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Ignition Box Comparison - Ignition Box Comparo

By Miles Cook, Photography by Miles Cook

So you want hot ignition? Nearly everyone makes 'em these days, so who do you turn to? Assuming you've limited your shopping to a simple add-on spark-upgrade box, you're probably looking at ACCEL, Crane, Holley, Jacobs, Mallory, or MSD. You won't go wrong with any of them for basic power, but what about price? Size and weight? Ease of installation? This should answer those questions.

The following overview of 12 boxes offered by six manufacturers is organized like this: The first seven, listed under "street/strip," are what each company would recommend for a typical mild street car-we're talking an engine making about 300-400 hp, moving a 3,000-3,500 pound car down the road. The second ignitions are the next step up-the serious race boxes for 10- and 9-second or quicker race cars. These sure aren't every ignition box available, but between the street and race units we've covered the most popular ones for car crafters.

Shop, compare, and have a look at the tech tidbits we touch upon here. Then remember, the only way you can really go wrong on an ignition setup for an honest street car is to spend more money than you need to. Sure, the race boxes have their place, but any of the top-drawer "street" boxes shown should have enough juice to light your fire.

Who makes it? ACCEL
What's it called? 200+
PN: 76200 (universal)
Ease of Installation: Very-there are only four wires to connect and two supplied harnesses to plug in. The box's small size allows it to fit almost anywhere.
Dimensions: 3 1/2x4 1/2x2 inches
Weight: 2 pounds
Maximum Operating RPM: 6,500
Claimed Voltage Output: Dependent on the coil
Claimed Spark Energy Output: Dependent on the coil
Features: As ACCEL's super basic ignition upgrade, the 200+ is a bang-for-the-buck winner. Although it's not a capacitive discharge box, the 200+ works with points or breakerless electronic distributors such as a GM HEI or Ford TFI system. The unit boosts the primary voltage to the coil as a function of engine speed. At idle, the 200+ doesn't place any added load on the coil, and as engine load and rpm increase, the unit begins to boost the primary voltage from 12 to as many as 18 volts at 3,500 rpm. The 200+ has a limp-home mode: If the box were to malfunction, the switch circuit automatically bypasses the amplifier, providing uninterrupted power to the coil. Besides the shown universal setup, the 200+ is available with additional bits to make it specific for the following applications: '74-'91 GM HEI (PN 76210), '84-'95 GM remote-coil HEI (PN 76211), and '84-'95 Fords with EEC IV including Mustang 5.0s (PN 76220).
Typical street or mail-order price range: $120-$130

Who makes it? ACCEL
What's it called? 300+
PN: 49300 (universal)
Ease of Installation: A little more work than the 200+, but specialized applications with custom-fit, plug-in harnesses and its small dimensions are a big plus.
Dimensions: 4 1/4x3x2 inches
Weight: 2 1/2 pounds
Maximum Operating RPM: 12,000
Claimed Voltage Output: 535
Claimed Spark Energy Output: 143 millijoules
Features: As one of the smaller boxes in this group of street/strip ignitions, the 300+ lives up to the adage of big things coming in small packages. The unit's digital brain delivers spark energy at a rate high enough for any street car making 400-500 hp. Less current draw from the battery is another benefit. The shown universal system comes with a splice-yourself harness, but many model-specific versions are available with plug-in harnesses.
Typical street or mail-order price range: $135-$200 (without and with coil)

Who makes it? Crane
What's it called? FireBall HI-6
PN: 6000-6420
Ease of Installation: The HI-6 is a universal box, but optional accessories make it easy to install in late-model cars, including GM HEI and Ford TFI systems.
Dimensions: 8x4 1/2x2 inches
Weight: 2 1/2 pounds for nonencapsulated versions. Encapsulated boxes (such as the HI-6R) are 4 1/2 pounds.
Maximum Operating RPM: 12,000
Claimed Voltage Output: 450
Claimed Spark Energy Output: 1,200 millijoules/sequence
Features: A capacitive discharge system, many versions of the HI-6 cover street, drag-race, oval-track, and marine applications. The built-in rev limiter works in 100-rpm increments up to 9,900 rpm, and is set using two rotary switches. During cranking and low rpm the HI-6 generates up to 12 sparks per cylinder firing. Other HI-6 tricks include an RISC (reduced instruction set computer) microcontroller that runs at 4 MIPS (million instructions per second) to give instantaneous response to inputs and provide the computing power to run Crane's sequential rev limiting program. The unit's power supply also maintains a constant ignition energy output even if battery voltage drops to only 6 volts. The HI-6 is 50-state legal on any '95-and-earlier, pre-OBD II vehicle under EO # D-225-52. The box works best with either Crane's LX (shown) or PS series coils.
Typical street or mail-order price range: $150-$170

Who makes it? Holley
What's it called? HP Annihilator
PN: 800-100
Ease of Installation: The Holley box connects to any OE or aftermarket distributor including points, HEI, or magnetic pick up. It can also be used with any make of magnetic crank trigger.
Dimensions: 6.20x4.20x2.55 inches
Weight: 4.55 pounds
Maximum Operating RPM: 16,000
Claimed Voltage Output: 525
Claimed Spark Energy Output: 135 millijoules
Features: Multiple sparks with the HP Annihilator are provided up to 3,000 rpm through 22 1/2 degrees of crankshaft rotation. The HP's microprocessor is very accurate at controlling the built-in rev limiter because it's not affected by temperature or humidity. The limiter works up to 9,900 rpm in 100-rpm increments and is accurate to plus or minus 10 rpm. The HP will work with any Holley Lasershot or aftermarket coil designed for capacitive discharge. As for power requirements, the Holley will run on as little as 10 volts-the system shuts off at 7 volts. The HP easily connects to any electric tach and is compatible with any 12-, 16-, 18-, or 24-volt negative-ground system and will provide enough juice for engines making up to 700 hp.
Typical street or mail-order price range: $150-$170

Who makes it? Jacobs Electronics
What's it called? Pro Street Ultra Team (a complete ignition package; comes with a Pro Street box, an Ultra Coil, and Energy Core plug wires).
PN: 372517
Ease of Installation: The Pro Street box and the Ultra Coil are not too big by themselves, but they'll have to be installed in separate locations in the tight engine bays of such cars as Mustang 5.0s and '62-'67 Novas.
Dimensions: (Pro Street box only), 9x4 1/2x- 2 1/2 inches
Weight: 12 pounds (Pro Street box only)
Maximum Operating RPM: 8,500
Claimed Voltage Output: 500
Claimed Spark Energy Output: 50-1,400 millijoules (adjusts as needed)
Features: The Ultra Team is not just an ignition box. A great way to get a complete system, the Jacobs package includes the Pro Street ignition box, Ultra Coil, Jacobs top-notch Energy Core plug wires, and a set of trick-looking wire looms. The Pro Street box is also available by itself, as are Jacobs' other boxes. Designed for street- or bracket- racing applications, the Pro Street box is good for engines running up to 8,000 rpm. The Jacobs computerized ignition sensor controls individual cylinders by analyzing each combustion chamber for optimum spark intensity and duration. The Ultra Coil has a very low primary resistance of only 0.45 ohms and is encapsulated in a tough aluminum case. The Ultra Team is 50-state legal per EO #D-19-21. Factory suggested retail price: $514 (complete Ultra Team system).

Who makes it? Mallory
What's it called? Hyfire IVc
PN: 692
Ease of Installation: The Hyfire comes with a harness, and it's not overloaded with a million wires to attach. As one of the smaller boxes here, the Hyfire is not difficult to mount on a car.
Dimensions: 7 1/2x4 3/4x2 3/4 inches
Weight: 3 pounds, 7 ounces
Maximum Operating RPM: 12,500
Claimed Voltage Output: 450
Claimed Spark Energy Output: 100 millijoules
Features: A step-up from the Hyfire IVa (PN 697), the IVc adds two rev limiters-one a programmable engine-protection rpm and the other a staging control limiter. The limiters can be set in 100-rpm increments up to 12,000 rpm. Both the IVa and IVc are capacitive discharge, which gives stable, uniform output and spark duration to ensure complete ignition of the air/fuel mixture. The Hyfire also provides plenty of spark at low speeds for easy starting. Also built into the box is a limp-home feature, and a special harness is supplied to enable the user to switch back to the standard ignition if required. Custom plug-in harnesses are available for several types of GM HEI, Ford Duraspark and TFI, and Mopar setups.
Typical street or mail-order price range: $190-$210

By Miles Cook
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