123ignition distributor - 15000 miles road test - Alfa Romeo Bulletin Board & Forums

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post #1 of 240 (permalink) Old 10-10-2009, 06:30 PM Thread Starter
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123ignition distributor - 15000 miles road test

There is alot of information about the 123ignition distributor scattered through a number of threads. I decided to sum up my experiences after 22 months and 15k miles of use.
This is the distributor that is sold by IAP for a little over $400. It is also available from some of the European Alfa parts places and it may be worthwhile checking them out if you plan to purchase. Keep an eye on the exchange rate and shipping costs.
I installed mine on my Spider in December 2007. It is a fairly hot motor with:

ported head (standard valves) by Richard Jemison
RJ136/785 cams - the same as or similar to the ones in Andy Besic's 200+ HP race motor
10:1 Motronic pistons
Weber 40DCOE116/117 carbs with 34mm venturis and Euro airbox
Shankle headers

The best part about the 123 is that the advance curves are accurate. I think that the claims for stronger sparks are questionable as it cannot be used with a low impedance, high energy coil.

The blurb lists 16 selectable curves but in reality there are "only" 8. Of these 8 distinct curves, 3 of them are for 1300 & 1600 motors and 5 are for 1750/2000 motors.

The Marelli 103B curve #F is very similar to the Bosch 0.231.178.006 and I doubt that anyone would be able to detect much difference between them, so there are 4 distinct 2L curves. I tried them all.

The Bosch 0.231.178.006 curve #A is a slow curve intended for low emisions. It enables a slow steady idle but produces mediocre throttle response and fuel consumption. It may be a good choice if you want to run on lower grade gasoline.

The Bosch 0.231.110.045 curve #1 is the standard Alfa curve for Euopean, carburetted cars. It is a good compromise curve. Decent throttle seponse, good idle and fuel consumption and slow enough to accomodate a lot of high rpm advance. I ran this curve with 40 degrees full advance with no pinging on 91 octane gas.

The Shankle 4255 curve #E has the best throttle response. The problem is with the idle. The curve is so steep in the 800-1500 range that the idle either climbs to about 1500 rpm or drops to 700. It is difficult to get it to idle at any rpm in between and I had to almost stall the engine to get it to settle at 700. It is a shame since the performance between 2000 and 3000 is outstanding.

The "006 tuning" curve #D is the Jim Karamalakis curve. It seems to be the best choice for my engine. The idle is easy to adjust since the curve is flat at 1000 rpm and the throttle response is good, if not as good as the Shankle.

The 123ignition website says that it is not compatible with electronic ignition boxes. This is clearly incorrect. I have mine hooked up to an MSD 6AL box. It fires a Milano, low impedance coil. I have the spark plug gaps opened up to 040". I expect that it is also compatible with Crane spark boxes.

I am very happy with this setup. My engine as considerable piston blowby and fairly high oil consumption. Plug fouling has been an issue for quite a while. The sparks from the 123/MSD combo are strong enough to prevent most of the hesitation that I had previously encountered. The engine revs easily to 7500 rpm and appears not to be limited by the ignition.

The distributor is well made but you need excellent eyesight or a magnifying glass and good light to see the curve selector switch.

IAP imply that you can set up the distributor using only the "P" mark. This is true if you have a variable delay timing light, but this is also true for any distributor. It is necessary to mark the pulley with the correct "F" mark for the curve of your choice if yopu are to use the static timing method. I always check the timing at maximum advance as I have found that the static timing methods usually produce errors.

I recommend the 123ignition distributor to anyone who wants to get away from the vagaries of centrifugal advance mechanisms. It is a big improvement on the Shankle/Marelliplex that I had before.
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Ed Prytherch
79 Spider
85 GTV6 3L
76 Suzuki GT500

A little government and a little luck are necessary in life, but only a fool trusts either of them. - P.J. O'Rourke

Last edited by alfaparticle; 10-10-2009 at 06:37 PM.
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post #2 of 240 (permalink) Old 10-11-2009, 09:24 AM
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I just wanted to say "thank you" for your well organized and informative post. Most helpful and when I get further into this topic I may be looking for some more help (new 1750 coming). Nice job!
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Gene
'71 GTV 1750 USA SPICA
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post #3 of 240 (permalink) Old 10-11-2009, 12:49 PM
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Very cool.

Sniady
'how the devil do they do that with a live rear axle?'

Last edited by Sniady; 10-11-2009 at 07:06 PM.
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post #4 of 240 (permalink) Old 10-12-2009, 05:13 PM
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Thumbs up

Thanks to Alfaparticle for his review... I had my 123ignition successfully installed after numerous advice from him.

Last edited by maxbg; 10-12-2009 at 06:28 PM.
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post #5 of 240 (permalink) Old 10-22-2009, 07:14 AM
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Kudos to alfaparticle for an excellent write-up (I know I printed it off and filed it). I'm hoping Ed (or anyone for that matter) might give me some advice for my situation?

1969 1750 Spider (European spec. with euro cams, Bosch ...041 JF4 distributor, etc.), completely stock other than a recent top-end re-do (new guides, valve grind, etc.) Strong engine.

Have purchased the 123ignition to replace my Pertronix-equipped Bosch distributor as the rest of it is just worn out and would not let the idle come down at stops unless you try to stall it with the clutch.

Can't figure out which advance curve setting to use. The "M" mark on my original pulley measures out at 43 degrees (2-4 degrees static), which is backed up with a chart in an old Alfa Ricambi/Shankle catalog. Seems awfully high.
Do I go with any of the settings #4 through #9 (all the same as far as I can tell) or go with the 045 setting (#1), or try the "006-tuning" one (D). I am still a little fuzzy on how different advance curves affect the everyday characteristics of an engine, hence my hesitancy.

Would going with the 006-tuning curve be okay on an otherwise stock 1750 (albeit a European model)?

I have a replacement Spica pulley on my engine (the 1750 one cracked in the keyway) and I just finished putting marks at 43, 40, and 38 degrees as I get ready to install the 123.

Any thoughts?
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post #6 of 240 (permalink) Old 10-22-2009, 08:25 AM Thread Starter
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I would try the 045 curve first. The choice of max advance is yours. I suspect that you will be able to run with 43 degrees without pinging. For my pinging tests I filled the tank with 50% premium and 50% mid grade. That gives me some safety margin as I normally run on premium. I gave it WOT at various rpms in 5th gear. If it going to ping it will most likely be in the 3000 to 4000 range.

You probably don't need the 006 tuning curve unless you have long duration cams.

Ed Prytherch
79 Spider
85 GTV6 3L
76 Suzuki GT500

A little government and a little luck are necessary in life, but only a fool trusts either of them. - P.J. O'Rourke
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post #7 of 240 (permalink) Old 10-22-2009, 01:47 PM
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Thanks Ed! The info is much appreciated. Now, on to installation. Looking forward to the upgrade.

Regards,
RSJ
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post #8 of 240 (permalink) Old 10-25-2009, 08:00 AM
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OK so here is a really stupid question. What is the benefit of running the MSD in addition to the electronic distributor over just the electronic distributor without the MSD? The coil is the same in either case, right? So is the MSD somehow conditioning the spark in some way that is beneficial? Would I be likely to notice this on a stock engine? Thanks!

Gene
'71 GTV 1750 USA SPICA
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post #9 of 240 (permalink) Old 10-25-2009, 02:30 PM Thread Starter
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I thought that I explained that in the first post. The 123 will not fire a low impedance, high energy coil.

Ed Prytherch
79 Spider
85 GTV6 3L
76 Suzuki GT500

A little government and a little luck are necessary in life, but only a fool trusts either of them. - P.J. O'Rourke
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post #10 of 240 (permalink) Old 10-25-2009, 03:00 PM
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On RJ's advice, I've ordered two 123 Distributors.

One for "Giulietta", which is running and one for" Giulia"--for spring.

Bob,
Director BC Chapter SNO.
Avatar is the 69 Super, bought new.
Current Ride: 67 Super, bought in 2013: Red/Black, "Tuned" 2 L.
Daily drivers, beginning in 1965: 750 Spider, Giulia Spider, 105 Sprint GT, 101 Sprint, 69 Super, 79 Alfetta Sedan. Collectors beginning in 2006: 101 Spider, 101 Sprint. Both sold.

Last edited by Subtle; 10-25-2009 at 09:57 PM.
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post #11 of 240 (permalink) Old 10-25-2009, 04:37 PM
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OK alfaparticle thanks for the explanation. I obviously missed that part. So I guess the MSD is acting as an electronic switch? The magnetic contacts in the electronic distributor trigger the MSD which in turn connects the high energy coil to the sparkplug? Sorry to be so linear here but I'm trying to understand exactly what is happening in the circuit. Thanks.

Gene
'71 GTV 1750 USA SPICA
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post #12 of 240 (permalink) Old 03-29-2010, 10:53 AM
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Curves for smaller motors

Since this seems to be the go-to thread for 123ignition info I'll resurrect it rather than start a new thread.

Ed's given a lot of great info for 2L motors. Anybody have any info on the smaller engines? I just got a 123ignition for a hybrid 1600 / 1750. That's a 1600, bored out for 1750 pistons. It's mostly a stock motor, with the late 1600 / early 1750 cams, stock valves, but with substantially higher compression due to a head shaved about .050.

Oh, and just to add to the equation, I'm using the stock 2 bbl Giulietta manifold with a Weber 28/36 DCD. Any general ideas before I just start playing around? I'm still waiting for a few bits and bobs before I can reassemble my engine, but thought I'd solicit feedback before I get started.

-Jason

Jason Arrington
1989 Spider driver
1974 Spider restoration project
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post #13 of 240 (permalink) Old 03-29-2010, 11:04 AM
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As part of my Spring Tuning plan, the 123 will be installed on my Spider--soon.

Looking forward to the results.

Gordon Raymond has some advice on changing the intake manifold on single carbs that provides outstanding results.

Bob,
Director BC Chapter SNO.
Avatar is the 69 Super, bought new.
Current Ride: 67 Super, bought in 2013: Red/Black, "Tuned" 2 L.
Daily drivers, beginning in 1965: 750 Spider, Giulia Spider, 105 Sprint GT, 101 Sprint, 69 Super, 79 Alfetta Sedan. Collectors beginning in 2006: 101 Spider, 101 Sprint. Both sold.
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post #14 of 240 (permalink) Old 03-29-2010, 04:16 PM Thread Starter
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Four of the curves are reproductions of Bosch distributors for 1300/1600/1750 engines. I would start out with one of them. They typically provide more maximum advance for the same static advance. Your higher compression ratio may require less maximum advance. The 123 is nice because you can try the different curves and see the difference.

Ed Prytherch
79 Spider
85 GTV6 3L
76 Suzuki GT500

A little government and a little luck are necessary in life, but only a fool trusts either of them. - P.J. O'Rourke
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post #15 of 240 (permalink) Old 03-29-2010, 08:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alfaparticle View Post
Four of the curves are reproductions of Bosch distributors for 1300/1600/1750 engines. I would start out with one of them. They typically provide more maximum advance for the same static advance. Your higher compression ratio may require less maximum advance. The 123 is nice because you can try the different curves and see the difference.
Thanks, Ed. I was hoping you would chime in. I think I'll start with the 4-9 curve and dial it in from there.

Best,
Jason

Jason Arrington
1989 Spider driver
1974 Spider restoration project
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