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How To Convert A Ford Or Chrysler Ignition To GM HEI

Junkyard Builder

By , Photography by

We can hear the howling already. "Why do I want to put some junk GM ignition on my (insert AMC, Mopar, or Ford)?" The answer is: Don't—unless you like the idea of a higher-performance, more-efficient ignition that's also incredibly durable and inexpensive. This conversion is not intended for everyone. If you are working on a complete restoration of a 1969 340 Swinger, then this probably isn't for you. But if you bought a fuel-injected 302 Ford engine out of an 1988 Mustang GT and plan to use a carburetor, this is a good time to convert the ignition, since you have to switch to a factory Duraspark distributor with a magnetic pickup because the Ford Thin Film Ignition (TFI) distributor uses a Hall effect trigger that isn't easily compatible with a stand-alone ignition. While you could use a Duraspark box, they are much larger than an HEI module. Or if you have a Jeep or a Mopar engine running a ballast resistor ignition, you're giving up ignition power that could contribute to better performance and improved mileage. As a side benefit, emissions will improve, too.

Here's the drill. If you have an AMC, a Ford, or a Chrysler distributor with a magnetic pickup, it's really easy to convert to a standard four-pin GM HEI module. We've included a simplified wiring diagram to show you how it all comes together. Mount the module on an aluminum plate near the distributor so it can keep cool, and you are already most of the way there. Then, use a late-model e-core coil because they are more efficient than those round, oil-filled coils and make sure you supply full system voltage to the HEI. These newer e-core coils can also be mounted anywhere in any orientation. You can't do that with oil-filled coils, since they need to be mounted vertically or they overheat. Then, to top all of this off, use a high-quality distributor cap with real brass terminals (not the cheap aluminum connectors) and a good rotor, finish it off with a set of high-quality spark plug wires, and you are ready to hit those spark plugs with renewed voltage.

We don't have room for exact details on each conversion, since there are literally dozens of different vehicle configurations. Instead, we'll outline the basics of how the GM HEI module is triggered, and then you can work out the details as far as factory connectors, coils, and so on.

PARTS LIST
Description PN Source Price
GM HEI module LX301T RockAuto $12.91
GM HEI module LX301 RockAuto $30.79
GM coil connector 85119 RockAuto $6.76
GM coil connector HP4605 RockAuto $10.96
Ford dist. cap/rotor 3D1116A RockAuto $18.96
Chrysler cap/rotor 3D1072A RockAuto $11.11
Chrysler HEI mount N/A Designed2drive $38.50
Heat sink material 276-1372 Radio Shack $3.49
Crane E-core coil PS-91 Summit Racing $65.20

SOURCES
Summit Racing
Akron
OH
800-230-3030
330-630-0240
http://www.summitracing.com/
RockAuto
Madison
WI
866-762-5288
http://www.rockauto.com
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60 comments
ronw.abeyta
ronw.abeyta

Jeff great post.  My 83 dodge 318 has the control unit in the air cleaner (Lean Burn, Spark Control...) and a distributor without a vacuum advance.  Do I need to replace the distributor with a vacuum advance type?

Leif Persson
Leif Persson

Me and my old Dodge truck liked it, works great!

Tommy Johnson
Tommy Johnson

Couldn't get the link to work on android, will check it out later from my desktop. Points are cheap, but you gotta set them often. HEI would be a nice upgrade to any make that has points. If you have Chrysler electronic ignition, just get the Mopar Performance module, and a hot coil, your set. Ford has a great ignition on their small blocks for some time now, individual coil packs on each cylinder, tough as nails. Look up Megasquirt to get the scoop on putting the Ford setup on nearly any engine, and getting fuel injection on your carbureted ride.

Chris Dafoe
Chris Dafoe

Kathy Hart ....your husband needs to see this article

Jerry Brentnell
Jerry Brentnell

why not use a mopar electronic distributor! the hell with gm parts

Matt Rodgers
Matt Rodgers

Keep up the good low budget tech tips and how-to articals! Im about burned out on the overpriced builds and feature cars from Hot Rod. I could do without the LS engine info every month.

Matt Rodgers
Matt Rodgers

Obviously the ford guys crying havent driven much with a quality HEI system. Im a die-hard car guy, I have never had a GM ignition module die on me. I have had more than a few ford systems crap out, usually at the most inappropriate times.

Gary Hallum
Gary Hallum

And better yet put you a GM CRATE MOTER IN IT!

Matthew Monsees
Matthew Monsees

ran this in my 5.0 capri when the $$$mallory distributor died, ran it until the engine blew. also used one to try firing a bronco that mice didn't leave any wiring in, worked good enough that i went for a ride on the grill when i found out it was in gear!

Dean Henderson
Dean Henderson

Now this is the type of stuff Car Craft should be printing. Not tubed framed Mopars and Real Street hand built race cars. Building a small block chevy with mega heads, mega cam, mega everything including mega dollars. CC used to be all about using iron heads with hand drilled studs and guideplates. Dropping strands of wire into your holleys high speed air bleeds to richen it up. Adding a cheap Fel-pro head gasket to get another point or two CR.

Adam Hecht
Adam Hecht

How come every time i click your tech articles it kicks me off, from both phone or computer.

Richard Lowe
Richard Lowe

Now why in the hell would anyone ever want to get away from having OEM equipment in their ride

Brandon Lewis
Brandon Lewis

Chevy has anything to fix all problems....definitely an upgrade

Shawn Mahoney
Shawn Mahoney

I don't see fords breaking down a lot... I work on more Chevys then fords!

Jason Newcomer
Jason Newcomer

For the $$$ it is. plus replacement parts are cheap and readily available

Ted David Burrell
Ted David Burrell

I've read about this, and have seen it, on another Jeep-related website.

Shane Weathersby
Shane Weathersby

Low power ignition ford has best ignition if smart gm guys will tell ya

James McGuire
James McGuire

Jamison Adams you might need to know this hahaha

Scott Smith
Scott Smith

Keep the budget-friendly tech coming!

Jeff Griffith
Jeff Griffith

So many closed minds on here. Do what you like, stuck with your old low powered ignitions if you must.

Cory Weale
Cory Weale

I did the same thing on my Plymouth. Works good.

Jeff Griffith
Jeff Griffith

Solid and efficient are two different concepts.

Ron Liuzzi
Ron Liuzzi

Would not a Pertronix conversion be cheaper and easier?

Mark Heiman
Mark Heiman

Why? The Chrysler design has always been solid with the right ballast resistor and quality parts.

Luke Nankervis
Luke Nankervis

Haha..exactly the same here to the dot..LOL isn't a pearler to see it when somebody whos so against them actually have now used for yrs and they'd never touch again :-)

Joe Fowler
Joe Fowler

351w motor uses 350 spark plugs why not a gm type distributor

Cal Handley
Cal Handley

This is a great idea and a low cost alternative to the MoPar performance conversion system. A lot easier to hide on a Vintage muscle car. I think I'll try this on my 69 SuperBee.

John Rodko
John Rodko

Buy a Chevy then you won't have to..lol

Fanie Gerber
Fanie Gerber

We have been doing this for ages - works like a charm and isWAY cheaper than the stock mopar electronic ignition

Harrel Lamkin
Harrel Lamkin

Yep. Works great! 32 years ago, I transplanted a Ford 2300 from a Mazda truck into a Toyota Hi-lux. The 2300 had a Mazda distributor in it and it was connected an HEI module to fire the Toyota coil! A few years later, I connected an HEI module to a 440 Mopar distributor in a 68 Road Runner, and it fired an Accel Super Coil. The HEI is truly a cheap, simple and reliable universal electronic ignition device!

Larry Quick
Larry Quick

Did this to eliminate a lean burn box on my old Dodge slant six years ago. $8.00 versus $250. For a new box. Worked great and ran better. This us an old trick that still works today.

Nick Hoesing
Nick Hoesing

I've done this before to eliminate the Duraspark box - worked out great!

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