Upgrade Points Distributor To Fire With A TFI Module

Frank

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Converted my wife's daily driver to points-controlled electronic ignition using a Motorcraft ignition module off a '93 F150. Credit for this swap goes to gofastforless.com. I emailed the man who wrote the site to verify a couple of specifics, and he responded, which I appreciate.

The goal of the project was to keep from having to clean/change points, which are hard to get to on this vehicle. But the after-swap test drive showed an (unexpected) noticeable improvement in idle quality, (50 rpm increase in idle speed), throttle response and acceleration clearly better. Felt like the first drive after a timing advance, after a season of running with soggy timing. I wager an economy improvement is a sure bet.

This is not a Ford vehicle, but the information may be valuable to those with old-vintage engines, where ignition upgrade options are limited, or you prefer to keep the factory points distributor in service. For this vehicle there are no upgrade options, except PerTronix, (requiring breaker plate mods to fit it). A proven factory engineered and built ignition over a compact aftermarket unit provides more peace of mind IMO.

The TFI module controls the dwell, the ignition system operates on full battery voltage, and the points only see milliamps of current. A vast improvement over the ballast resistor, full amperage passing across the points, and regular tuning to keep the points clean and properly gapped. The gap is unimportant, as long as they make-break contact, the module handles the rest. The coil fires on points opening (breaking the contact), the same as stock, therefore no ignition timing change is necessary. (Using a Chrysler ignition box on points, the coil fires when points close (make contact), requiring a resetting of base timing.)

Post-swap timing and dwell check showed no change in ignition timing. Dwell was 30* at idle, 31* at speed, and never varied. (Inline 6)
Relative to swapping a distributor this is a far easier conversion, and leaves the factory timing curve intact.

Use a GRAY colored module. Any black module won't work. The early type with the 3 pins on top will work, the newer remote-mounted modules are better, already bedded in a heat-sink. Use the factory harness plug if available.

PIN 1 and PIN 4: IGNITION SWITCH POWER (full battery voltage) AND COIL POSITIVE (+)
PIN 2: POINTS WIRE. This is the wire from distributor to coil negative (-) when stock. Remove from coil (-) and attach here.
PIN3: not used
PIN5: COIL NEGATIVE (-)
PIN6: GROUND
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If the module is well grounded, pin #6 GROUND can be omitted. I used the pin, running the wire to the voltage regulator/engine block ground lug on the generator. Take the time and get everything clean. A good ground is key to correct function and longevity.
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Take the time to solder the connections, and use a quality glue-infused shrink-tube.
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BEFORE
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AFTER
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Would this work also with a points eliminator kit from pertronix? I got a truck im gonna be working on soon for a friend and this may be the way i go.
 
Would this work also with a points eliminator kit from pertronix? I got a truck im gonna be working on soon for a friend and this may be the way i go.
I don't think so Dave, if the PerTronix is magnetic pickup. If it's Hall Effect, it would work in theory. The TFI needs a "digital" on/off signal, which points provide. HEI, DS2 or any other magnetic pick-up distributors, the TFI module can't read.
 
EARLY UPDATE:
Mary immediately noticed the improved engine operation. Without my prompting, she said an economy increase seems sure. I'm going to add 5 thousands to the plug gap, otherwise, the upgrade is done. (.030"to .035")
Topped off the gas this morning, and will post economy findings on the next fill-up in a week or so.

ALSO:
Was embarrassed to post the pics of that dirty engine bay! LOL, when a younger man the first thing I'd a done is wash and paint in there. Funny how priorities unexpectedly change with age. That project is coming, just hasn't happened yet in the year or so we've had that car. Posting the pics has moved that project up the list.
BTW- that's 100% original in there. (Well, until I put that TFI in!) 1959 Rambler, 42,000 actual miles. The carb's never been off the intake. The engine needs some paint, but it runs as sweet as honey. Low rpm 196 cube flat-head torquer, with a 4.25" stroke. It's music to our ears, she loves her little car.

One more thing: a forum member who read the thread suggested an MSD box. I said no, for two reasons: 1) it's a low performance flattie. 2)the distributor cap is quite small. The chance of arc-over with a mega-spark is high. The plugs are not able to be opened up to correct gap for MSD.
 
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Like this article very much, like dealing with the older vehicles.
Thanks. Haven't updated the economy 'cause she's needed to use her truck a good bit, haven't refilled yet.
Real pleased with the results so far. The distributor on that engine is way down low, and sits almost horizontal because it has an external oil pump on the other side of the block. Really tough to access and see to set the points.
 
congrats on the mod, Frank. I dont understand 3/4 automotive ele -
ignition the least of them -
If that's the car in #7 pic even bigger kudos. A tip top fav of mine
(followed since '69 when I hada '63 rambler american vert) whether
nash or amc. The '58/60 seemed 2B designed by Italians, the nash healy
nother fav, also. How could my car get the top merican award that yr
as that big square box it was (loved it still) while most skipped over ur
Blue Baby? Svelte'n glamorous to me~
Cuz it's down sized? onea da best automotive ideas in the industry !
 
congrats on the mod, Frank. I dont understand 3/4 automotive ele -
ignition the least of them -
If that's the car in #7 pic even bigger kudos. A tip top fav of mine
(followed since '69 when I hada '63 rambler american vert) whether
nash or amc. The '58/60 seemed 2B designed by Italians, the nash healy
nother fav, also. How could my car get the top merican award that yr
as that big square box it was (loved it still) while most skipped over ur
Blue Baby? Svelte'n glamorous to me~
Cuz it's down sized? onea da best automotive ideas in the industry !
Yeah thanks chad. My first car was a '62 Rambler American. got my license and that car the day I turned 15, an old lady from church gave it to me. It had the Nash flathead 6 and 3 on the tree. rebuilt that engine with parts from JC Whitney and drove the crap out of it all the way past high school. I didn't care a bit that my friends had 4x4;s and muscle-era V8's. My ugly 4 door Rambler was fine by me. Called it "box turtle", man that car was boxy. The '59 in the pic is the same frame and driveline, American Motors just a did a body change in the early '60's.
Suddenly my wife spotted that car on ebay, and I dragged my feet a while but she kept coming back to it. I knew it had a bulletproof engine. So here we are. That one isn't getting great mileage, but my '62 got close to 30 mph. Read an article out of an old mag, the '62 American was the most economical US made car. They drove one cross-country and it got 32 mpg. There was so much scepticism they repeated the test and it did it again.


As an aside, while she was searching Ramblers, we found my '62, my first car. About 200 miles from here in Georgia. Still in great shape. . bought it too. It's out back waiting on a clutch, brakes and tune up. WTH. . I ain't got a lick 'O sense. .
 

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'S a bueat ! Fo Shoah !
Yup my (nxt gen) was a 'big square box' they all laughed @ (as it's 'off brand', they were more wealthy families). Paint was faded,
being young'n dumb I'd run off the porch, jump in (top down of course) pretending to be a cowboy mountin the pony... a shoe sole
mark on trunk, a small matter, if even left. I can remember some pretty fun adolescent cruses w/mah friends, stopin at the only lght in
town and back 2 more laughs as folks on curb thought I'd stalled out the motor was so quiet'n smooth (the preverbal nickel could balance on edge on the hood).

So help me w/ the correct calendar placements. The svelte 1 U got were '60 thru '63? Square boxes before and after those dates, no? (Well, the AirFlytes were in there early, bath tub style). Nash (& Hudson near end point) all the way till AMC in '63? AND wuz it pinnafararah or bertone who sketched out the 1st gen/yourn above?
 
'S a bueat ! Fo Shoah !
Yup my (nxt gen) was a 'big square box' they all laughed @ (as it's 'off brand', they were more wealthy families). Paint was faded,
being young'n dumb I'd run off the porch, jump in (top down of course) pretending to be a cowboy mountin the pony... a shoe sole
mark on trunk, a small matter, if even left. I can remember some pretty fun adolescent cruses w/mah friends, stopin at the only lght in
town and back 2 more laughs as folks on curb thought I'd stalled out the motor was so quiet'n smooth (the preverbal nickel could balance on edge on the hood).

So help me w/ the correct calendar placements. The svelte 1 U got were '60 thru '63? Square boxes before and after those dates, no? (Well, the AirFlytes were in there early, bath tub style). Nash (& Hudson near end point) all the way till AMC in '63? AND wuz it pinnafararah or bertone who sketched out the 1st gen/yourn above?
I'm not totally up on exact dates. Both the blue '59 and the '62 are Rambler. Know AMC had taken over for the '58 model year. Budget was tight for AMC early on. The blue '59 has "Nash" cast in the parking light lens and a few other places. But it sold under AMC. They used the Nash and Hudson inventory till it was depleted. The tail light lens is Nash stock, but they flipped it over on the '59 to try to do something different. Part of their struggle was being in Wisconsin, not the Detroit area. When the body upgrades couldn't be put off anymore -'60 and following- they wanted to widen that skinny 55" stance, but couldn't afford to till after '62. The body skin is the only difference in the two cars posted in this thread. The '61 & '62 Ramblers were good sellers. Had 24 hr production line for a while in that period to try to keep up with demand. Cheap, proven dependable car that was smaller and got good mileage. That Nash flathead 6, engineered in '41, was so sturdy and economical it remained available in the base models thru the '65 model year, years longer than any other flattie. By the late '50's the engine had grown to 195.6 cu in, all done in stroke. It's 36% under-squared @ 3.125" bore/4.25" stroke. Torque is rated @ 1600 rpm. (160 ft lbs). 90 HP @ 3800rpm. Red-line 4200 rpm.

The blue '59 has a Borg Warner 3 speed auto trans, first gen with planetary gears. Same as Ford used in the small cars of that era. The TC stall speed is 1400 rpm. That car is so torquey it will climb wheel ramps @ 800 rpm with an auto trans. Only weighs 2800lbs.

Was very fortunate, the car came with the AMC service manual.
 

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You've been over generious.

I was just tryin to sus-out the blue model's sales years (last Nash/pre AMC, no?). Or did both
make that same model? I C the companies both had 'under-the-skin" (ur blue AND white) the same for 1 yr
(chassy, breaks, motor etc).

Some of this info lets me know my "american' might have hada flat head (didn't remember) the
only 1 I ever had (the mid/late 50s fiats, alfas I wrenched @ 15, 16, 17 had just left the flat head behind)
if so...
Thanks. I'll B lookin this over a few times !
 
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You've been over generious.

I wuz just tryin to sus-out the blue model's sales years (last Nash/pre AMC, no?). Or did both
make that same model? I C the companies both had 'under-the-skin" (ur blue AND white) the same for 1 yr
(chassy, breaks, motor etc).

Some of this info lets me know my "american' might have hada flat head (didn't remember) the
only 1 I ever had (the mid/late 50s fiats, alfas I wrenched @ 15, 16, 17 had just left the flat head behind)
if so...
Thanks. I'll B lookin this over a few times !

I have the original BOS. It's a '59 model year. Purchased new in Youngstown, OH on 8/14/59 for $2,065.85 It's not Nash, all AMC. AMC took over the Nameplate by the '58 model year. Even tough that's late in the model year, the car is # 18,306. That's all the production they could pull off till the new bodies of the '60's increased demand and gained them some inertia and cash.
If you had a '63 it was either the flathead 196 like these, or -they briefly did an OHV version of the 196 which tended to blow head gaskets. The ground-up 232 I6 was not introduced till '64.
 
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ok, so AMC did not make any lookin like ur blue.
(that's interesting they just changed over "the skin").

"...the new bodies of the '60's increased demand ..."
I'm opposite, like ur blue (one more time - they were '58 - '60?) way better than "our whites" for looks.

"...If you had a '63 it was..."
that's part of my inquirey w/U. Cant remember what yr, would like to seperate it from the pinnafarrina-like (ur blue). The
interwebs write upS are not clear enuff for my thick skull. Saw a wagon version ('59) on-line aday ago. WoW, really struck
my eye (I'm called "Wagonman" round here I owned so many). Black. Just saw the 3/4 rear. Rounded like the "squarback"
a ve dub waggy (VW language: Type 3) '61/73. Serviced my ♀︎ fr's, a '67, last w/o FI, 1 of the 1 efi cars to have it...

This is all remindin me of "transition' vehicles (caught between). My fox waggy is one ('85 LTD) for carb/tbi/efi, motor (4 cyl, i6, bent6, v8), several trannies (C4/5, AOD), 'coke bottle' from square 'style' (we're still in), & more... This car too (for 3 years only?).
 
Thanks for the detailed sharing! After some testing at .035" plug gap, I'd like to see what changes you find with the original TFI plug gap of .054". Likewise, the added energy and longer spark burn should allow leaning of cruise substantially. This was one of the purposes of TFI originally, to meet emissions with better combustion, and economy requirements with leaner cruise, but you have to tune for it. It doesn't "just happen".
 
Thanks for the detailed sharing! After some testing at .035" plug gap, I'd like to see what changes you find with the original TFI plug gap of .054". Likewise, the added energy and longer spark burn should allow leaning of cruise substantially. This was one of the purposes of TFI originally, to meet emissions with better combustion, and economy requirements with leaner cruise, but you have to tune for it. It doesn't "just happen".
Welcome to the forum PSIG! Thanks for the post, your suggestions are good.
There won't be any opening the gap up anymore. Any other engine I'd tweak to death for every ounce of power/economy. The distributor cap is very small, and I don't want crossover arcing inside it from increasing the gap. The plugs for this 1940's tech engine are Champion 8's- same as cheap lawnmowers. By design the plug electrode won't open that far without being way off perpendicular to the center electrode. The plug is in the path of the incoming air charge, almost in contact with the intake valve, putting a deeper plug in it with a taller electrode is not an option on this flathead. It's not necessary.

The carb- original small bore Carter YF - runs slightly rich. To eliminate a lean sag at off-idle I shimmed the metering rod/accelerator pump link arm inside the bowl. This raised the metering rod slightly as an undesired but unavoidable side effect. I may reduce the jet, but there is no urgency to it. The car is driven 8 miles per day, 4 miles one-way, stop-n-go city streets, at 40 mph max. Mileage is only 14 mpg. However this is only 1.35 gallons per engine hour which is reasonable, and with an automatic trans. It runs "beautifully" as is, it's my wife's car and she is content with it. I'm not tuning for max lean economy on this vehicle. "If it ain't broke don't fix it. When mama's happy, I'm happy".
 
I love it!
The only thing I would do differently would be to use a TFI/HEI coil and leave the gaps at stock; the higher inductance will provide a longer duration spark and the small gap ensures that the voltage never builds up too high. Secondary voltage only builds up until the spark is able to jump the gap, and no higher regardless of the advertised voltage numbers.

I wouldn't do this unless I had a coil available for really cheap though because the gains will be very small.

Is this the engine that has the intake manifold cast into the block and the cheapy looking tubing exhaust?
 
I love it!
The only thing I would do differently would be to use a TFI/HEI coil and leave the gaps at stock; the higher inductance will provide a longer duration spark and the small gap ensures that the voltage never builds up too high. Secondary voltage only builds up until the spark is able to jump the gap, and no higher regardless of the advertised voltage numbers.

I wouldn't do this unless I had a coil available for really cheap though because the gains will be very small.

Is this the engine that has the intake manifold cast into the block and the cheapy looking tubing exhaust?
Hey Joe. Yes, the intake is cast in the block, the carb sits on the head. The exhaust has no manifold. It's got mirrored cylinders, so the 3 exhaust ports have a curved lip on the block which mates with the 1 7/8" exhaust pipe. Rectangle cutouts in the pipe let the port gasses directly into the pipe. Held on with 3 clamps, one over each pair of ports. Seals with no gasket. Maybe a flow nightmare, but finding a smoother, even-pitched sounding engine would be tough. With the solid lifters and that exhaust, it's the perfect classic I6 sound-sample.
Happen to have a pic, cause I've pulled the exhaust off the block to access the valves, for a lash adjustment.
 

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Yup, that's the engine I was thinking it is. Super simple and economical to build. I see it also has the stock air cleaner as well, they didn't even put a silencer-type air cleaner box on the base models.
 
Yup, that's the engine I was thinking it is. Super simple and economical to build. I see it also has the stock air cleaner as well, they didn't even put a silencer-type air cleaner box on the base models.
Correct. Wish the airhorn would match up with the snorkel filters, I've got a perfect one off a 230 Chevy. Cooler air and less noise.
It is simple- valve spring pressure in the book: 37-41 pounds closed, 75-82 pounds open. . No concern wiping a cam with this one.
 
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