Converting Your Imperial To An Electronic Ignition


Imperial Home Page -> Repair -> Electrical System -> Ignition System -> Converting


Click here for Mopar Performance Electronic Ignition Kit Instructions

Tips from Mikey:

The pertronix and the Mopar electrical unit are basically the same technology. Both use a magnet that rotates to excite (induce) a very small current in a stationary winding. ( this is basic electricity 101, move a conductor thru a magnetic field ) This very small current is used as a switch thru a transistor, that in turn makes the field in the coil collapse and that induces a much larger voltage to the spark plug.

I like both of these systems, the Pertronix hides easily, and unless someone is really looking for it.  You really don't notice the 2 small wires. Another plus, you get to keep the existing distributor curves, which sometimes can be a plus if you've had a distributor recurved and set up for your car.

The Mopar set up is easy to do, can be done as the kit from Mopar or from parts and pieces. In fact, the schematic to install one is in our archives I believe. The one plus to it, is when the box fails you can get one fairly easily, which may not be the case with the pertronix - especially if your car is sitting in the darkest, loneliest place you would never ever normally leave it some evening.

Either way, its up to you....when I did use pertronix, I carried a spare. They did sometimes fail without warning and they don't like it at all if the key gets left on for an extended period. I have heard they have been improved upon, but I don't have any personal knowledge of it.

Follow-up from Dick:

Mike explains it just fine - that is exactly how it works.

I would add to all this discussion that the electronic ignition system also has weak areas - and that when those act up, you are dead by the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck.

The pickup coil is wound with VERY fine wire, and must be 100% solidly connected or the car won't run. 99.999% won't do it! I know that the pickup coil is not a moving part, and theoretically should never fail, but in fact I have had failures on two of my cars (one a 1981 Imperial), and both of these resulted in absolute stone cold dead engine which did not show any sign of life until the part was replaced.

I compare that with my experience for over 50 years, driving all kinds of walking wounded and junkyard refugees, and never in all that time have I had a Kettering ignition system (the point/condenser/coil/distributor cap/rotor system was named in honor of the wizard from GM) totally fail. I've had problems develop, of course, but I have always been able to limp it home by mickey mouse repairs, sometimes involving hairpins and the like. I like to drive something I know I can fix with my bag of tricks if necessary. The electronic ignition systems, while unquestionably better performing over a longer mileage interval, don't provide that kind of peace of mind.


Question from Chris:

How big an operation would it be to install electronic ignition on my 65 Crown? I am a NOVICE mechanic but can perform operations that aren't too difficult. Are the kits being discussed recently very expensive? Can anyone estimate the cost? My friend and I tried to set the points the other day and I think it worked but I wonder if my Crown would prefer the electronic? Would I definitely improve my mileage? (I only get 7.5 in the city). The bottom line: IS IT WORTH IT?


From Rick:

The Crane Cams electronic ignition cost $100 through J.C. Whitney. Didn't take long to install and I am a novice also.

From Stuart:

I used a Mopar Ignition on My 81 Imperials. Pulling out the distributor takes a second. It is easier to do that than fiddle around inside the old one. You can count on a 30 year old distributor to have a weak vacuum advance or wobbly bushings. If you ever had a breakdown with a Mopar unit, a roadside repair would be feasible. The parts would be available at any Chrysler dealer or parts store. They are all the same from 72 to 94.

Question from Mark:

At the suggestion of the guy I bought my '67 LeBaron from, it was retrofitted with electronic ignition, which I'm told was introduced in the 1970's. To date this has worked with great success, other than when it has been sitting for a while - it always starts RIGHT up.

Over the weekend while driving home the engine "missed" and shut off, just like that, and would not restart no matter what. Turns out the ignition control module (small box-shaped unit) had melted, and finally shorted out. Had the unit replaced, and it started up/ran fine.

What I'm worried about is... WHY would this thing MELT? WHAT made it get so hot? The old one had been on the car for about 6 years, and I've driven it MAYBE 2000 miles since then.

Is this a common failure with these units, or did it melt because of some other problem that may be yet unresolved.


From Rob:

I tend to think there is another problem that cooked the box. I've gone hundreds of thousands of miles on Mopar orange box ignitions without a problem. At least 100k on one converted car and 30K on another. Chris' suggestions are good, but I doubt engine heat could have cooked it if it were on there for 6 years. It's always good to carry spares, but I just have a ballast resistor, not an extra control box or complete distributor.

From Joe:

I will add what I experienced on Electronic ignitions. The heat sink got hotter on the brain and would fail after around 9,000 miles. Chrysler would put them near the exhaust and they will not cool in that area. I then ran an extended harness so the brain would mount on the front side of the radiator support and from then on, never was there another failure. I have different brains for different rpm ranges on my Daytona for example. One for the race track where it runs between 4,000 and 7,000 rpm. Then another for the street at lower rpm. The Imperials have the blue box. The two brains are mounted together so if one fails, simply unplug the harness connector and plug into the other. No tools needed. I have had these ignitions since they came out in about 1972.

From Demetrios:

Keep your old point distributor in the trunk (along with a distributor wrench). This way, in the unlikely possibility it happens again, you are not stuck.

Personally, I have been using point ignition in both my 440s. Unlike most other cars of the era, the points last a long-long time, (well over 10K miles, I have had a set last 24K miles and I replaced it because it was too old, not because it failed) so I don't see the motivation to change. But since you already have the module installed, hold on to it. Just keep in mind that the point ignition will always get you home, even if it requires more maintenance/attention than the electronic ignition.

From Chris:

I have to agree with Demetrios. My Mopar electronic ignition conversion gave out on my 66 LeBaron. At night. In the rain. At 70mph. 18-wheelers on both sides of the car. With someone else behind the wheel! After my heart attack, the next day I threw it in the trash and put the original point distributor back in. Haven't had a bit of trouble since.

These units generate a lot of heat on their own. They must be put in the coolest location possible, preferably one with a cooling air flow. You may want to relocate your current unit if it is anywhere where engine heat is high. Out top of a wheel well (away from the manifold), or on the firewall near a hood hinge is usually the best underhood location. Remember, a good ground is necessary, too.

And always carry a spare.

Question from Mark:

A guy installed a Mopar Performance electronic ignition system in my car about 6 months ago. It ran pretty well at first, but has gradually gotten worse. No charging system upgrade was done. What are the symptoms of electronic ignition "brain fry"? The car runs pretty well (not as good as it should for the investment) without the A/C on. But when the A/C goes on, it runs terribly (rough idle, missing, loading down on take-off). What do you think?

I'll take any help I can get. Since I'm still using the stock voltage regulator, I'm wondering if that has an effect on the ignition system?

Reply from Jim:

I spoke with my performance guru (Troy); between us we came up with a few things to look at:

1. Check the air gap (reluctor to pickup); it should be from .006" to .008" and is rarely accurate out of the box - in fact, often the reluctor is touching the pickup. Don't forget to use a brass (non-magnetic) feeler gauge.

2. The possibility exists that when the a/c is turned on the idle drops enough that the vacuum advance drops severely; the fix (assuming the idle speed is correct) is to disconnect the vacuum advance permanently, set the timing to 32 to 36 degrees advanced at 3000 rpm, and be done with it. Troy tells me he does this on most of his Mopars, and I remember having to do it to one of mine many years ago.

3. Try the Mopar Performance voltage regulator P3690732. The last several years the catalog says this is for race only, but for many years they said it was required on pre-'70 cars when installing the electronic ignition kit. You figure it out. I have it on one of my cars, no problems as of yet.

4. There is always the possibility of the ECU going bad, but usually they work or they don't, and I don't think your symptoms indicate this problem.

Nothing like a good drivability problem to get your wheels turning - just be glad you don't have a computer, fuel injection, and the assortment of sensors thrown in!

Question from Ted (1955):

Need some information. Does anyone make an electronic ignition conversion for the 6 volt systems in some of our Imps ?Mine is a 55, and when allowed to sit undisturbed for a month or so always needs the points dressed before it will start. The points were new a year ago, and the car isn't driven, only moved up and down my driveway . Slithering under the hood over the carburetor on my stomach wasn't so bad when I was a lot younger and lighter, but it ain't much fun now! Besides, I'm afraid of falling asleep under there and missing dinner call.

I assume the problem is the high humidity here in Dixie, and is causing oxidation. Second question-would the conversion, if available, reduce the performance edge that is gotten with dual overlapping points?? (dwell) How about it, all you 6 volt owners!


From Randy:

There is a Petronix electronic ignition available. A friend uses a variation of this on his 1957 Studebaker Hawk with great results. The Petronix unit hides in the distributor and is not noticeable for car shows My '55 is a big challenge to start if it has sat for a week without being driven. My' '56 with 12 volt system starts wonderfully. Though very incorrect, I had thought of converting the '55 to 12 volt for easier starting or trying the Petronix unit.

From Jan:

I hate to admit to not being totally committed to authenticity and having installed a 6/12 battery system in my 1955 Imperial (after about 10 years of not trying to start it warm). The car starts successfully, and quickly, every time and now is wonderful to drive knowing it will always start. The car and the generator thinks it is two 6 volt batteries and has no problems with anything.

From Roger:

There is one more thing that could be your problem. the wire to the points and condensers in this ignition is prone to being pinched. When the distributor is taken out and set up on a distributor machine the wire can be cracked or bared. This was done to my car. It would start and run until the vacuum line was hooked up. It then started to pop and kick the breaker under the dash. This is common and can cause starting problems.

Question from Ken (1966):

I have an electronic ignition distributor and all the acc. to go with it. Should I convert my '66 to electronic or just leave it? How hard is it? Do you just put a brain box in? What are the advantages and disadvantages of electronic over points? 


From Bob:

The disadvantages are slim to none: the two problems I've always had, and this is with original MoPar parts, was the terrible reliability of the Chrysler Electronic module, and Out-Of-Round distributor shaft run out- problems you'd have without changing to electronic. These things had improved, somewhat, later on.

From Leo:

Points are simple and foolproof, but they do need periodic adjustment or replacement. Electronic ignitions rarely need adjustment and don't wear out, but if something does fail, you are left cold.

Question from Jerry:

I would like to convert my car over to an electronic ignition.  Is there a kit available from Mopar Performance and are they difficult to install?


From Bill:

A new orange box (the one you want) are available from a variety of sources including Mopar Performance and/or their distributors. I like Summit personally. they are fast and reasonable. the kit will run around $150.00. It will include the regulator, electronic ignition box, distributor and a new ballast resistor. (Very Important Part!) Summit can be reached toll free at 1-800-230-3030.  They are very easy to install, in less than an hour! Instructions included! 

From Rick:

I put E.I. in both my 65 Plymouth wagon with a poly 318 and in the 69 383 pick-up, big difference in both, plus it cuts the tune-up maintenance down big time. The directions are VERY straight forward with nothing left to guessing, took about 45 minutes apiece.

Question from John:

I swapped out the dual point distributor on my '59 with a Mopar Performance electronic ignition kit and no problems even with the original generator and generator regulator setup. The instructions mention that the ignition voltage should not be less than 12.5V and I measured around 12.8V at idle with the head lights and blower motor on. Timing mark is rock steady at idle now. I have some pinging during acceleration so I have to retard the timing (I think I set it to 10 degrees BTDC with the vacuum advance disconnected). Any suggestion on what the retarded setting should be? The vacuum advance in the Mopar Performance distributor is adjustable and I've set in for minimum.

Reply from Norm:

The instructions that come with the ignition set suggest that you set the initial timing at 5 degrees btdc and take it on the road to see if it pings. Then, gradually up it until it talks to you .

Question from Bill:

Is there any reason I couldn't pull the complete electronic ignition out of a 440 equipped mid 70s parts car to use in my '59?

It looks like I could get a rebuilt distributor from the electronic age for around $60 and pull the rest of the stuff out of the yard for $15. This seems like it would be a lot cheaper than buying the Mopar performance stuff.

Will it work?


From Carmine:

Forget the bulky old-tech Chrysler electronic conversion and just get the Pentronix kit. It hooks up with two wires, uses the old distributor and adds nothing under the hood.

From Ross:

Just be sure that the distributor you use isn't worn out (shaft wobble, a common Chrysler problem after 70,000 miles) and the mechanical regulator, etc, is up to the job of handling the Pertronix unit. I'm not in favor of the Pertronix, however much some may like it, (have seen more than four of them fail) and the Chrysler offered electronic upgrade isn't that expensive and it is reliable as hell. Plus you can easily find replacement parts for it at the auto chain stores.

Question from Santi:

I know 72 was the first year of EIS in Imps but what of us with 67 or other years with 440s?  Can I stick a EIS system in mine and will it be worth while in fuel savings maintenance etc.?  How much is it and where do you buy it?  Is it sacrilege to install one on a classic?


From Gene:

Regarding electronic ignition, I installed a Mopar hi performance ignition system in my 65 convertible. It works great. I have had mechanics tell me that it is the fasting starting Chrysler they have seen, It does start fast. As far as gas mileage is concerned I got around 15 mpg going to Carlisle last summer. 600 mile round trip, average speed 65+ mph. I am very satisfied with the system. I got the system from Mancini Racing at Carlisle. I believe the price was $160 including distributor and electronics. It did not change the appearance under the hood. I hid the electronics box under the right front fender just forward of the radiator. You have to really look to discern the additional wires.

From Tony:

Mopar makes an electronic ignition retro-fit kit. It consists of an electronic distributor and a control box. The system is completely reversible as long as you don't throw away your old distributor. Since I am having my engine rebuilt at present, I am having one fitted. Hopefully, it may improve the fuel economy a little and it will probably be more reliable. On the other hand, a well maintained mechanical distributor should be pretty reliable too. You would have to do a lot of miles to repay the cost.

From Roy:

With the Mopar unit you have to replace the distributor as well as find a place to mount the box and route all the wiring. With the Pentronix unit all you do is replace the points and condenser with the unit and connect the wires to both sides of the coil! Ok, you also have to jump the ballast resistor!

Part Numbers for the Mopar Electronic Ignition- from George

 P3690426: 273-340-360 

P3690427: 361-383-400 

P3690428: 413-426-440 

Small block distributors rotate in the opposite direction, and therefore use a different configuration for the pickup and vacuum advance. No clue what the difference is between the two big block kits. 

Question from Michael:

I'm considering purchasing an electronic ignition set-up for my '67 to be put in during my engine rebuild coming up next month.  What are the real advantages to having the electric ignition put in?

From John:

I purchased a Mopar Performance electronic ignition conversion kit to go in my '65 when the engine gets done. I paid $140 from a dealer I found online. (The price saved me $40 over the local dealer's price). The kit comes with a brand new distributor with a cap and rotor, an electronic control module, a ballast resistor, and wiring. The advantages are that you get rid of points. You have more accurate spark timing especially at high rpm (no "floating points"). Because there are no points to wear out, your spark stays accurate. Tune-ups are less frequent and less work. Plugs are said to last longer and starting is said to be better. This is a popular mod for hot-rodders. Some setups can fit within your existing distributor so you won't see any external modifications (as with the MP setup I have), but if your distributor shaft is worn out the kit won't do you much good. There are other brands, like Mallory, and different grades from street to all-out drag strip use. The machinist who's doing my engine strongly recommended this mod for better performance, economy and drivability for relatively low cost.

From Paul:

John's e-mail did a great job of summarizing the benefits! Especially for easier starts if the car has been in storage or is not driven very often. By all buy the Chrysler kit with the new distributor and the rest of the pieces. Works great on several of my 60's Mopars.

From Chris:

I did it to my 72 Charger and am very happy.  I used the Mopar conversion (orange ECU) for as close to a stock distributor advance curve as I could get, and it's been great.  I'll never have to change or gap points again, and mileage and spark plug life have improved. With the exception of the orange box, which is not correct for your '67, it looks stock.  I know Elijah and others have installed other brands and MSD (multiple spark discharge) ignitions but even with the basic $125 Mopar kit (try Summit Racing; they have ads in the front of any Mopar Muscle magazine, or even your local Chrysler or Dodge dealer) it works great. It's also a great idea if your distributor needs rebuilding, since the kit includes a new one instead!

From Rob:

I installed a kit late last night in my 66 crown. It was relatively easy and took the advertised 20 min to complete. The car started on first turn over and seemed to idle and rev up ok. My son took it for a short drive later in the night and said he experienced stalling problems. I have to remark that I did not have time to reset timing or replace the plugs. That's today's project. The kit is completely under the dist cap with the exception of 1 additional + wire to the coil. I will post success/failure problems later today.

Follow-up question from Elijah:

I'd be interested to know the brand name and ordering information.

Reply from Rob:

I replaced the distributor cap and reset the timing as near to 12.5 BDC as my eyesight (with timing light of course !!) would allow. I had ordered plugs (RJ12YC) to be picked up today, but of course they can't be supplied. I will have to wait 'till tomorrow to install the equivalent AC plug. Any thoughts on plug types?? I did notice an immediate boost in power although I get 'ping' when I kick it to the floor. I think I'll wait until new plugs are installed to fine tune it. I am already impressed with the difference after conversion. The supplier assured me I would see about a 5% gain in fuel economy as well as more usable HP. The kit was supplied by CBS Performance at 1 800 685 1492 at $79.95 USD. They are strictly mail order out of Colorado Springs CO.

Bill's conversion story:

I have converted my '57 from dual points to electronic (Chrysler of course) ignition. A stock LA (small block) Chrysler distributor is about 7/8 of an inch too short. So .... 

1) the stock 392 distributor was stripped down 

2) mechanical advance cam from the LA fits perfectly except for 20 degrees less advance! Weld up the slot for newer Mopar rotor and use the OE type rotor by trimming advance shaft shorter and filing a flat for the rotor (correct angle of course). 

3) weights from LA also fit

4) used a new Crane vacuum advance & springs 

5) Milled a new slot for the reluctor locator pin 

6) moved distributor cap hold downs so that #1 was indexed properly in relation to reluctor point, rotor and end of shaft in the gear drive (phew ! Tougher than it looks) 

7) Since there isn't an ignition 2 experimented to get the correct setup. (Borrowed an MSD 6AL from my son to get the car running to make sure the reworked distributor was ok first) Then hooked in the Chrysler stuff.  Big as it is there was no room in the engine compartment so under the dash,  on the firewall was the place to put the computer. Really woke it up! Good strong sound and feel. Need to adjust advance a little. And unless you're an electrician the only thing different is the pigtail out of the distributor ! 

Question from Bryan:

I have several collectible cars and have been an avid proponent of upgrading to electronic ignition; enough so that I did it to my 59 Imperial coupe. Initially, I was somewhat wary, given the fact that the 59 has a generator and that the instructions called for an upgrade to an electronic voltage regulator. However, a friend who owned an auto repair shop had done the same with his 59 Desoto with no problem.  Anyway, it has been about 8 years. It runs great, BUT, I had ignition problems last year and ended-up replacing the distributor. I have also noticed that any battery installed begins to leak.  Do I just have a bad voltage regulator?  Or is the electronic ignition causing the regulator to fail. Again, this is not the electronic voltage regulator called for by Mopar, but rather the original type regulator.  I do remember repeatedly "frying" the points with the old conventional distributor. Evidently, this also "fried" the pick-up coil and reluctor in the electronic distributor


From Dick:

This will take some sorting out. If by leakage from the battery you mean out of the vent/fill caps, your generator is overcharging the battery, and this could be caused by either a bad regulator or a bad generator (grounded field). If it is leaking out of the case somewhere, you've got a mechanical interference at the battery holder, or severe vibration cracking the case. I cannot think of any connection between this situation and the electronic ignition, although I am aware that the Mopar conversion includes (or is it recommends?) you convert to an electronic regulator, which may not be available for your car. Frying points is usually the fault of an incorrect connection or a shorted out ballast resistor - your car should have a substitute for all this stuff, included with the electronic ignition kit. Pickup coils don't usually fail that way, they open up (resistance goes to infinity), so there may have been a coincidence, or something wired wrong somewhere.  If it worked fine for 8 years, I doubt there is anything seriously wrong with your ignition system.

From Brad:

I'd vote for voltage regulator. The distributor/coil are "slaves" to the voltage regulator as is the battery. The surest way to boil a battery is over-charging. Test the voltage regulator. It should calm down to +13V SOON after starting. The voltage regulator (internal w/ alternator) in my wife's Bonneville fried the battery and it only tested to +15V (after a lengthy stabilization from near +20). I'd check that first.

Tips and Question from Brad:

I had ordered the Jegs Pertronix Electronic Ignition kit a couple of months ago and was anxious to give it a try. For those of you that haven't tried one, I think it was all too easy to install. 

I'll preface this story by telling you that my LeBaron is a CAP car and is "supposed" to be timed at 5 degrees AFTER TDC, according to the book. Well it ain't so. I checked the timing before I started taking things apart. 10 degrees before TDC, and it ran fine, no bog and no ping (and more importantly, ran cool). After the installation I set it to 10 before TDC again, and got a little pinging under part to full throttle. I reset it to 5 degrees and it runs great. I'm getting 10 degrees advance out of the distributor. I goosed it up to 2500 rpm and back down several times. I measured approx. 15 degrees advance. The installation was painless. It took all of 30 minutes including setting the initial timing. I started by pulling the distributor cap of course. I pumped a few drops of oil into the service port on the side of the dist. while I was at it. The directions tell you to pull the points and condenser first. I used a magnetic screwdriver (fool me once...) to get the screws out. You have to pull the (-) wire from the coil, and then pull the whole circuit out. My breaker plate was covered in carbon and I shot it with a little contact cleaner and cleaned it up. The jegs kit comes with a 2nd breaker plate that fits over the original plate's alignment post. You install it with one screw. The Pertronix pick-up coil mounts to this 2nd plate with one screw. Gap adjustment is made with this screw while the assembly pivots on a post. They give you a gap gauge (plastic strip) to set the initial gap. The rotor is a two piece setup; a standard rotor and a separate magnetic tripping device that turns with it. It fits onto the dist. shaft one way only. You then adjust the initial gap with the plastic strip. Final gap is set to .030 of an inch. The pickup coil has two wires, Black (-), and Red (+). You thread these out of the distributor's stock hole. The wires come with terminals on them. Cut these off. They are too large to get through the dist. hole! I cut my wires to fit to the coil (there's about 6 inches to spare) and installed new terminals. Minus to minus, plus to plus. That's it. Too easy. When I first fired it up (it started right up) it was timed to approximately TDC. So I guess this means the kit will retard a stock setup 10 degrees. As I said above, I set the final timing to 5 BTDC. 


From Robb:

Why would anyone wish to use an aftermarket ignition on their car when it is not to be used in a high rpm area... The use of a standard 'Mopar' electronic ignition works very well and is as stock as as one can get using an electronic ignition.. Another advantage to using the Chrysler ignition is availability of any need parts should a malfunction occur...

Reply from Roy:

With the Mopar unit you have to replace the distributor as well as find a place to mount the box and route all the wiring. With the Pentronix unit all you do is replace the points and condenser with the unit and connect the wires to both sides of the coil! Ok, you also have to jump the ballast resistor!

Reply from Brad:

I ordered the Pertronix Elec. Ignition unit from Jegs High Performance Mail Order, about $70. It's listed in their catalog on page 103. Call them to order at 1-800-345-4545 or look them up on the web and order there. I ordered on their web page and got the unit in about 5 days. Roy's point about mounting the Mopar unit and pulling the distributor was why I bought the Pertronix, that and the fact that its about 1/2 to 1/3 the price. I know Mopar distributors are one of the simplest things to swap out on the car, but I didn't want to go there. You don't however HAVE to bypass the ballast resistor (BR). The instructions mention this procedure IF your having trouble getting the car to run. This is caused from low voltage to the unit, hence bypassing the resistor. I wired mine directly to the coil + to +, - to -, and it works fine. The directions say if you're having trouble getting the car to run wired to the coil, THEN try running the + directly to the battery to TEST the circuit. If it runs fine like this, wire it into the ignition circuit "upstream" of the BR.  The part number is 751-1381A. ($67.99)

From Norm:

I purchased one, as well and was told that I needed to measure the voltage at the coil as a way of knowing whether to short cut the ignition resister or not. What did you do about that , if anything at all?

Reply from Brad:

It says something about measuring the resistance at the positive terminal of the coil, I thing 1.5 Ohms I believe. It also says that it simply won't work if there isn't enough voltage at the coil. Their test is to wire (+) it directly to the battery; if it works this way (and not at the coil) you need to wire it into the ignition circuit forward of the ballast resistor. I'm ashamed to say I don't own a Multimeter, so.......I did the try-it method. Correct me if I'm wrong (Dick) but you can't get more than 12 volts from the (+) coil terminal anyway so I gave it a try. Fortunately it works fine, I didn't want that red wire strung all over my engine.

Tip from Ben:

I have been awaiting the day when my Pertronix electronic ignition kit would come in from Jeg's. Well today is the day. It took me all of about an hour to install, including the higher voltage coil from Pertronix. I would rate it about a 1/2 eagle job and for those of you looking to keep the stock look but get the reliability of electronics this kit is for you! Everything fits inside the distributor and is hidden by the cap. Easy starts, smooth acceleration and no more points to change or dwell to set. I pulled the distr. to install, but it could be done with the distributor still in place. You will have to run 1 wire from the ignition side of the stock resistor back to the red lead coming out of the distributor and that's the hardest part of the install. In case you haven't noticed I am very impressed with this set up. It also comes with a 30 month warranty (not bad). I got the Ignition setup, high voltage coil and plug wires (all Pertronix) from Jeg's with 2nd day air for $146.00. Pretty cheap upgrade in my book.

Tip from Elijah:

Several folks have asked about electronic ignition retrofit systems which could be installed without being noticed. Several years ago, I purchased an Allison electronic ignition system for my '71 Imperial, and have been very satisfied with it. However, it does have a control box that must be mounted somewhere, thus giving away this "non-stock" addition. 

I have recently found an ad that I think will offer a suitable solution to this dilemma. Here's the exact ad, verbatim: 

Ignitor Solid-State Electronic Breakerless Ignition System Performance -- fast starts, every time. Protection -- Unaffected by dirt, oil, moisture Convenience -- Entire system fits in distributor. Economy -- Improves fule mileage, eliminates minor tuneups. Easy installation -- One-piece installation in minutes. Dependability -- 30 month factory warranty. 60 - 72 Chrysler 57 - 74 GM 57 - 74 Ford foreign applications available CBS Performance Automotive 2605-A W. Colorado Ave. Colorado Springs, CO 80904 1-800-685-1492 Cost is $79. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, COD. Free Shipping. 

The ad shows a picture of the system as installed in a typical distributor. It looks compact and simple. I might also add that the Allison system which I purchased in 1991 cost about $100, so this setup is cheaper, too.. 

Question from Rick:

I believe "MSD" is an acronym for "multiple spark discharge" and a fairly well-known brand of aftermarket electronic ignition.  What is the experience with the standard MOPAR electronic ignition, which I think can be back-fit to nearly all V-8's?


From Elijah:

When I had my 440 rebuilt earlier this year, my mechanic suggested that I go with a Chrysler Electronic Ignition setup. Since my '71 was only one year away from it (Imperials switched to Electronic Ignition in '72), I figured very few people but me would notice anyway. Luckily, my mechanic was careful enough to make it look like a stock option, rather than an add-on. However, for older cars, I think the idea of a "concealed" system is the best. One such system is consistently advertised in Hemmings. They say it fits completely within the distributor. It costs $79, which is quite reasonable. Call CBS Performance at 1-800-685-1492, and ask for their Ignitior Solid State Electronic Breakerless Ignition System.

From George:

MSD: The technology here is some sort of black box that causes the spark plug to fire more than once during each combustion cycle. Objective being more complete ignition of compressed fuel resulting in higher power output. I only see it used on serious drag cars and pro-street set ups. Suspect the manufacturer has color glossies extolling its virtues for daily drivers. As for good 'ol Mother's electronic ignition: In typical Chrysler fashion, it is supplier engineering without over engineering. Works fine, lasts a long time, and real easy to tune. As for converting breaker point ignitions, Chrysler has been selling a $150 kit for 20 years or more. Timing is a 'set it, and forget it' proposition. Routine tune-ups consist of swapping the cap/rotor/plugs and nothing else. The system is completely 'solid state' and consists mostly of a power transistor in common emitter configuration used as a power amplifier. The primary circuit consists of magnetic pickup on the distributor, which replaces the mechanical points, and the base-emitter section of the power transistor. The secondary circuit consists of the emitter-collector section of the power transistor, step-up transformer (ignition coil), cap/rotor/plugs. A ballast resistor is used to supply bias voltage to the power transistor and is the only weak link. These resistors have a nasty reputation for going poof, rendering the ignition dead. Anybody this has ever happened to, now carries a spare. In 15 years it has never happened to me, although I did once buy a car w/ a completely blown ignition, resistor, ECU, coil, etc. The sales pitch from the performance catalog: "Chrysler magnetic impulse ignition systems offer many advantages over breaker-type ignition systems. They require less frequent tune-ups, increase secondary voltage, improve starting, eliminate irregular timing and dwell changes with engine speed, and increase plug life. Conversion packages are now available to convert old point-type ignitions to new electronic ignitions. Packages include distributor with high performance advance curve, wiring harness, electronic control unit, ballast resistor, and installation instructions. They are available with either the vacuum advance distributor or tach drive, mechanical advance only distributor." Vacuum advance conversion kits: 

P3690789 170-198-225 

P4529402 3.9 v6 

P3690426 273-318-340-360 

P3690427 361-383-400 

P3690428 413-426w-440-426hemi 

No part number given for the 392.

From Ken:

MSD is always an excellent idea, it will work with points also.

Question from John:

Last December I got a note from Ron Skala saying that he had purchased a conversion kit for a 392 Hemi. I have searched high and low for such a kit for my 392 with no success. I've checked with Mallory, MSD, and Jocobs as well as Pertronix and no one seems to make a kit for the dual point system on the 392s. Everyone has a new drop in Distributor unit but in order to do that you have to pull the motor on the Imperials. The dist. is located way back on the motor in an indented place on the firewall. Does Any one out there have any ideas where else to look for a conversion??  

Reply from Chris:

You can get it at virtually any Chrysler-Plymouth or Dodge dealer (it's in the Mopar Performance catalog but any dealer can order it), or it's available via mail-order from Year One (1-800-YEAR-ONE, I think) or Summit Racing Equipment (1-800-230-3030).

By the way, what they refer to in the catalog as the "Performance Curve" for the distributor is perfectly suitable for everyday driving. This is the least- aggressive degree of vacuum advance they offer for the kit.

Question from Jeff:

I am in the process of repairing the problems with my 392 Hemi.  I have found one broken wire inside the distributor, and there were broken pieces of black plastic inside the distributor which we took out. Overall, the inside of the distributor looks kind of sick.  I have heard from some that I should get an electronic ignition conversion for it and dump the old distributor innards. I have also heard that the 392 hemi-dual point distributor is a wonderful unit and should be fine. We have also heard that there is currently no electronic conversion for the dual point distributor. What should we do???? Get this one repaired or replaced or is there an electronic one available for less then an arm and a leg. 

Reply from Bill:

 In my opinion, I would go to the electronic ignition. Call Year One (800-YEAR-ONE) and ask for one of there tech advisors. I'm sure they can set you up for around $150.00. If you are looking for a Concours restoration, you may want to have yours rebuilt/replaced. A used replacement will most likely have to be refurbished also, however. I may have some names of distributor rebuilders at home, if you need them. Once you have tried the electronic ignition I'm sure you will very happy. The one you should get is the authentic MOPAR orange box!

Tip from Brad:

Jim's Auto Parts on the net has Mopar Ignition kits. This kit is almost as cheep as I've seen them. The only problem is finding them in stock. They're usually backorder. The Kit Part Number is P3690428, (413-426W-440-426 Hemi Kit), $ 169.95. I've seen them in chain parts stores for over $200. Here's Jim's site address: There's quite a few cool stuff for your 413 or 440 there.

Tip from Bob:

If your car has a problem with pinging, one solution is to install a Chrysler Electronic Ignition Conversion Kit.  This is a wonderful bolt-on factory retrofit unit that is visually identical to the original distributor and has the advantage of an adjustable vacuum advance.  I set mine on the minimum setting and have not had any pinging trouble since.  (Note:  that is until I began having recurring trouble with toasted “brains”, so be sure to mount your control module in a cool location.  Electronic ignition systems also require a strong charging system, a consistent 12.5V and above - even at idle.  Chronic low voltage conditions - stop and go traffic with lights and A/C on - can also cause the “brain” to fry.  Be sure your battery, alternator, and voltage regulator are in peak working condition before installing an electronic ignition.)

Question from Marc (1960):

I have just completed installing a Pertronix electronic conversion into my 1960 distributor.  I also installed a 40KV Coil also from Pertronix. I was told by the company that I could open my plug gap up about .005 which would take it to .040. They said I'd get better fuel efficiency and more power. Of course I'm not really holding my breath and I'm sure any benefits I do see will be minimal. But my main question is this---- Now that I have put electronic ignition on the car can I now remove the Ballast resistor or should I leave it on????? I mean, it would be one last thing on the firewall and also It would simplify (a little) my finishing up the installation of the coil/distributor/electronic Ignition. (If I keep the Ballast resistor, then I have to extend the Electronic Ignition wire so that it reaches the B.R.


From Greg:

On my 1964 Crown application, Pertronix recommends keeping the ballast resistor. I am not sure what it is for your model. I have the 413 with the 4 barrel.

From Bob:

Find out if the coil they sent you has an internal resistor. It probably does. If it does, you may remove the external ballast on your fire wall. I installed the Pertronix on my '58 last week along with a 40,000 volt MSD coil. My coil did not have the internal resistor, so I had to retain the external ballast. This morning I re-gapped the plugs from .035 to .040. It did make a difference.

Question from Johan:

I'm going to convert my points to an electronic system. I am looking for a kit. I have been having really bad luck finding one. Autozone told me to go to Chrysler. Chrysler told me to go to Mopar Performance. MoPar performance doesn't exist man! perhaps some one out there can steer me in the right direction.


From Ray:

There's a number of different options. You can get the entire performance upgrade kit built by Mopar Performance from any speed catalog. I have JEG's here in front of me, and the part numbers are:

318/340/360: 312-P3690426 191.99 383-400: 312-P3690427 191.99 413-426-440-HEMI: 312-P3690428: 191.99

Summit, has the same part numbers, just replace the 312 portion with DCC.

You can also find them on Ebay.

It should be noted that these are performance systems with distributors that have a bit of a performance advance curve. If you like spirited driving, it should be great, but if you're just cruising around town, it might be a bit too much for your tastes. If you do not want this, you might want to look into converting via a Pertronix Igniter system. It just bolts into your stock distributor with no external modification. Some people I know really like them, some people I know have problems with them. I don't own one so I cannot comment one way or another.

Reply from Elijah:

This is indeed true, and can cause problems with ping/detonation.

However, these distributors come with an *adjustable* vacuum advance -- so an afternoon's worth of driving and tweaking with an allen wrench will let you set it just right. You'll have a little more zip when you need it, but no ping. :o)

I've been driving my '71 Imperial with one of these systems for six years now -- no problems whatsoever and great throttle response (I'd also say better cold starts and improved fuel economy too).

Reply from Bob:

I'll second that, I have had a conversion kit on my 440 since 1973. knock on wood. It was Direct Connection back then. I believe that Daimler-Chrysler is altering the performance parts division and setting up "speed shops" that allegedly will only go to dealers that meet certain quality criteria. For this reason, to my knowledge, there hasn't been a 2003 MP catalog and the web site may be down. You can still get the parts though, mail order and probably through most dealers.

From Bill:

Sorry you've had some bad luck. Mopar Performance certainly does exist and offers a complete kit to install an electronic distributor, electronic control box, and compatible ballast resister in older Mopars. The kit also includes a wiring harness. Generally the best prices are available from Mancini Racing, Koller Dodge, and the other big boys who advertise in the Mopar magazines. However, you can order from your local Mopar dealer also and if you have a contact in the parts department probably get a good price. The kit is offered in four versions, for four different engine configurations; you'll of course need the one for the 413-426-440 family. The usual price for the complete kit from the places I listed is $189. Another option is to assemble your own "kit" from junkyard or aftermarket replacement parts. You'll need the electronic distributor, control box, and make your own wiring (I can fax anyone the Mopar Performance kit instruction diagram on request), or buy the Mopar Performance wiring harness kit to make it a little easier and neater. The advantage to assembling your own is that you can use a distributor with an ignition curve the same as your stock points distributor, whereas the Mopar Performance kit distributor has a quicker advance curve which possibly could result in pinging in your engine depending on how you set it up. A third possibility is the Pertronix Igniter conversion kit. This installs in your stock distributor, and is cheaper, generally being available for $75 or so from JC Whitney, Summit Racing, and other suppliers.

From Steve:

Look at for item #DCC-3690428 Cost is 191.95.

This is the complete kit including new distributor for 413/440 engined cars. I just ordered one myself last week (thank goodness for tax refunds!!!) and an anxiously awaiting the UPS arrival.

From Mick:

I just replaced the points in my '63 Chrysler 300 with a Pertronix Igniter II and the matching Flame thrower II coil. the cost was about $125. It uses the stock distributor. The only thing you can see that is not stock is there are two wires going in to the distributor instead of one. Check the web for suppliers. It is a 20 minute job or less to replace and re-time the engine. I noticed easier starting and improved performance from the start. You can also do away with the ballast resistor with the conversion with everything under the stock cap

Question from Todd:

I saw in JC Whitney, they have a device to convert point ignition to electric ignition (about $75) I have trouble on cold days, and good days it still doesn't turn over right away. Does anyone know if this really helps? It also claims extended plug life and better gas mileage.  


From John:

You didn't say what car you have, but you ought to look into the Mopar Performance conversion kit, in which you get a brand new distributor, electronic control module, wiring, and ballast resistor. If you shop you can get this for about $130 or so. It's an easy swap, and it works as advertised. If you're fussy about absolute stock appearance, note that the module has to be attached to some sheet metal and will be visible. I put one of these in my '65 Crown. With electronic ignition your tune-ups are majorly simplified, since you never ever have to fuss with point gap, dwell, etc. Set your timing once and forget it, basically. There are other brands of conversions, including some that fit within your old distributor and are "invisible." But have your old distributor checked out first: if it's worn out electronic ignition won't help you.

From Ron:

Electronic ignition conversion is a great thing, it eliminates points/condenser and it has have no wear parts that need constant adjustment. You may even get longer spark plug life and a little better fuel mileage, BUT and I can't say this strongly enough -- IT IS NOT A CURE-ALL..... have your hard start problem diagnosed 1st, properly adjusted points in good condition do not cause hard starting, the only times Electronic ignition MAY start your engine faster are in extreme cold or lightly flooded conditions. All that said I believe electronic upgrades are beneficial. 

Question from Gary (1981-1983):

I own a 1982 FS Imperial. It has been a good running car & an a enjoy to drive. Lately , the engine {318-V8 Carburetor converted} Has sometimes died after running a short time.  I would let it sit for a while, then it would start right up. Once in a while it runs rough then smoothes out.  I have a extra ECM, put it on, still no effect.  I then regaped the module in the distributor, it seemed to have solved the dieing problem but still runs rough.  Is the module in the distributor bad or something else ?

Reply from DBKemper:

Electronic ignition will take care of the problem....been running mine with carburetor, mechanical fuel pump and electronic ignition for 4 years... 

This page was last updated March 16, 2004.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club