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Thread: Is MSD Multi-Spark Ignition and 123 Distributor a recommended combination?

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    Is MSD Multi-Spark Ignition and 123 Distributor a recommended combination?

    Hi Everyone.
    I have been reading the large number of glowing reports regarding the beneftis of the 123 Electronic programmable Distributor for the 190SL, but almost no discussion on the MSD Multi-spark ignition, so I was hoping that someone who understands these matters could comment on whether the combination of the two would be even more desirable for improved idle and high rpm response.

    I installed an MSD ignition system on my '71 Porsche 911T and found it terriific. The benefit of the MSD systm is that it provides multiple sparks across 20 degrees of distributor angle, rather than just a single spark. As a result each cylinder gets multiple ignition zapps as the piston move down, thus creating more effective and efficient combustion. It is the must-have mod for ealry 911s.
    The Bosch distributors used on the 911 seem less liable to fail in the advance department, and while 123 Distributors were used by some 911 enthusiats, they are not as highly recomended as they are for the 190SL.

    So I'm super interested to learn if anyone is running both an MSD system and a 123 Distributor in their 190SL and what their impressions are of the combination on idle, smoothnes and power.

    regards
    Jeff

  2. #2
    Administrator wpuryear's Avatar
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    My two cents - mostly hype. Having ignition is like being pregnant, either you have it or you don’t. One advantage to electronic ignition i’ve observed is a little better starting, i assume from sharper “point opening” at slow speed resulting in a better spark. Miles per gallon have been identical to points so no observable improvement in efficiency.

    Electronic points being a no wear and no drift item certainly makes them a plus. If you were racing and wanted that extra one quarter percent edge then high energy coils and extended spark might be advantageous.

    Walt

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    Re: Is MSD Multi-Spark Ignition and 123 Distributor a recommended combination?

    I have no experience with the MSD ignition, but I do have a 123 distributer. The 123 has an electronic advance (the main advantage over a mechanical advance in my opinion), but it also contains an electronic ignition. I don’t see how it could be run in combination with another electronic ignition device.
    Greg Peirce
    Beaufort, SC

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    Administrator JimVillers's Avatar
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    Re: Is MSD Multi-Spark Ignition and 123 Distributor a recommended combination?

    Jeff .... Jut to add another data point, I prefer the original distributor with a Pertronix electronic module. I also use the Pertronix on my 356 and my 911 with never a issue. The electronic module compensates for any wear in the distributor (it uses position versus a gap) so even an older distributor works well. I have a Malory on my MGB and find that it also works well. As Walt says, all you need is a spark.
    Jim Villers
    1961 190SL, 230SL 5-speed, MGB 5-speed, Boxster 'S'; Porsche 356C; 1967 Porsche 911; 1950 Jeep CJ3A; 1958 190SL "Frosty"

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    Re: Is MSD Multi-Spark Ignition and 123 Distributor a recommended combination?

    That's a interesting point Jim.
    I have used Pertronix and HotSpark units in all my older cars for years and like you, have never had an issue with any of them.
    My interest in the 123 Distributor was due to the large number of problems our fellow members have reported in trying to get the correct amount of advance on the original distributors, which lack the benefit of vacuum advance.
    You seem to infer in your post that these ignition modcules can somehow compensate for the poor advance often found in our original distributors.
    Can you expand on that a little more? If the HotSpark K19 on the original distributor give a similar perfroamce to the 123 Distributors, then I can certainly use the 350 Euros better elsewhere.

    I feel that Multi-spark is a different question entirely and I am keen to hear from anyone who is running one in a 190SL.

    regards and thanks
    Jeff Edwards - Perth, Western Australia

    Current Garage
    1963 Mercedes 190SL
    1953 Series 1 SWB Land Rover
    2007 Mercedes SL350 (daily driver)
    2017 Audi Q3

    Previous Restorations
    1971 Porsche 911T
    1969 Mercedes 250SL Pagoda
    1967 Aston Martin DBS
    1971 BMW 2002 Cabriolet
    1932 Austin 7 Tourer

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    Administrator JimVillers's Avatar
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    Re: Is MSD Multi-Spark Ignition and 123 Distributor a recommended combination?

    Jeff .... The Pertronix cannot compensate for a broken advance weight spring but they can compensate for a warn shaft bearing that will let the shaft wobble a couple of thousands or so (thus changing the dwell and timing). Replacing broken advance springs and oiling the advance system is easy.
    Jim Villers
    1961 190SL, 230SL 5-speed, MGB 5-speed, Boxster 'S'; Porsche 356C; 1967 Porsche 911; 1950 Jeep CJ3A; 1958 190SL "Frosty"

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    Re: Is MSD Multi-Spark Ignition and 123 Distributor a recommended combination?

    Jeff

    I have a programmable 123 ignition with a discreetly mounted MSD6A box on my 300SL which works awesome. I started out with points/MSD, then Pertonix/MSD, ultimately landing on the current set up, after I learned that 123 is compatible with MSD. Being directly fuel injected & forced to run today's California blend of sour mash fuel, I figure the ignition needs all the help it can get. I do blend in 118 racing gas for similar reasons.

    My other data point is my 220SE with 123 only, it runs very nice & smoothly, especially at stable 800 rpm idle. This was never possible with conventional weights & springs since the advance is supposed to come in at 830-850 rpm. The fuel injection & advance were always competing at idle, resulting in a constant hunt/surge. For your 190, my opinion is that you will always notice the 123 improvement, and the addition of the MSD can't hurt.
    Bob West

    '60 220se Cab
    '55 300sl

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    Re: Is MSD Multi-Spark Ignition and 123 Distributor a recommended combination?

    Thanks Bob, your insight, is very helpful as are all the opinions of our Forum's experts. It make the lives of we mere generalists much easier and rewarding.
    Thanks to all for your inputs.
    regards
    jeff
    Jeff Edwards - Perth, Western Australia

    Current Garage
    1963 Mercedes 190SL
    1953 Series 1 SWB Land Rover
    2007 Mercedes SL350 (daily driver)
    2017 Audi Q3

    Previous Restorations
    1971 Porsche 911T
    1969 Mercedes 250SL Pagoda
    1967 Aston Martin DBS
    1971 BMW 2002 Cabriolet
    1932 Austin 7 Tourer

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    23K Original Miles slover's Avatar
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    Re: Is MSD Multi-Spark Ignition and 123 Distributor a recommended combination?

    my understanding of the issue is that if a cup of water will put out the flame of a match, is a gallon of water better? Apparently you get a stronger spark with MSD, but is it a benefit?
    John Lewenauer - Newsletter Editor - Regional Director
    1961 190 SL
    Click here to EMAIL me

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    Re: Is MSD Multi-Spark Ignition and 123 Distributor a recommended combination?

    You have a valid point, John. It's called punch through. MSD gives a longer duration hot spark, but a spark way too hot is not good. Dr Jacobs discusses it in his book:

    https://www.amazon.com/Doctors-Step-.../dp/0965085600

    "The ignition bible, every technician must have one"

    Cheers,
    Bob West

    '60 220se Cab
    '55 300sl

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    Re: Is MSD Multi-Spark Ignition and 123 Distributor a recommended combination?

    Hi Bob, I think the question is not one of termperature of the spark, but more of maintence of ignition throughout the combustion cycle.
    Our cars and their engineering is now over 60 years old and we all see blackened spark plugs proving that combusion is not always perfect.

    Modern cars achieve near perfect and complete combustion constantly, by using EFI, O2 sensors and other various combustion management tools our cars simply dont have.

    The concept behind Multi-spark is that the repeated ingition sparks throughout the combusion cyle avoids conbustion blow-outs and inefficiencies caused by over or under fueling at various speeds. My understanding is that multi-spark simply optimises combusiton in the chamber during the cumbusion cycle, at a time when the dynamics are constantly changing. In our standard single-shot igniton we fire one spark, at around 40 degress BTDC, which initiates a flame front that we hope will expand in the chamber to cause 100% ignition of the available fuel/ air mix provided by the carburettors.
    Now we all know that does not always work perfectly, otherwise we would never see blackended plugs and carboned valves.

    All mutlispak does is to apply multiple sparks throughout the combusion phase so that we (hopefully) get better fuel detonation. You could do this far better by installing modern EFI, but most us don't want to go that far, so a fairly low cost, easy to insall Multi-spark system seems to me to be good bit of insurance that I am burn ing all the costly gas that I am putting into the combusion chamber.

    There is some good data on this at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics...ng/flame-front
    or a clear illustration YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2mTMDZMn9Y

    regards
    Jeff
    Jeff Edwards - Perth, Western Australia

    Current Garage
    1963 Mercedes 190SL
    1953 Series 1 SWB Land Rover
    2007 Mercedes SL350 (daily driver)
    2017 Audi Q3

    Previous Restorations
    1971 Porsche 911T
    1969 Mercedes 250SL Pagoda
    1967 Aston Martin DBS
    1971 BMW 2002 Cabriolet
    1932 Austin 7 Tourer

  12. #12
    Registered User tommd's Avatar
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    Re: Is MSD Multi-Spark Ignition and 123 Distributor a recommended combination?

    So Multi-Spark took the idea from Ford! The Model T Ford (and I am sure others) had an ignition system that would supply three to four sparks per combustion.

    I certainly do not proclaim to be overly knowledgeable on the theory's, but I am with Walt on this. Sounds like a sales pitch to me. Once the mixture is started, a second spark would be of little help to continue the flame front compared to the burning that is already going on. Plus, the second spark would almost certainly be in the "exhaust/burnt" area of the combustion chamber and not where there is unburned fuel to ignite. If Multi-spark were a solid concept, I would expect many/all current cars to use it. Do any? I do not know of any, but maybe it is standard practice that I am not aware of. I believe the black plugs, etc., is not typically ignition related, but fuel, combustion chamber design, etc. related.

    I am in the camp that says a good breaker point system, working well, will do "about" as good as any upgrade. Yes, the 123, etc., can improve on ignition curve, and all can improve on low maintenance, but I believe most improvements are more in the head than the engine.


    However, if you try it, and it can help my hard hot starting issue... I may have to give it a try!
    Tom D.
    1961 190SL

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