Pertronix Ignition

Dear Dr. Motorhead,

Where is Piston, your trusted assistant?

Haven’t heard much from him in a long time. And by the way, who are you anyway?
I won’t tell you until you tell me.

Dear anonymous,
I am Dr. Motorhead. I am me. This is my real name. Well, I should say, a derivative of my real name. My great grandfather came to the United States from Germany. When he arrived, he did not want to use his German surname which was Motorkaupf. He Americanized it and renamed himself Motorhead so he would not get confused with all the other German immigrants named Motorkaupf. His first name was Freidenberger. He shortened that to just plain old Fred. My parents named me Fred in his honor. So, there you have it; that’s who I am – Fred Motorhead. Oh, by the way, I heard a funny one the other day. Someone thought I was Steve Merjanian writing under an alias. Impossible. You see, he is an Armenian, not German and besides, he only knows a fraction of what I know. In fact, he calls me from time to time for advice. I am happy to do so as I enjoy giving you all advice. So don’t forget to keep writing in with your questions.

I am glad you asked about Piston. He is doing very well. Currently he is studying at the University of Hawaii, getting straight A’s and is the Captain of the hockey team. I’m very proud of him. He will be back in Minnesota this summer helping me with continued research and catching up on all the filing that’s been ignored since his departure in late August.

Those weren’t very difficult questions to answer. Can’t you come up with something tuffer (sic) than that? And, incidentally, I know who you are.

Dr. Motorhead, the one and only.


Dear Dr. Motorhead,
I have heard much talk and read a number of articles pertaining to the installation and use of electronic ignitions in our older boats. What do you think of this modern day wizardry? Is it all that they say it is? Are there any adverse effects with it’s use? Do I need to know how to operate a computer? Or, are these questions just pointless?
Nan O. Second

Dear Nan,
Nice to know women are getting involved. Your questions are not pointless, but your distributor will soon be. It’s a new century, get with the flow gang, move onward and experience the electronic age. It’s simple and painless; you will love it, your engine will love it, even your pocketbook will love it. And no, you don’t need to know how to operate a computer.

Here is how it works: The mechanical distributor tells the coil when to send spark to the spark plugs. This is done via the contact points inside the distributor. I have written about this before, so I won’t bore you with all the details again. These points get worn out, pitted, corroded, out of spec (point gap or dwell) and won’t allow your engine to perform it’s best.

What will you need to do when you convert our distributor to an electronic type? Simply replace the old breaker points with a new electronic module. There is a company, PerTonix Inc., that manufacturers the conversion kits for just about every distributor – new and old. You need to talk to an automotive parts dealer who carries the PerTronix line of equipment. You must bring them the number on the identification tag attached to your distributor. Order one up, and wait with anticipation for your order to arrive. You should be as excited as when you were a kid waiting for your Nabisco Spoonmen to arrive in the mail. When your package finally arrives, open the box and take a look. Your first thought will be, “is this all I get?”. That’s it, simple as pie.

Go to your boat, remove your distributor cap, remove the rotor and look to see what’s left. There is an aluminum plate which the breaker points are attached to. You are going to remove this. The plate is fastened with two small screws on the sides, take them out and remove the plate. Now you will see the counter weights and springs which are the mechanical spark advance mechanism. Using WD 40 or the like, squirt these down good, get ’em clean and easy to move. No big deal at all. Next, open the box and fetch the new plate with the electronic module attached. Re-install the new plate. Install the magnetic collar over the rotor shaft. Re-install the rotor and the cap. Connect the black wire to the negative post on the coil and the red wire to the positive post on the coil. There you have it – converted, with nothing more to adjust, file, clean or deal with again. I would also recommend installing one of PerTronixs’ high output coils and a set of high performance spark plug wires.
How does all this work? Briefly, the collar has small magnets inside. These magnets pass by the module and trigger the electronics to complete the circuit, thereby igniting the coil.

Positives: better performance (more rpm), more horsepower, engine burns cleaner, never have to change or adjust points again, no more condenser and this system is not affected by moisture, great attribute in a boat. Easy to do, even for you neophytes (got this word from Piston). Also comes with the Dr. Motorhead seal of approval.

Negatives: you must convert your boat to a 12 volt system, there is an extra wire coming from your distributor, judges may deduct for that extra wire. You may chose to connect your red wire someplace less conspicuous than the coil. If so, it should be connected to the positive side of the ignition switch.

Looking for ways to get that little extra out of that flat head engine of yours? Count this as tip number one.
Signing off for now,

Dr. Motorhead.