete the install.

Install was very straight forward, but I left the existing Unilite wiring in place until I was able to start and run my car with the 123 dizzy. I downloaded and installed the 123 Tune application and started it up. I loaded a curve into the new dizzy that was based on a reference to the "2 orange spring" curve for the Mallory dizzy which I believed to be closest to my existing setup. Completed the wiring and it started right up. Drove very well but this was with a curve that I believed to be very close to my existing setup. So I really wanted to see what tuning my timing could do.

So over the course of the next few hours, I tried out about 4 different curves. Each was a modification of the last, based on RPM areas where I thought additional advance would result in performance gains, or alternatively too much advance was resulting in ping. Also the software is very intuitive and easy to use. Very simple to make changes.

The tune that I am running now definitely seems to pull harder in the mid RPM's and gives better overall drivability. Admittedly this is only with a butt dyno, but I've spent enough time in the car where I think I can tell a difference. I also had the opportunity to take the car out on a 150 miles drive yesterday for our local Z club monthly drive, and can definitely feel more pull and generally just more power. I still have more tweaking to do, but this really seems to provide the capability to zero in on an optimal timing curve specific to the setup of your car. Dyno sessions now seem to make more sense to me as making these changes is very very easy.

The car ran well enough where I completed the install by removing the old ballast resistor as well as the Mallory power supply filter. This had the side benefit of cleaning up my engine bay further and the wiring to the new dizzy was very straight forward. Worked perfectly with the MSD 6AL and my tach did not have issues. About the only issue I had with the install was mechanically mating the 123 dizzy to the Z mount / oil spindle key. Turns out that I had to do some dremeling to slightly enlarge the hole that would allow the top of the spindle to fit properly. I have informed Ed at the USA 123 distributor of this issue and has already made the appropriate changes to his engineering diagrams to reflect this.

It's only been a few days since this install, but so far I am very happy. I still have more tweaking to do, but it is so easy I feel a lot more motivation to zero in on the most optimal curve for my car. Still have a put a lot more miles on this to build confidence on the reliability of the unit, but this company has apparently been in business for quite some time so perhaps that is a reflection of their quality.

Finally, the unit was a little on the expensive side, but not a lot different from a new Unilite in addition to the power supply filter. If all goes well, I will have my old Unilite up for sale soon, so let me know if you might be interested!

If you are looking for more information on this product you can check out the following sites:

Datsun Conversion | 123IgnitionUSA.com What is 123Ignition about? - Perfect Timing - w/ "Formula" Technology | Ed

123ignition electronic ignition systems for classic cars

I've included a few pictures of my install. The 123 dizzy is about 1/2 the size of the Unilite and smaller than the Datsun OEM one as well.

If anyone has any additional questions just let me know. I'll try to keep you posted on my ongoing tuning sessions.

Mike.

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Many people don't like this guy, with his personality problems, but credit must be given. "123 Ignition" Distributor Replacement for Nissan L4/L6 - Nissan L6 Forum - HybridZ

The activity on the thread drove the US distributor (of these distributors) to source a manufacturer for the adapters. Credit also to 280zex in that thread since he's the guy that really wanted one for his blow-through turbo engine. He apologized for his early misunderstanding and might be the first Z guy to buy one. The thread really made the US rep realize what he needed to do to get them to the market.

They've been around since at least 2004, I've seen Alfa Romeo threads out there, but the emphasis has been on the Euro cars. It's weird that they've been invisible to the Datsun world for so long. It's a great idea and adds easy timing tuning for the carb guys.

Edit - I'm not trying to downplay the significance of trying something totally new. Just thought people would be interested in how things developed. The US rep didn't even plan to produce an adapter for the L engine. Parallel paths, weird coincidence, the other guy has his engine running too - http://forums.hybridz.org/topic/116989-123ignition-system/#entry1096684

Edited by Zed Head

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I have read all of the posts that ZedHead references and still decided to pull the trigger. I full agree that the folks on HybridZ were the ones that likely drove the development of this. Thanks to them as I believe they helped to develop a very modern upgrade to our 40+ year old classics.

Very interested to hear feedback from any other users.

Mike.

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I think I will keep using the electronic ignition on my L28E engine. Spending $600 to "upgrade" what is already there with what is just a fancier version doesn't sound like much of an advantage. On a 240Z with the points ignition, this looks like it might be a useful upgrade.

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You're missing the point TH. It's a new distributor with tunable advance curves, bolt-in. Anyone who's tried to fine-tune the advance curves on their mechanical distributor for better performance, both driveability and power, would know how difficult that is. It's not about fancy. You can't tune an L28E's ignition curve either.

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Exactly as I said, there's no reason to fool with something that works fine, or "isn't broke." I would rather spend time in the driver's seat than looking at a computer screen, and fooling with "curves."

If it was $89, then I might consider trying it.

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Exactly as I said, there's no reason to fool with something that works fine, or "isn't broke." I would rather spend time in the driver's seat than looking at a computer screen, and fooling with "curves."

If it was $89, then I might consider trying it.

The point has flown completely above your head. Sure, a stock distributor should work just fine on a completely stock engine, given it's in good order which many of these aging Nissan distributors are not. Add in triple carbs, a header, mixing-and-matching heads and blocks, and the stock distributor just don't cut it.

I plan on getting one of these the minute my budget allows. This is one step below a crank-triggered ignition and is great for those wanting to keep a period correct look, but have brand-new AND discretely tunable ignition. Thanks for the feedback Mike!

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Exactly as I said, there's no reason to fool with something that works fine, or "isn't broke." I would rather spend time in the driver's seat than looking at a computer screen, and fooling with "curves."

If it was $89, then I might consider trying it.

Wow- what can I add to that

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I can think of much better things to spend $1200 on than new distributor.

Edited by TomoHawk

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Grannyknot,

The issue I see with the switched version is that I do not know what curves will be pre-loaded. As I mentioned earlier, the Datsun version was created by the USA distributor and as far as I can tell, the work that he did was purely mechanical to ensure that the 123 dizzy would mate with our car. Not sure exactly what curves they are planning to use in the switched version. In the end there is only about $35 difference between the full tune model and the swithed version, and so from my perspective it was worth the extra to get all of the flexibility of the Tune model. If you are still interested in the switched I'm sure Ed over at 123 will provide you with the pre-progarmmed curves so you can get some idea on how they will work in your car.

Lastly, not sure where the $1200 came from. The whole setup costs about $550, which I admit is not in-expensive, but when it was all said and done, it was not a whole lot more that what the original Mallory set up cost me and I believe that I got a lot more for the $$ with the 123 dizzy. In the limit people make personal decisions about what is important to them in their vehicle and what is not and based on those priorities they choose to spend $$ in specific areas. For me, having this capability has always ranked pretty high and so my choice was to spend the $$$ even if it came at the expense of something else I wanted to do to my car.

Enough said.

Happy to provide any more detail to anyone that might be interested.

Mike.

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There's a neat video on YouTube about a distributor with a clear cap. It shows you the arcing while it spins. I would like to see a similar one showing the mechanicals moving with changes in RPM and vacuum.

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Not much to see under the cap really. There are no weights, no springs, nothing but essentially the electronics. I've included a few pictures so you can see what I mean. I've also included a comparison shot of the 123 cap versus the Unilite cap. You can see how much larger the Unilte is than the 123.

Mike.

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There are many pictures on the web of 123ignitions. Basically it is a pc board.

These truly have been around for some time and I have considered doing something for the 240 for about a year and just finished it up. prior to this I have been referring interested parties to the Dac House in Japan. Mike W is truly the Pioneer here for the Z owners and a great guy to work with. Great looking car Mike.

Ed

Edited by 123ignitionusa

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There are many pictures on the web of 123ignitions. Basically it is a pc board.

These truly have been around for some time and I have considered doing something for the 240 for about a year and just finished it up. prior to this I have been referring interested parties to the Dac House in Japan. Mike W is truly the Pioneer here for the Z owners and a great guy to work with. Great looking car Mike.

Ed

Thanks for joining, Ed. I'm interested in hearing more, too.

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Gentlemen

I am not a techie but will do my best to answer your questions. I like you am a hobbyist looking to maximize the power from a classic car. So with that being said here is what I bring to the table. I have personally used both the switched and the "TUNE" so can give you what knowledge I have. My intention is not to debate the propiety of changing over to electronic ignition. I know that there are sound arguments for all the aftermarket ignitions out there, and to each his own.

Attached is the instruction booklet that comes with the Switched 6

You will be interested in page 26 which list the GB6 curves. Note there are 4 sets of maximum advance numbers. Each will have varying midrange curve numbers which is where most of your power comes from. The curves are fairly generic and so you will want to pick what is closest to what the motor manual calls for. Unlike the "TUNE" the switched has to be worked much like a conventional distributor once installed to fine tune it. As in rotating it cw or ccw to advance and retard the whole curve. So if you have picked something in the max 26 degree range and you really need 32 advance your distributor 6 degrees. Really pretty easy. It is important to not get carried away and add too much advance. Listen for ping and back it down if you must. If you feel you need more advance to work with the Jag 6 curves have higher max advance numbers and can be substituted on request.

Hope this helps

123SWITCH6.pdf

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Edited by 123ignitionusa
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The switchable curves were discussed somewhat in the Hybridz thread - 123ignition - Nissan L6 Forum - HybridZ

They're not typical L6 engine curves. Many peak at very high RPM, compared to where the typical L6 Nissan curves peak. Open this link (the manual for the switchable dist.) and go to the bottom and you'll see the options. They appear to be shown in crankshaft RPM (unless they're set up for 9,000 RPM engines). http://www.123ignitionusa.com/123gb6rv.pdf

Looks like they're shown for 10 degrees starting point (idle advance).

Edited by Zed Head

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Mike this thread is epic, you KNOW I am about to buy this right. I love being able to switch out my curves and maximize my ignition advance where possible without having to pull the dizzy time and time again.

I will PM you with more details. YOu are right, 550 is chump change for a great working dizzy.

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I wonder - how many guys/gals here have actually re-worked the timing curves on a stock, points type distributor.

For several years, I tried to find a shop that still actually had a Sun Distributor Machine {SDM}. The first step in the process.. finding and documenting the baseline curve. NO LUCK around here - no one even has a Sun Distributor Machine even sitting in storage.

I'm sure everyone is aware that the L24's/L26's and L28's all run quite different distributor timing advance curves when stock. So even when swapping a more modern "electronic" distributor from a newer L28 into an L24 stock or modd'ed - it can easily result in a loss of performance because of the mis-matched timing advance curve..

Next - I watched EBay for years.. A few SDM's showed up - but in very poor condition and thousands of miles away. Bummer… So even with various springs of differing rates in hand, or modifications to the advance weights - and given the work of taking the dizzy apart etc - you just can't dial the optimum advance curve in.

A programable distributor is a brilliant solution - and at $550.00 it is far less expensive than owning your own SDM or paying a performance shop to do the work {if you could find a performance shop that still deals with mechanical distributors - LOL}.

thanks to Mike W for bringing this to our attention..

Carl B.

Edited by Carl Beck

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All righty then, I just placed my order, looking forward to this. I love the feature of being able to switch to a different curve while you are driving, that sounds perfect for a performance choice and maybe a gas saving choice for the highway.

Chris

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Chris,

I really think you will like this and I look forward to sharing some of our tuning stories. The people at the company have been great to deal with as well. This is a new market for them and so they seem to be doing all the right things to succeed.

Not sure what the rest of your ignition system entails, but if you control / drive your coil directly from your distributor (ie no MSD or equivalent) , you will need to make sure that the primary resistance of the coil you are using is greater than 1 ohm. The folks at 123 were pretty explicit about that and the instructions point it out as well.

Let me know if you have any questions during the install.

Mike.

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