MSD’s latest distributor electrified the Swing ’N Sting Dart
Well, between showing Honda kids how to do burnouts (in front of the local Honda motorcycle dealership) and traveling with my dad, summer has been pretty nice. But the downfall was that my Dart once again breaks down. I may have put about 150 miles on it before my radiator sprang a huge leak, and, of course, that happened right before Carlisle’s All-Chrysler Nats, which I had planned to drive to.
So I ended up parking my car at Country Side Customs for three weeks while we waited on the parts. Be Cool got us a great radiator that fit right in, and SPAL USA forwarded a fan kit. Meanwhile, we finally were able to get the MSD Pro-Billet ignition system installed at the same time. We’ll cover that this month, and get to the “cool” stuff later. With the Mopar Nats approaching fast, I had two days before school started to get my hands dirty once again.
So, with a bunch of parts in hand, I called Josh McCurry, one of the guys who runs Country Side Customs, and he said it would be cool to come down and stab my ignition; we’d just spent a day getting the cooling system worked out. So on a Wednesday, as my dad packed up for our drive to the Nats, I went down and Josh and the crew showed me how to do one of the easiest things I have ever done to my car. And we were able to do it all in one try (that’s a big thing compared to me and my dad doing something together sometimes!).
The factory electronic ignition is a good starting point for many Mopars, but we wanted something a little different; leave it to MSD to come up with the 21st century variation on the original single-coil theme. MSD is one of the best-known companies in the business, and they have products available for just about any performance vehicle you could own. From them we got this killer distributor (#8504), a set of black 8.5mm wires (#31193) and the small pieces like boots and separators.
This new MSD is what’s called the Digital E-Curve, and it’s one of the most advanced items you can get for your small-block Mopar engine. The E-Curve is part of the Pro-Billet line; this means a billet aluminum housing, an internal roller bearing design, and changes in the way the ignition’s electronics work. The built-in ignition is a higher-output inductive ignition; it’ll help on the performance side big-time compared to a factory ignition. It is a ready-to-run model; you need to only swap out the three wires and you will be on your way, since the spark control is built right into the housing (standard Pro-Billet versions will need a multi-spark box like a 6AL).
The Digital E-Curve is even cooler than the standard ready-to-run version. It is the latest in the MSD’s line, and is presently available for small-block Mopar apps. There are three small dials on the circuit board inside, under the rotor. Two set the timing curve electronically; you eliminate the centrifugal-weight mechanical mechanisms entirely. After getting the initial timing set, use a small screwdriver to set the dials to the point where you want initial and full advance and you’re done. No springs, weights, or other tiny parts to get lost. The third one is for when my dad drives it – a REV LIMITER built right in. Figure out what the max rpm you can safely go to, set the other dial to that point, and the ignition will retard if you ever miss a shift.
There are three wires that connect to the coil and ground, so it can all fit together easily, and MSD uses a connector to plug it in so you don’t have to disconnect each wire if you need to remove it. In fact, the thing that took the most time was measuring and cutting the new spark wires to size. And with the time I had to work on my car, we stabbed it with few problems. The total time it took us to set everything up was around two hours. Here’s how to do it.
MSD Ignition/Autotronic Controls Corporation
1350 Pullman Drive, Dock #14
El Paso, TX 79936
Country Side Customs
416 Bacon Branch Rd.
Jonesborough, TN 37659
1 Josh holds the distributor; the two white blocks are the screwdriver-adjusted advance dials that control the advance curve; a third one controls the rev limiter.
2 Here is our old distributor still in the car with the cap removed; it is pointing to show the location of number #1 cylinder; mark this so you don’t install the new distributor 180-degrees backward (since it’s slotted like a screwdriver, it can only go one of two ways).
3 The new tti headers mean the length of the old wires is irrelevant; with the cap in place, Josh installs the #1 wire so he knows which one to cut next. The MSD wires are pre-cut with long spark plug boots installed already; you install the cap ends.
4 With #1 in place, we place the other wires to be cut on each plug. This will ensure we have the right clearance around the headers and accessories.
5 After determining the length of a wire by running from the cylinder to the proper place on the cap with clearance length for headers, etc., start by using a pair of wire cutters to cut the wire, then use a set of wire strippers to remove the outer wire insulation.
6a & 6b MSD includes this great crimping tool; rest it in the jaws of a vise, insert the cap-crimp end or plug-crimp end in along with the stripped wire, and slowly tighten it until the crimp is installed. NOT too tight, though!...
7 These boots are not made for walking; it is a tight fit. Josh shot the inside of it with a little PB Blaster to smooth things out.
8 Before installing the boot, separate the hard white plastic wire identifiers in the set and slide them on; a bit of PB Blaster will help here, too.
9 Slide the boot on, making sure the crimp is correct with the 90-degree turn at the end.
10 Here we are; one down, seven to go.
11 As each wire is completed, we install it on the cap. One tip – try to figure out the boot direction as you are putting them on, so the wire separators go on properly.
12 The old coil returned to the junk pile with the old distributor and wires; this is the new Blaster 2 that MSD makes. The wires from the harness and new distributor are mounted on the leads by using an open end or socket wrench, though you may need an extension to clear the carb.
13 The final touch on the wires is the hold-down support so they can’t break free; unless you break or burn one up, you will never have the hassle of trying to figure out what goes where. Note our clearance to the wiper motor is a little tight!
14 Making sure those accidents don’t happen are the included heavy-duty clamping wire looms; nope, these fat boys will not fit the type found on your OEM valve covers.
15 We hooked up a digital timing light to our Optima battery and the MSD set-up was dead-on. Since the car doesn’t have a new cam in it yet, we did not do anything to alter the MSD pre-sets.
16 Let’s face it, the new MSD distributor, coil and wires looks killer in my car, and it’s not bling dress-up stuff, either.