Q: Electronic Ignition (HEI)
I’m open for advice on this one. I’m considering changing over my 69 Firebird 350 to Electronic Ignition. The car is used mostly for crusin with no strip action. Think this is a good idea? Where is a good place to get the parts needed for conversion?
A: The cheapest by far is to convert it to HEI. You can pick one of these up at a salvage yard for about $10. If you decide to do this, you’ll need to run a 12 volt wire to the distributer (the existing wire is a resistor type and will only supply about 6-8 volts).
One trick I did so I could change it back later (for show purposes) is I traced the wire back to the firewall connecting block and soldered a #16 wire to the same terminal (This parallel the two wires. I then taped the new wire to the harness and taped up the old wire there it comes out of the harness. Looks clean and there’s no hacking involved.
Another would be to buy a kit to convert your points to electronic breakerless ignition. Check the ads in the back of Car Craft, Kit Car, etc. or contact you local speed shop.
A: I got mine of a 400 firebird in the junk yard. It bolted right on. Make sure you get the little wire clip that connects to the distributor or you will be going back. Also check to make sure you do not have a resistor wire going to it. The + side of the distributor should connect to +12 volts that goes on and off with the ignition key.
A: The fit of the HEI is close but it worked on both my 350 and 400 (same block). You may have to rotate the oil pump keyway (stick a long common screwdriver into the distributor hole) to get the HEI in the approximate location as you’ll only have about 20 degrees of rotation. If it still doesn’t fit, check to make sure the transmission and motor mounts are in the correct location. The other problem could be position of the sub-frame relative to the body. If everything is pushed back for tight body seams you could run into clearance problems.
A: The GM HEI will NOT fit. The firewall is too close. You can install the distributer, but the cap will not go on. Another option is the Mallory Unilite. I installed this on my 69. So far I like it. The cap is red, other than that it looks stock, and you have a choice of vacuum or mechanical advance. Most of the Performance catalogs list them. Good luck!
A: The HEIs are virtually maintenance free. Stock and performance parts are cheep and easy to find. They outperform stock breaker point distributors in all areas. Unless you are running some serious compression ratios or are going to be drag racing and consistently revving your motor above 7500 RPM, the HEI will serve all your spark needs.
A: The guy that rebuilt the 400 in my 1967 replaced the stock distributor with an HEI unit. No modification to the firewall was necessary, but there certainly isn’t the room around the distributor like there was with the original unit. I’m into originality and as a rule don’t think that aftermarket parts are up to the engineering standards or quality of genuine GM parts. (Please no flames!) So the HEI distributor is a nice compromise.
I’ve been driving 1967 400 firebirds since 1979 and I have to tell you the performance with the HEI is much better than the breaker/points unit. The advantages of using the HEI unit that I’ve seen are: the spark plugs don’t foul out anymore, the car cold starts much easier, and I’m not forever messing with dwell settings. My ignition system used to always be a concern, but it is not anymore.
The only disadvantage I see is for us purists. Like I said before, it’s hard to get use to seeing that big distributor in the back of the engine where a little on used to be. If you plan on driving the car a lot, do it. If you plan on showing the car, don’t.
A: I’ve been very happy with the HEI system in my 1968 Firebird 400. The maintenence can’t be easier, just replace the cap and distributor every once in a while, and do a recurve every once in a while. No need to have to deal with gapping the points every other month, or having to adjust the dwell. You can also run a gap of .060.
I can’t be happier with the HEI setup in my ‘bird. The only disadvantage is that GM HEI distributors are known to drop a lot of current above 4600 rpm so if you’re running at high revs, you may want to get an aftermarket HEI style distributor.
A: put in an acell electronic. they are trouble free. mine is 5 years old and never been touched!! it fits the firewall and 14″ air cleaner great.
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Content last modified: January 16, 2014 at 2:27 pm