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I dont favor one over the other but my experience has been with both.
The MSD is kind of a hybrid, it uses a trigger system like a Duraspark but has the advance mechanism of a Delco.
Advantages to a MSD are curve adjustability and improved bearing and bushing designs in the housing as well as billet housing availability. The MSD distributors I have are not double pinned but mine are 10+ years old.

Both distributors can work with various MSD boxes and both can be converted to big or small caps.

The Duraspark is a pretty good distributor but lacks some of the modern gimmiks that the MSD can give. Curving and adjusting advance limits can be a little trickier but once it is set you are good to go. I have a 30+ year old car with the original Duraspark distributor and box that hasnt missed a beat.
Sometimes the duraspark box can be suspect but as I stated a number of aftermarket (mallory, MSD etc) boxes can be made to work with them.

I am personally running a Duraspark in my Pantera simply because I had one already.

Maybe your friends could expand more on why they are favoring one over the other? Roll Eyes
The MSD distributor is superior to the Ford distributor. Hold both in your hands, observe the construction of both side by side. The Ford distributor is OK, but the advance mechanism gets sloppy and sticky rather quickly. In the opinion of Ford, their distributors with vacuum advance were good to only 6000 rpm. The Ford distributor will need to be recurved and checked on a distributor tester, calibrating the MSD distributor is more simple.

The MSD magnetic pick-up is fully compatible with Ford Duraspark modules, the MSD magnetic pick-up wires even have the same color coding as the Ford magnetic pick-up, which leads many to believe it IS a Ford magnetic pick-up.

The Duraspark modules manufactured in the mid 1970s through the early 1990s lasted at least 100,000 miles or 10 years. The stuff manufactured since China entered the picture is probably not nearly as well made. I've seen modules advertised as Duraspark modules that are very small ... do not purchase one of those.

An OEM style Duraspark 1 module, having dynamic dwell, is one of the most sophisticated ignition modules you can buy. Use it as designed with the proper coil and no ballast resistance and you'll have have an ignition system that properly charges the coil over a wide range of rpm, and an ignition that can ignite mixtures others cannot.

So the MSD 8477 distributor and Duraspark 1 module (with the Duraspark 1 coil) would comprise one of the best distributor based ignitions you could assemble for your Pantera. I can provide Motorcraft & Standard Motor Products (SMP) part numbers for the module and coil if you're interested.

Duraspark I Ignition Information

California was the only state in which Ford vehicles were equipped with Duraspark I ignitions, the rest of North America has never been familiar with this ignition. The Duraspark I ignition was also known within Ford as the high output ignition, it was more than a different Duraspark module, it was considered an entirely different igniton system than the Duraspark II ignition system. The Duraspark I ignition was utilized in all California V8 equipped applications in 1977, and limited to California 302 V8 applications in 1978 and 1979. The Duraspark I ignition module is identified by its RED wiring sealing block.

At the heart of the Duraspark I ignition was a special ignition coil having a very low primary winding resistance. The coil was also operated with no ballast resistance, therefore current flow in the primary windings was substantially increased in comparison to the primary current of Ford's standard (Duraspark II) electronic ignition system. The core of the coil was designed to accept a much higher magnetic charge from the increased current flowing in the primary windings, thus producing a substantially higher voltage to the spark plugs. The higher magnetic charge also allowed the coil to reach "full charge" more rapidly than Ford's other systems. Spark intensity was greatly increased ... especially at higher rpm. If this coil's primary winding was charged with the conventional "fixed-dwell" control utilized by the standard electronic ignition system it would overcharge at low rpm and overheat. Therefore an ignition module with a unique primary current control circuit was required to compliment this coil.

Differing from the various Duraspark II ignition modules, the Duraspark I module didn't control charging of the coil in the conventional way. The Duraspark I module utilized dynamic dwell, meaning the module constantly adjusted dwell based on current flow in the coil's primary circuit, independent of engine speed. This prevented over charging or under charging the coil throughout the motor’s rpm range. Dwell therefore varied with respect to the degrees of crankshaft rotation but remained relatively constant with respect to actual coil charging time; and the coil was properly charged throughout the engine's operating range.

The Duraspark I ignition produced the most consistent and most potent spark of any Ford ignition. This is Ford’s best ignition for igniting lean mixtures or rich mixtures, which was the purpose for its existence. The ignition will ignite mixtures the Duraspark II ignitions can’t. The dynamic dwell feature gives this module good high rpm performance too. This ignition’s design was more elaborate than the design of the Duraspark II ignition, and therefore it was more costly for Ford to manufacture (replacement Duraspark I modules cost several times the price of replacement Duraspark II modules).

Parts List

(1) Distributor: MSD #8477 or Ford Duraspark

(2) Duraspark II Wiring Harness: Painless Wiring #30812. Four changes must be made to allow Duraspark I parts to be used with a Duraspark II harness: (1) The Duraspark II key tab must be removed from the 4 pin connector to use this harness with Duraspark I modules. (2) The positions of the green wire and the orange wire must be reversed in the four pin connector. (3) The ballast resistor included with the wiring harness is not used for a Duraspark I application. (4) The alignment lug on the Duraspark I coil tower must be removed to allow the Duraspark II horse shoe style coil connector to slide on. It helps to have a Dremel tool.

(3) Spal FRH relay harness

(4) Duraspark I Coil: Motorcraft #DG-316 or Standard Motor Products #FD-477 (0.70 ohm primary winding resistance)

(5) Duraspark I Module: red wiring strain relief, Motorcraft #DY204, or Standard Motor Products #LX210

(6) Ignition wires - Ford Racing 9mm ignition wires plus vertical wire looms (see chart)

(7) Spark Plugs: Autolite AF32 or equivalent for motors having 9.5:1 or higher compression ratio; Autolite AF42 or equivalent for motors having less than 9.5:1 compression ratio (see chart for equivalents). Spark plugs for Duraspark I applications are gapped at 0.060”; spark plugs for Duraspark II applications are gapped at 0.050”.

Ford Racing 9mm Ignition Wires

As with any 351C ignition wire kit, if the ignition coil remains mounted in the original position on the bulk head, the coil wire included with the FRPP ignition wire kit will probably not be long enough if it is pre-cut, so have a contingency plan for that wire. One contingency is to relocate the coil by mounting it on the front of the left hand cylinder head, similar to the Boss 302, using the Boss 302 mounting bracket parts. By the way, that coil wire wears out 8 times faster than the other wires.

Manage the ignition wires with vertically oriented 7mm – 9mm spark plug wire looms such as those sold by Taylor (#42502), Smoothie/Made 4 You (#5075611) or Autotrend EFI (the Autotrend looms are made of billet aluminum, manufactured in various configurations, and sold by the individual piece). These not only make the engine compartment look better, they keep the wires off the exhaust system, away from sharp edges, and help prevent cross-fire.

universal ignition calibration
(for Cleveland motors equipped with factory iron heads & flat top pistons)

(1) Calibrate the distributor for 20° centrifugal advance. The centrifugal advance curve should start advancing at 1200 rpm (a few hundred rpm above the motors idle rpm assuming the motors idle will be set around 800 to 1000 rpm). The centrifugal advance curve shall advance 10° per 800 rpm to 10° per 1000 rpm. If the curve starts at about 1200 engine rpm it should end at 2800 to 3200 engine rpm.

(2) Connect the vacuum advance canister to the carburetor’s ported vacuum connection. If the vacuum advance is adjustable it should be limited to about 10°.

(3) Set the initial (static) advance at 16° to 18°.

(4) 16° to 18° initial advance plus 20° centrifugal advance equals 36° to 38° total advance. The amount of advance at idle shall be 16° to 18° due to the initial advance setting, there is no vacuum advance at idle with ported vacuum.

The MSD #8477 distributor is easily calibrated for a 20° centrifugal advance curve by installing the blue stop bushing and the 2 blue springs included with the distributor.

However, if you prefer to utilize a Ford Duraspark distributor, a distributor that will fit the 351C can be sourced from a 1975 through 1982 Ford passenger car or truck equipped with a 351M, 400 or 460 V8.

To calibrate a Ford distributor for a 20° centrifugal advance curve requires a 10°/15° centrifugal advance cam assembly (#C5AZ-12210-B; having a cam plate stamped 10L-15L) installed in the 10° (10L) position, and new advance springs from either Mr. Gasket (kit #925D) or Crane Cams (kit #99607-1). The Mr. Gasket kit includes one pair of springs, the Crane Cams kit includes 3 pairs of springs AND an adjustable vacuum advance canister. The Crane Cams kit is obviously the way to go as it will allow you to adjust the vacuum advance as well as the centrifugal advance.

Last edited by George P

Originally posted by Rick:

I think the issues were related to the MSD's fit and clearance verses the Duraspark. Parts availability is an issue but I doubt I'd be fixing it in the field.

Rick, in answering Rocky's question I hope I haven't taken your thread too far off-topic. If you feeel I have I apologize. I packed a lot of information into that last post, I hope a few may find it useful.

The MSD 8477 distributor is taller than the Ford distributor, but it is narrower than the Ford distributor when it is fitted with the large diameter Duraspark cap. The taller/narrower profile of the MSD distributor allows it to clear intake manifolds that the Ford distributor hits. As far as fitting in the Pantera, the MSD 8477 distributor has no issues I am aware of. The MSD 8350 "drop-in" distributor is 3/4" taller than the 8477 distributor; the 8350 is a tight fit in the Pantera, the spark plug wires tend to rub the upper lip of the bulk head opening where they plug into the distributor cap.

Parts availability for the MSD distributor is very good at this time.

At the risk of offending the Pantera ignition Gods: Something that wasn't mention but is relevant to this discussion.

The Ford Duraspark distributors were designed to run with the large diameter cap. Sometimes people choose to go with the MSD just for the reason of the smaller cap.

You can run the Duraspark with the smaller standard cap (and rotor) for better clearances in the Pantera. I do and regularly run the car at high rpm and have not had noticeable issue with cross fire within it.

With Weber 48 ida carbs there is no choice. Only the small cap will fit.

The risk of fire from arching with the small cap is over rated. The fires are not caused by electrical arcs. They are caused by reversion into the carbs... and they are only small fires.
Hi.... Fast forward about 12 minutes into this video..

It explains it all.... Personally I have 7 6AL MSD boxes in use as of today in various vehicles / toys etc....... Never a failure and they have been working great, some for over 15 years.. The MSD distributor I had go bad was actually a gear failure.. BUT... It had about 10 hours on it and I sent it back to MSD so they could analyse it and install a decent gear.. The tech called and told me it was completely worn out and it was possible they could not rebuild it.. I waited a few seconds and then told him it had 10 hours TOTAL running time and I am VERY anal when it comes to assembly of my motors, so a non lubricated /dry start up is out of the question.. He quickly changed his tune and offered to install the correct gear for a measely 95 dollars... Yeah right.. I told him to ship it back.. I then hung up the phone, called Mallory and ordered their dual pick up distributor. They shipped it that day and I was flying 2 days later.. In my opinion the Mallory unit is FAR superior to the MSD unit... And alot smaller too..

I do love my 6AL boxes though..

Were you aware MSD made distributors other than the one you chose. In the case of the 351C MSD #8477 or #8577 are both 100% billet, no plastic, and they are compact. 8477 has vacuum advance (see picture), 8577 is strictly centrifugal advance. The same distributors are made for the 302: #8479 and #8579.

Bronze distributor gears are for drag racing, they were never meant to last, roller cams ground on steel cores must be mated to steel gears if longevity is the goal. It did take some cam grinders a while to understand this. There was a period of time when the aftermarket was pushing those bronze gears on people who purchased roller cams for applications other than drag racing, some even made promises of longevity, which was bull. The reduction of ZDDP in motor oil didn't help either. Distributor gears need ZDDP. Those promises and all the gear failures lead to a lot of confusion among the end users. That was all resolved once Crane began selling the steel gears. It sounds like these problems you experienced occurred several years ago, before Crane started manufacturing the steel gears. Sorry you got stung by that situation.



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Yes sir... I am aware of the other distributors MSD offers for the small block Fords... In my case I REQUIRE a dual pick up for a redundant ignition system... The other part numbers you posted and the one in the pic is a single pick up unit.. I am also aware of the gear material type and the issues with what different/similar materials can cause...... My biggest beef with MSD is the fact they lied to me on the condition of the 10 hour old distributor.... Lying and flying don't mix, as someone might die from being BS'ed... and it sure as hell ain't gonna be the MSD tech.

I still say there are some FINE cars on this forum.. You guys are really into it for sure..

Ps.. I am pretty familier with cams too as I was in the auto machine shop business for a few decades.. In fact my father, Ron Haas, owned Motor Service down in Miami @ 3026 N Miami Ave for 40 years.... Back in the very early 1960's a guy would come in and rent his cam grinder to create some racing cams for local racers. My dad was NOT a high performance kinda guy and made his living off heavy industrial motors. One day he told Harv that the best thing is for him to just buy the cam grinder.. So Harv did... And Harvey Crane started his new business ( Crane Cams) with my dad's old Storm Vulcan cam grinder....

And now you know the rest of the story..

Ben Haas.
I collected all the parts required for the switch to a DuraSpark I ignition, including the Painless wiring harness, and I need to point out that when I went to hook it all up after performing the mod to the tab on the Painless connector I discovered that the there is a difference in the 4 pin connector wiring between a I & II module. Not sure when this came about, but be aware that that two of the wires in the painless harness need to be switched in order to correctly connect to a Duraspark I module. The Orange (1/2 dizzy stator signal) and the Green (- coil) need to exchanged places. This step was not mentioned in the previous instructions and may not have been the case when those were first written. I have since located wiring diagrams for the Duraspark I and II modules and they indeed show a different pin out for the four pin connector.
There was never a problem locating Duraspark I harnesses here in California, but when presenting this info to an international audience, I had to provide a source for a harness because they won't be found in wrecking yards outside of California; the Painless Wiring Duraspark II harness seems to be the only game in town. I purchased a Painless harness, an MSD distributor, I had the module and coil on hand, etc. I made sure everything fit. I thought I had caught all the discrepancies, but had overlooked the color coding of the wires at the connector.

I love this kind of feedback, this is excellent. I can't thank you enough. That change in wiring shall be incorporated into the instructions from now on.

Thanks. The connectors on the Standard Motor Products LX210 module, by the way "made in the USA", are potted and looked very well put together, so I opted to cut the two wires on the Painless harness and used quality heat shrink butt splices. I did this at the module connector end because I choose to use the clip on coil connector and also did not want to modify the dizzy connector end. However that does mean if I break down, I need a I module instead of a II module. Probably hard to find at the corner parts store and no series resistor would only make it worse to run a II even temporarily. Rock Auto sells the LX-210 (Duraspark I) for about $70.00.

I have attached two views of the module connectors. The II diagram is easy to read. The I diagram is from a vendor catalog and is hard to make out, but correct. I also included a link to an Autozone repair guide that has good schematic for a I system, but you have to click on the "enlarge" button to see it. It does show no coil feed resistor and mentions in the text that the I system gets full battery voltage for a hotter spark.


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