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Spitfire Engine Wiring

FlyingCat

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Every day seems to bring new questions. Today's questions are with engine wiring. Because my car was in pieces when I got it, and because, apparently, there was more than one car's parts with it, I'm often left wondering if I'm looking at a something for my car, or something I need to pitch. Take the Ballast Resister. Is it the same thing as an Ignition Condenser, and if not, where does it go? Specifically, which wires hook up to it?

Ballast Resistor 02.jpg Coil Condenser.jpg

Quesion Number Two: Where does that lone wire coming out of the side of my distributer go?

IMG_3024.jpg

Thanks! And have a Merry Whatever!
 

TR3driver

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This is a 1980 Federal 1500, right? (You might consider adding that to your signature, for goofs like me that have a hard time remembering breakfast.)

If so, I believe it would have originally had a form of electronic ignition (Lucas OPUS), with 3 or 4 wires going to the distributor. The single wire may mean that someone has converted it to points or Pertronix, possibly even an earlier distributor.
 

dklawson

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As Randall said, a bit more information on your car would help. I have not worked with any of the OEM electronic ignitions so I cannot directly answer your questions. However, take a look at the top right corner of the '78-'80 Spitfire wiring diagram linked below.
https://www.triumphspitfire.com/images/wiring/78diagram.jpg

While I recognize the resistor you are asking about as a ballast resistor, it could in fact be what is labeled on the wiring diagram as a "drive resistor". The top left portion of the diagram shows the ballast function being handled by a pink/white resistance wire.

Again, I have no first hand knowledge of this electronic ignition system. Hopefully the wiring diagram alone can address your questions.
 
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FlyingCat

FlyingCat

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Yes, it is a 1980, though I must confess that I have no idea what "Federal" means. I'm a new-by at all this. If it had some sort of after-market ignition on it, it's gone now. Heck, I don't even have a carburater.
 

TR3driver

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Yes, it is a 1980, though I must confess that I have no idea what "Federal" means. I'm a new-by at all this. If it had some sort of after-market ignition on it, it's gone now. Heck, I don't even have a carburater.
"Federal" in this context means US-spec. The US had some pretty restrictive (crazy) regulations by 1980, for both emissions and safety; so we got different cars than the rest of the world.

The stock ignition was electronic; do you still have electronic ignition? Someone, I forget who offhand (Fred Winterburn perhaps) wrote that it was just a GM HEI module in a Lucas can; but I don't know.
 
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FlyingCat

FlyingCat

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Thanks for the explanation. I know they made different models for different markets, but I didn't know the name. If my car had electronic ignition on it, it doesn't now. Here's a picture of my distributor. My understanding is that electronic ignition was something that attached to the side of it... at least, that's what the google pictures show me.

IMG_3024.jpg


Could it be that wire that's sticking out there? And does it make a difference that the wiring diagram is for a '78 and I have an '80?
 

dklawson

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Looking again at your distributor picture, it appears someone has put a VERY early Mk1 Spitfire distributor in your car's engine.

Look at the picture in the Rimmer Brothers link below.
https://rimmerbros.com/Item--i-209697R

If that is the distributor that your car has, it may work but probably has a very wrong advance curve for your application. The Mk1 was a much smaller 1147 cc engine while your 1980 will be an emission controlled 1500.

The Mk1 through Mk4 should have a distributor with a screw-on connection for a cable driven tachometer. Your 1980 should have an electronic tachometer and therefore its distributor will no longer have the cable connection.
 

TR3driver

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For points ignition, the single wire from the distributor would go to the "-" terminal on the coil. If you still have the electric tach, then another wire runs from the same coil terminal to the tach.

You'll need to figure out which coil you have, to know if you need a ballast resistor or not. Easiest way to do that is to measure the resistance between the two side (low tension) terminals. If it's around 3.0 ohms, no ballast is required. But if it's around 1.5 ohms, you need to have a ballast resistor in the circuit to keep the points from overheating. (Or get a 3 ohm coil.)

Check the resistor too while you're at it. I seem to vaguely recall that the "drive" resistor was a different value. A coil ballast should be around 1.5 ohms. Used to be that most FLAPS (Friendly Local Auto Parts Store) would carry a ballast resistor at a reasonable price, but I don't know if that still applies today.
 

dklawson

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I agree that to start with you should measure the resistance of the coil you have. To get an accurate measurement you need to label and remove the wires from the low tension coil terminals. As Randall said, if you find about 3 Ohms across the coil terminals you have a "standard" coil. If you measure 1 to 2 Ohms, that is a "ballast" coil. The wiring is slightly different depending on the coil type.

According to the wiring diagram, the '78-'80 cars had unique wiring for an electronic ignition and what appears to be a ballast coil. The wiring included a pink/white resistance wire to coil +. Therefore, don't add a ballast resistor to your car... not yet. Make your resistance measurements first. Then carefully clean each coil wire so you can determine its color. Post back with your measurements and observations so we can help you sort out the wiring.

Keep in mind that if the distributor is from an 1147 cc engine it is not going to have the correct advance curve for your car's engine.
 

TR3driver

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Good point! I missed the ballast wire in the diagram I was looking at (slightly different, supposedly for Federal models after FM95001).

But it may have been bypassed, so that's another thing to check.
 

dklawson

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But it may have been bypassed, so that's another thing to check.

Indeed. That's why I suggested measuring the coil and taking note of the wire colors. With that information we can suggest how to proceed.
 
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FlyingCat

FlyingCat

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My car does have an electronic tach, and it is a 1500. The emission controls seem to be missing, though. (One more challenge). Do you recommend replacing the distributor with something more appropriate for my car?
 

dklawson

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Do you recommend replacing the distributor with something more appropriate for my car?

I have only limited experience but will offer a couple of suggestions.

First, get the engine running with what you have. Drive it for a while and then decide if you are happy with the 1147 distributor or not.

If you are not happy with the 1147 distributor consider looking for a 1300 distributor made between perhaps 1970 and 1974. (I think the electronic distributor was introduced in 1975). You could use Lucas or Delco since you have an electronic tach and don't need a distributor with the cable drive gears. While electronic distributors are OK, their factory implementation on Spitfires is a bit complicated compared to points and points will almost always get you home. When electronic ignitions fail you wait for a tow.

Footnote: When and if you decide to replace your distributor there is another option. You could have your existing distributor rebuilt and re-curved. Advanced Distributors will do this for around $180 (when I last did this a year ago) plus shipping. Jeff who runs the place can make some educated guesses for you concerning what advance curve will work best with your particular engine. However, this is all cart-before-the-horse stuff. Get your car running first with what you have, then decide what to do. Let us know the coil resistance and all the wire colors connected to the coil.
 

TR3driver

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I don't trust wire colors for that kind of information. No telling what the PO did. Not that I would expect it, but it is at least possible he replaced the ballast wire with either resistance wire of a different color; or nonresistance wire of the same color.

It also doesn't connect directly to the coil according to the diagram I'm looking at. So the original resistance wire may be in place, but bypassed with a plain wire that only connects to the relay. Some quick measurements will tell the story.

Indeed. That's why I suggested measuring the coil and taking note of the wire colors. With that information we can suggest how to proceed.
 

dklawson

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Agreed. There are likely to be bypasses, splices and all sorts of changes from previous owners. It would be much easier to sort in person than by message board. There is no telling how they handled power to the coil when the previous owner decided to use a points distributor.
 
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FlyingCat

FlyingCat

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Getting my car running is a challenge all in itself. I still need to get a carburator (I've decided on a Webber), and I still need to get a new radiator bracket back from the guy that's fabricating it (unfortunately, I haven't yet taught myself to weld). Then I need to get all the hoses, a new belt, and wire up the new fan. Somewhere in there, I need a new battery. So, yeah. It may be a bit before it's running. In the meanwhile, though, I will check the resistance. Regardless, I'm good with what I have if it works. Thanks!
 
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FlyingCat

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I think I've measured the ohms correctly. Please pardon the sideways pictures. I can't figure how to do it otherwise. I set my multimeter on 200 ohms, like the guy on YouTube told me to do.

IMG_3045.jpg


Then I tried it on a "spare" coil that came with the car, and it measured 1.6 (There are many "spare" parts that came with my car, several of which I've already ruled out never were part of my Spitfire...like the toaser oven. And that's why I question whether I need the ballast resistor at all, because it was not attached to the car, and I can't find anywhere that looks like a place where it would go, except maybe the green wire that I mention below.)

IMG_3042.jpg


So I then tried the coil that is attached to the car...

IMG_3043.jpg


Before I attached the multimeter, I took off all the wires (including the one to the distributor). Once again, with the multimeter set at 200 ohms I touched the leads to the respective negative and positive terminals on the coil, and this time I got 1.4. If I'm doing this correctly, then that indicates a ballast coil... right?

Also, note the green wire. It goes nowhere. Well, I'm fairly sure it should go somewhere, but I have no idea where. Thanks!
 

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TR3driver

Great Pumpkin - R.I.P
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Yup, that coil needs a ballast resistor.

But as Doug pointed out, there should be a ballast incorporated in the wiring harness. To verify that, I suggest you ground the points terminal (or connect to the points and turn the engine until they are closed), turn the key to "Run", and measure the voltage being applied to the coil (to ground). If you read somewhere around 6 to 8 volts, then the ballast is present and you don't need the discrete part.

Make your measurement reasonably quickly after turning the key on, just in case there isn't a ballast. 10 minutes won't hurt anything at all, but you don't want to get distracted and leave it on for hours.

I'm not sure what the green wire is about, but it isn't ignition (unless the PO added it). Green means it is controlled by the ignition switch (hot in run), but protected by a fuse. Normally, green feeds "accessories" like turn signals, heater fan and so on. For now, my suggestion is to put it somewhere out of harms way (so it can't short to ground) and get the ignition working first. Later, you can check what else doesn't work and perhaps find where the green wire goes.
 
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