2.3 Ford Duraspark Convert to Points Ignition

Birken Vogt

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I have an old 18RY with a 2.3/Duraspark that had a distributor I robbed to fix somebody else's generator.

I since bought a replacement distributor off Rock Auto for some car (I believe it will work) but never tried it since I never got a "round tuit".

Now I am thinking since this Duraspark setup is pretty old, maybe I should instead convert this to points ignition when I put it back together. I kind of like the idea of having all the controls and everything be non-electronic.

You guys who worked on old cars/trucks with this engine--what car would have had a distributor that would have points and fit right into this engine? 2.3 Pinto, what years, or maybe it was always electronic?
 

Zephyr7

Active member
Those ford electronic ignition modules are pretty durable, I’d leave it as is. You can get replacement modules (except the actual controller) off of Amazon too.

The same engine was used in the pinto in the 70s. That’s usually what I use for matching when I need parts. I’ve never looked for a distributor though since both of my units have the electronic ignition module. I’ve never had any problems with the ignition system.

If you want a fully non-electronic engine you really want a diesel :)

Bill
 

Birken Vogt

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I know, but I still want to do it...price was low enough on the electronic (car) distributor (which I *think* might fit) hopefully it should be similar on a points unit.

Did any Pinto or other car with the 2.3 use a conventional ignition system ever?
 

Zephyr7

Active member
1974 Pinto 2.3 lists points and condenser. Pat numbers FD8286T and FD95.
Be careful. I’ve found a few parts that are supposed to fit the pinto but don’t fit the industrial engine Kohler used. The alternator was the last time I ran into this problem, which makes me think Kohler might have used their own alternator (it’s a 3rd party item) and not whatever ford would normally supply with the engine. The ignition controller I think is specific to the OEM engine too, but the duraspark module is a standard part.

It almost has the feel of mid-year part changes on cars. I had that once with a brake caliper that was changed from steel to aluminum resulting in a lower torque spec for the banjo bolt than the book said. I stripped two calipers before I realized what was going on :mad:

Bill
 

Birken Vogt

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The ignition controller I think is specific to the OEM engine too, but the duraspark module is a standard part.
What do you mean ignition controller vs. duraspark module?

I got to learn lots about this ignition system when this whole adventure happened as well. The customer threw just about every conceivable part at it before we put in the used distributor because bad bushings were the root of the problem. So I got to learn about Ford as well as aftermarket Duraspark modules and interchange and how they behave.

Although I have probably forgotten most of it now.
 

Zephyr7

Active member
What do you mean ignition controller vs. duraspark module?
The “ignition controller” (my words) is mounted above the safeguard breaker. I believe it’s more of an ECM from the number of wires connected to it. It’s a ford part. It’s much different than the “duraspark modules” you see for sale that only have a few wires and two connectors. I’m not entirely sure what this controller does, and I don’t have a source for a replacement if needed.

The coil pack is easy to get. I thought I was going to have to replace one once, but it turns out I just had a combination of a messed up spark plug (that I ended up replacing to fix the problem), and I wasn’t seeing that my spark tester was sparking through the side to a bolt that was hidden behind the tester where I couldn’t see it.

I haven’t worked on one of these gensets with the distributor system, both of mine are electronic ignition.

Bill
 

Birken Vogt

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We might be talking two different configurations here. The later models had a dual coil pack with a black plastic low voltage controller mounted elsewhere, sometimes with a single vacuum hose. They had no provision for a distributor.

The ones I am talking about had a distributor with a 4 prong rotor to trigger spark. And a large aluminum finned Duraspark module down on the left front engine support.

And this one I have is the 18RY, seems kind of rare. Much different than the more common 20RZ. The 18RY has a relay controller with brushes and such.
 

Zephyr7

Active member
Yeah, we might be thinking about different units. I saw the “2.3 pinto” and then thought you were talking about the same LRG-423 engine the 20RZ uses.

What engine is the 18RY using? Or is it the same engine as the 20RZ but a different control/ignition configuration and a smaller generator end?

Bill
 

Birken Vogt

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It is the same base 2.3 engine as many a 20RZ I have seen. Too snowy to go look at it at the moment. Mid 80s I think.

It has:

-a distributor with a 4 prong rotor
-a finned Duraspark module down on the side
-a regular looking coil
-a smaller generator head with brushes
-a pcb relay logic controller
-a single fault light
-a pcb voltage regulator

One of these days I am going to dig it out of the bush that is growing through it and fix it up, maybe.
 

Birken Vogt

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I also had a local guy here tell me I could find points on a 74 Pinto and applications are showing up so that will probably be where I go with it when I get around to it.
 

Zephyr7

Active member
Birken, I’ve seen pics of 20RZs with the engine setup like the way you describe on your 18RY. The distributor was kind of at an angle sticking out from the block under the throttle body. I’ve never seen one like that in person. I think some of the very early 20RZs were that way.

Presumably the parts are out there. The same engine was used in all kinds of things like man lifts. I know I’ve seen the engine in genie-brand lift manuals. Maybe you can get some info that way too.

Bill
 

Birken Vogt

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I have seen more 20RZs with the distributor than with the coil pack. Must be something to do with what is on the used market in different places.
 

Zephyr7

Active member
I have seen more 20RZs with the distributor than with the coil pack. Must be something to do with what is on the used market in different places.
Could be, maybe some kind of regional variation. I don’t think the electronic ignition was an upgrade option at order time, so Kohler just shipped what they wanted. I wonder what the reasoning would have been. Maybe that will be my next historical question for them when I meet with thier engineering people next (last time I asked if they still had schematics for the old auto-start generators that started when load was connected. They did!).

Bill
 

Birken Vogt

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And when I say "electronic ignition" I mean coil that is fired by electronics rather than points. I have seen very few of anything with points although I happened to be working on one yesterday. 1983 Kohler with White engine.
 

Monsonmotors

Subscriber
I had to think about this...
Ford and Pinto and the 2.3L had problems with the breaker plates coming loose and completely screwing up dwell and causing a terrible running car.
This is when the vehicles were still new, BTW.
In my world taking out electronic trigger and replacing it with points causes my head to shake. Why would you do that?
The theory and real world problems of these early electronic ignitions are so well
understood, now. There’s nothing you can’t fix. Nothing comes out of adjustment. I was going to say “ever” but it’s darn near that.
Set timing to whatever and come back five years later and it still is where you set it.
Try that with points!
Electronic ignition reliably delivers a stronger spark when needed, too.
On the old 2.3l Duraspark the coil would unload during every key cycle. In other words, on a no-start tow-in if you cycled the key and the engine shuddered once every key cycle you knew the coil was good and there was power to the coil. Half of diagnosis was already accomplished!
The 2.3l was notorious for breaking timing belts. No number of new ignition parts will fix that.
Stick with the Duraspark stuff and hoard a new module and pickup for backup.
 
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