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Hot Rods Dual Point or Magneto? The great debate.

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by stubbsrodandcustom, May 27, 2022.

  1. Magneto All the Way

  2. Points Are Fun To Play

  3. I Still Believe In Petronix yet its left me on the side of the road 20 times.

    0 vote(s)
  1. stubbsrodandcustom
    Joined: Dec 28, 2010
    Posts: 1,744

    from Spring tx

    I just picked up a Wico X Magneto, its got voltage spinning it, so will probably run. I picked it up for future use on something as I have a perfectly good Mallory Dual point on my banger. But it sparked wanting to see what the masses are doing. So what do you like better and why? I personally am a points guy, this is my first magneto but I like the idea of magneto.

    Hillbilly Werewolf likes this.
  2. tubman
    Joined: May 16, 2007
    Posts: 6,146


    I can only speak from racing experience, but if you're running high compression and racing fuel, a magneto helps. The hemi in my vintage dirt car (avatar) has 12.5: 1 pistons and I ran 108 octane gas. Initially, the car ran a modified stock dual point distributor. Subsequently, I had a chance to pick up a Cirello Frankenstein magneto for the car. I bought it mainly for looks and braggin' rights, but it seemed to wake the car up and it ran better. The best word I can find to describe it is that the engine was crisper. The car had been Minnesota State Stock car champion in 1966 and I had a chance to talk to one of the original builders and owners. When they ran the car, it had a modified Olds Rocket engine. He told me that back then, the one thing that really woke the car up was the installation of a magneto.

    They are not without problems. After running it for 6 or 7 years, the car became hard to start. I turns out that the magnets have to be renewed periodically, at a substantial cost. If you want the best, you can upgrade to rare earth magnets for even a higher cost. Luckily, Cirello is still in business and offers this service. After talking to Tom Cirello, I decided to sell him the magneto for a lot more than I paid for it. I had a Mallory "flattop" distributor for the Chrysler, so I installed that. I'm getting too old for this racing business, and the Mallory still looks cool enough to retain braggin' rights.

    Bottom line? I don't think the time and trouble of running a magneto on the street is worth it. But they do look cool and you still have them braggin' rights.:D

    From the looks of it, the magneto pictured will probably need significant work to make it viable again. Good Luck.
    GordonC likes this.
  3. Hollywood-East
    Joined: Mar 13, 2008
    Posts: 1,762


    I'm in the Mag camp...
    Won't build anything without...
    As a kid they were always that "mystery" part to me...
    Having owned over a dozen, An have a distributor machine to spin them.
    Desoto291Hemi and LAROKE like this.
  4. bschwoeble
    Joined: Oct 20, 2008
    Posts: 795


    Oh man! What a debate. I have two Vertex mags and hope to use one in a car that I'm building. There is a mystique about seeing a mag in a street driven car. What to do.
    LAROKE likes this.

  5. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 22,970


    I like Mags but they can be finicky. I would send it off and have rare earth magnets installed. You will be money ahead.
  6. Hillbilly Werewolf
    Joined: Dec 13, 2007
    Posts: 352

    Hillbilly Werewolf

    I can't afford a vintage magneto, so I am building a dual point dizzy for my car. Also, I like having a vacuum advance for pep on the street.

    That said, if I had a magneto, I would likely run it. They are cool as hell!!
  7. Neither one .......I converted all my SBC dual point distributors to Pertronix.......20+ years trouble free, and no point bounce issues that come with 7000+ RPM.
  8. Single point, Capacitive Discharge.
    Joined: Jun 6, 2007
    Posts: 4,316


    I have cars with both.
    For the strip I like a mag.

    For the street a mag can be somewhat problematic.
    -They have no vacuum advance device so mileage will suffer.
    -Many do not even have mechanical advance and are run "locked". That leads to hard starting and a loss in driveability or fuel economy.
    -Since the spark voltage output is proportional to RPM voltage at idle speeds is sometimes not enough to keep from plug fouling. You can raise idle speed or shrink the plug gaps down to .015" or so. Rare earth magnets can get by with a little more gap - .025".
    -Getting a tachometer signal requires either a mag with a cable tach drive or a converter box to transmit a signal to the tach.

    I use dual points on my street/strip cars and my nostalgia drag cars but on my front line bracket racer (avatar) its a mag
  10. Jmountainjr
    Joined: Dec 29, 2006
    Posts: 1,449


    I have no idea what parts are available for your Wico mag. But a properly set up mag should be a reliable setup. Speaking for Vertex mags:
    * The rare earth magnet conversion isn't that expensive; eliminates the requirement to recharge; takes the average 1 amp output mag and bumps it up to between 2 ans 2.5 amps.
    * Install a 12 degree (mag degree - 24 engine degree) advance plate and you'll get your 32 to 34 degrees advance.
    * Run a tach drive for a cable tach or run a ProControl and pull the drive signal off the box.
    * The no vac advance is a legit issue. However in a light car it's pretty much a non-issue.
    * A mag does not play nice with electronics, so use are stuck with a carb.
    Not everyone's cup of tea, but if you want one it shouldn't be a liability.
    SS327, Desoto291Hemi and LAROKE like this.
  11. Kelly Burns
    Joined: May 22, 2009
    Posts: 1,002

    Kelly Burns

    I've got 3 engines I'm building (single carb BBC, dual quad SBC and blown BBC) that will all see mostly street use. I'd love, I mean love to run a mag, but I've heard so much like @THE FRENCHTOWN FLYER said, I see as much of a vintage looking dual point as I can find being used.
  12. I agree with Jim ,,,,,,he explained it in a manner that gives the facts,,,,not just an opinion .
    There are pros and cons to mags,,,,,,just use what suits your application.

    SS327 likes this.
  13. Harv
    Joined: Jan 16, 2008
    Posts: 433

    from Sydney

    A looooooong debated issue. Attached below for interest the text from an article published in Custom Rodder October 1962 Volume 11 Number 4. The article compares the advantages and disadvantages of maggies and dual-point dizzies.

    THE HOT IGNITION systems available to hot rodders today consist of dual point conversion kits, hot coils, dual coil setups and last but not least, the magneto. Installing dual breaker points and a hot coil is a fine addition to a stock or mildly reworked mill. However, for maximum output on a hot super stocker or an all-out competition car the only choices are the magnetos or the dual coil distributors. With Detroit raising the cubic inches, horsepower and compression ratios each year, the demands of the electrical output of the stock ignition systems is also greater. Many of the hot Detroit mills need more efficient ignition systems than they are equipped with, but the high cost is prohibitive. Both the dual coil and magneto systems have advantages and disadvantages. However, your the one who must make the decision, if you want a top machine.

    Points to think about are initial cost, maintenance, ease of installation and long term cost. This article can not make up your mind for you but it does describe and evaluate the fine points and principles of both systems and it points out their advantages and disadvantages.

    Thanks to the crew at Strick's Speed Shop, 1816 14th St. N.W., Washington D. C., we were able to take photos of the different systems inside this article. Remember don't neglect the ignition end of a hot mill, unless you want to be known as "an also ran."

    One of the most popular magnetos used by rodders is the Scintilla Vertex magneto manufactured in Soleure, Switzerland and reworked in the United States, by Joe Hunt in California and Ronco in Pennsylvania. This magneto can be used on a large variety of mills by simply changing the shaft and gears to match the setup used on the stock distributor.

    The Vertex has a fully adjustable weight advance mechanism which allows the mag's advance curve to be tailored to any mill. By simply adjusting the spring tension of the platinum-tipped points, they will operate efficiently at speeds of 8,000 plus rpm. Vertex magnetos range in price from 105 dollars to 165 dollars. Now lets get down to the basic principle of the magneto ignition system.

    A magneto has the unique feature of generating higher voltage as the engine rpm's increase, the opposite of a stock ignition system. In other words, the voltage of the primary current for a magneto coil is at its lowest value at low rpm and at its highest value at high rpms. It's like having your cake and also eating it!

    The use of different weights (plates) enables you to control the magneto's (Vertex) ignition advance curve . On a competition car the installation of a magneto such as the Vertex is a simple matter, however, a street car requires a little more wiring work. The magneto can operate without a battery, its source of electricity coming from within itself, rather than from an exterior source. Basically, it's a small electric generator which builds up a charge as the armature rotates through the permanent magnetic field.

    The complete magneto ignition system is built into one compact case (except the Mallory Mini-Mag), containing the points, coil, -etc. Although compact, the Vertex magneto stands approximately 1½ inches higher than a stock distributor, sometimes causing a clearance problem when the car is running a Jimmy blower.

    Most magneto systems are only available with a centrifugal advance mechanism, not offering some of the street advantages of vacuum and centrifugal advance. When a magneto is used in a street car utilizing a battery, a special relay must be used between the ignition switch and the magneto to correctly open and close the magneto's primary circuit. This is not necessary for a competition car.

    Construction of the popular magneto systems such as the Vertex, Mallory, Harmon-Collins, is far superior to that of any stock ignition system, the only one coming close is the Spaulding Flamethrower discussed in the dual coil section. All in all the magneto system is just about the finest ignition setup available.

    Dual coil systems on the market today are manufactured by Spaulding, Kong, Harmon - Collins and W&H. Prices range from 69 dollars for the W&H DuCoil to 108 dollars for the popular Spaulding Flamethrower, plus the cost of an additional one or two coils. To illustrate an example of a dual coil system we chose the Flamethrower unit, one of the finest around.

    The Flamethrower is not a reworked stock distributor, it's a beautifully made unit very similar in appearance to that of a magneto. They are available without a vacuum advance for competition or with a combination vacuum governor weight advance assembly for any type driving.

    Flamethrowers are also available with or without a tach drive for hooking up a mechanical tach. The governor advance assembly is located in the lower portion of the cylindrical aluminum housing which is finished with perfection. Each side of the distributor has a plastic terminal plate which allows access to the dual points and the four lobe cam.

    When ordering a Flamethrower you must indicate the engine specs and equipment so that Spaulding can set the best advance curve. Now we'll get down to the fine points of a dual coil ignition system. The dual coil system features two coils, dual points and a four lobe cam; it is basically two complete four cylinder ignition systems, each operated by a common cam.

    With this setup installed on your mill you are only opening the points half as many times per second as those of a stock eight lobe cam system. Thus, with a dual coil ignition there is less chance for the points to bounce and float, making high engine revs condenser and one coil take care of four cylinders, while the other set of points, condenser and coil take , care of the remaining four cylinders.

    In this way, they divide the work between them, each carrying one half of the load of supplying the mill with the proper spark. With a dual coil, four lobe distributor, care must be taken to insure that the points are synchronized so they open at exact intervals of 45 degrees of cam rotation and provide the same dwell. Dual coil ignition systems are turning up on more and more competition and dual purpose care providing the fact that they are producing and have been accepted. The cost is not low but you cannot afford to neglect the ignition end of a hot mill. Dual Mallory or Detroit optional equipment coils are a good choice to use in conjunction with a dual coil setup.

    Max Gearhead likes this.
  14. chessterd5
    Joined: May 26, 2013
    Posts: 792

    from u.s.a.

    For a street car, if the car is made to roll in gear while turning the engine the magneto can be made to fire off, starting the engine with out the starter or the ignition on. Kind of like dumping the clutch in gear to start an engine when the starter is out. Or mini bikes like my 59 cc bicycle. This makes them easier to steal or have a runaway vehicle if a car is hit parked in gear by accident. Just a practical concern.
    Points or electronic ignition are probably best for the street.
  15. Budget36
    Joined: Nov 29, 2014
    Posts: 8,996


    Not vehicle related, but I think I now know why my old Wisconsin won’t make spark anymore!
    SS327 likes this.
  16. Hollywood-East
    Joined: Mar 13, 2008
    Posts: 1,762


    One con I will share about run'n a Vertex, Absolutely do not let it sit out in the rain over night!!!!
    An think your gonna jump in an drive away..
    Of course they make cover's... There Gay!
    But a plastic bag goes A Long way..
    A Wiseman, Is only a Fool With a good memory!
    This is a $250. Vertex off Craigslist..
    427 sleeper and SS327 like this.
  17. SS327
    Joined: Sep 11, 2017
    Posts: 1,112


    Now I know what is wrong with my old mags! Guess I’m going to need to find some rebuilders now.
  18. 51box
    Joined: Aug 31, 2005
    Posts: 1,035

    from MA

    Magnetos just scream hot rod to me. I’ve had two of them rebuilt with mechanical advance added from Pat Mason in PA, he is a great guy and is very reasonable with pricing.
  19. stubbsrodandcustom
    Joined: Dec 28, 2010
    Posts: 1,744

    from Spring tx

    Some great responses for sure. I have always been an admirer of Mags myself, but for street I am with everyone else with Points.
  20. lostone
    Joined: Oct 13, 2013
    Posts: 2,037

    from kansas

    I'm in the dual point camp myself, they are smaller and can be a life saver when trying to fit that big engine in a tight spot.

    Mags are cool and in a race only car I'd run one but something I'm driving on the street I like things simple, simple to repair incase of a breakdown. I also like things I can work on and repair and hopefully with just a trip to the local Napa store vs. Sending it out or special ordering parts from one certain vendor.

    Like I said I build things to drive on the street and sometimes drive hard so parts availability in local parts houses is important to me.

    Never had a properly set dual point distributor and ignition system not deliver everything I wanted or needed.

  21. gimpyshotrods
    Joined: May 20, 2009
    Posts: 20,483


    No magnetos on the street. I have radios.

    Points are fine.

    I have never, and my numerous customers have never had a Pertronix anything failure leave them stranded on the road, or anywhere else.
  22. tubman
    Joined: May 16, 2007
    Posts: 6,146


    It's better to be lucky than smart.:D
  23. gimpyshotrods
    Joined: May 20, 2009
    Posts: 20,483


    No, it ain't.
  24. Fogger
    Joined: Aug 18, 2007
    Posts: 1,671


    Back in the '60s when I was racing my '55 Gasser the guys in our shop who ran mags were very careful to remove them before arc welding on the suspension. I don't know if it was just a rumor or if the arc would affect the magnets, but caution was always adhered too. The most successful dual point distributors were and are the Roto-Faze that were supplied by Joe Panak, they were originally the Kong and Kong Jackson. They internally are built like a Swiss watch. I have two, one on my Roadster and the second will go in my Chevy. Joe would run them up to 10k rpm to prove there was no point bounce. RIP Joe Panak
    Desoto291Hemi likes this.
    Joined: Jun 6, 2007
    Posts: 4,316


    There is another reason, albeit somewhat OT. Race car electronics can also be corrupted by errant EMF coming from the mag. It is recommended that any car with electronics (delay box, on-board data acquisition, garage door closer(?), etc.) run suppression spark plug wires.
  26. drtrcrV-8
    Joined: Jan 6, 2013
    Posts: 1,579


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