Replace Mallory distributor?

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Joined
Aug 8, 2018
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Location
California
My Car
72 Fastback - 351C-4V, Fitech EFI, T56 Magnum 6 Speed
When I got my car a few years ago, it had a Mallory Unilite distributor and a Hyfire ignition box. It all works fine so far, but a couple things make me think about swapping it out and with black Friday sales about to start trying to see if it makes sense to do that. First, the wiring from the ignition box is a mess. It's been cut and spliced a bunch and is just basically a mess. I've cleaned it up, but it's still a mess. Then on the distributor, I've had issues getting the correct replacement rotors since they don't make this thing anymore. That makes me feel like sooner or later I'll be stuck for an extended period because I can't get replacement parts.

I'll add that back in the late 80's I worked at Super Shops (old west coast guys will know) and was sold the crap out of Mallory ignitions and even went to special Mallory sales training, so hard wired to like the stuff.

Anyway, so contemplating replacing this just to clean things up and get something hopefully more serviceable. But I don't really want to take a step down in performance and do want something with a tach signal for the EFI. HEI sounds interesting, but space might be an issue up top. Appreciate any feedback on options to simplify while keeping a great spark or should I just keep the old thing as it works great and ain't broke.

Thanks
 
Summit sells an HEI for a 351C where the base is notched to clear the stock thermostat housing.

Is there any sort of distributor replacement that your EFI system supports? I know the holley system has a distributor that lets the computer control the timing in addition to the fuel. If there's something like that available, it would be my first choice.

And is your computer smart enough to know how to get the RPMs from a coil? I have a rocketman tach and the carb cheater. Both of them have a wire coming off the coil to know the engine RPM. If your computer is smart enough for that, you could use the OEM style distributor with points or one with pertronix guts in it.
 
Thanks, I'll have a look at the HEI at Summit.

I have a basic Fitech EFI that doesn't control timing. So all it really needs to work is a tach signal.
 
I’ve been using Mallory for a long time. Holley bought Mallory and should have rotors and caps. I bought some a couple years ago. Holley’s website has Mallory , summit racing also has Mallory. Google search and many other places sell Mallory.
Some people don’t like Mallory but I haven’t had any issues. Msd is good but in my opinion they market their products to maximize their profits, so although it’s good and everyone seems to like msd, it will cost a lot. Anyway, there’s lots of choices for ignition systems.
 
I would go with a Ford DuraSpark distributor and ignition module. Both are easy to install and parts are readily available. A new Cardone distributor is available from either RockAuto or Summit for around $75
https://www.rockauto.com/en/moreinfo.php?pk=3617025&cc=1368479&pt=7108&jsn=10677https://www.summitracing.com/parts/AAZ-84-2893
There are two ignition modules that are available, the more common one is the one with a blue strain relief ($62.79)
https://www.rockauto.com/en/moreinfo.php?pk=49683&cc=1134818&jsn=11The other one has a red strain relief and was used on 1978 302s and delivers a better spark, than the blue relief modules, which was needed for the 302 to meet emission standards ($71.79)
https://www.rockauto.com/en/moreinfo.php?pk=49690&cc=1130960&pt=7172&jsn=10622
The article in post #4 of this thread has more information and wiring diagrams:
https://7173mustangs.com/threads/installing-duraspark-questions.26597/
You can also get a wiring harness at NPD:
https://www.npdlink.com/product/conversion-harness-dura-spark-ignition/144692/200435
The distributors come with the large cap, but can be replaced with the small cap and rotor.

EDIT: You can also get a conversion harness from Summit for $60 less than NPD:
https://www.summitracing.com/parts/prf-30812
 
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When I got my car a few years ago, it had a Mallory Unilite distributor and a Hyfire ignition box. It all works fine so far, but a couple things make me think about swapping it out and with black Friday sales about to start trying to see if it makes sense to do that. First, the wiring from the ignition box is a mess. It's been cut and spliced a bunch and is just basically a mess. I've cleaned it up, but it's still a mess. Then on the distributor, I've had issues getting the correct replacement rotors since they don't make this thing anymore. That makes me feel like sooner or later I'll be stuck for an extended period because I can't get replacement parts.

I'll add that back in the late 80's I worked at Super Shops (old west coast guys will know) and was sold the crap out of Mallory ignitions and even went to special Mallory sales training, so hard wired to like the stuff.

Anyway, so contemplating replacing this just to clean things up and get something hopefully more serviceable. But I don't really want to take a step down in performance and do want something with a tach signal for the EFI. HEI sounds interesting, but space might be an issue up top. Appreciate any feedback on options to simplify while keeping a great spark or should I just keep the old thing as it works great and ain't broke.

Thanks
Oh yeah, Super Shops, there was one on Van Nuys Blvd and ( Vanowen?). Back in the late sixties thru 80s, they were one of a slew of speed shops. This was before the onset of the Internet, and online ordering. Living in the San Fernando Valley, I was in there ocasionally, as well as Valley High Performance in Reseda, Glendale Speed Shop on South Brand, House of Chrome, ETC. So many of the Racing Engine builders and Cam grinders, crankshaft shops, chassis shops, were there in So.Cal. I grew up there, what a time it was......
 
I’ve been using Mallory for a long time. Holley bought Mallory and should have rotors and caps. I bought some a couple years ago. Holley’s website has Mallory , summit racing also has Mallory. Google search and many other places sell Mallory.
Some people don’t like Mallory but I haven’t had any issues. Msd is good but in my opinion they market their products to maximize their profits, so although it’s good and everyone seems to like msd, it will cost a lot. Anyway, there’s lots of choices for ignition systems.

I don't have any experience with MSD, but of course see it used everywhere then when you look at reviews I see a lot of people complaining. So I'm sure there's a lot of good and some bad to go along with that. When I worked at Super Shops Mallory was religion and I swore by the stuff and I'm sure it's still good. I hear you on parts, but I had to order the rotor 3 times before I got the right one even though I had the part numbers. So basically just looking to clean up the engine bay and use more off the shelf stuff if I can do that without taking a performance hit.

I would go with a Ford DuraSpark distributor and ignition module. Both are easy to install and parts are readily available. A new Cardone distributor is available from either RockAuto or Summit for around $75
https://www.rockauto.com/en/moreinfo.php?pk=3617025&cc=1368479&pt=7108&jsn=10677https://www.summitracing.com/parts/AAZ-84-2893
There are two ignition modules that are available, the more common one is the one with a blue strain relief ($62.79)
https://www.rockauto.com/en/moreinfo.php?pk=49683&cc=1134818&jsn=11The other one has a red strain relief and was used on 1978 302s and delivers a better spark, than the blue relief modules, which was needed for the 302 to meet emission standards ($71.79)
https://www.rockauto.com/en/moreinfo.php?pk=49690&cc=1130960&pt=7172&jsn=10622
The article in post #4 of this thread has more information and wiring diagrams:
https://7173mustangs.com/threads/installing-duraspark-questions.26597/
You can also get a wiring harness at NPD:
https://www.npdlink.com/product/conversion-harness-dura-spark-ignition/144692/200435
The distributors come with the large cap, but can be replaced with the small cap and rotor.

EDIT: You can also get a conversion harness from Summit for $60 less than NPD:
https://www.summitracing.com/parts/prf-30812

That's very interesting. I didn't see any application guide, but that distributor will work on a 351C? And do those ignition modules act as the coil or is a coil still needed?

Oh yeah, Super Shops, there was one on Van Nuys Blvd and ( Vanowen?). Back in the late sixties thru 80s, they were one of a slew of speed shops. This was before the onset of the Internet, and online ordering. Living in the San Fernando Valley, I was in there ocasionally, as well as Valley High Performance in Reseda, Glendale Speed Shop on South Brand, House of Chrome, ETC. So many of the Racing Engine builders and Cam grinders, crankshaft shops, chassis shops, were there in So.Cal. I grew up there, what a time it was......

Good times indeed. I'm from down in San Diego, but had a lot of that culture here and went up to LA pretty frequently. Super Shops was a weird place. They'd train teenage kids to be able to spec out performance builds soup to nuts and formulas were pretty well set so even guys without much wrenching experience would learn how to debug problems.

The flips side is that the place was sort of a cult of sorts. They'd pull you in and basically indoctrinate you on the company culture and you were basically doing company stuff 24x7 and they'd expect you to work insane hours and other bizarre things, like I had to take multiple lie detector tests. Not because anything was wrong, the company would just send these guys around to audit the stores and they'd sometimes make the whole staff of minimum wage workers strap in and take them. I know a lot of people I've talked to don't have that cultish takeaway, but I also know a bunch of people who left there sort of feel like they were deprogrammed after they left. Yes, at an auto parts store, and yes, that's weird.
 
I wouldn't mess with it. The Unilite is probably way better built than what you can buy today. Caps, rotors and modules are readily available from Holley, Summit, Jegs etc.

The HEI gets in the way of everything on a Ford. I have one on the 71 XR7 and it'll be finding a new home on the shelf come spring.

Snip from the Mallory catalog

1700479420220.png
 
Despite the fact the HEI is a good setup, I always thought they looked out of place on our Ford engines.
Most all vintage (and current) Mallory tune-up parts are easily available as stated, BUT the Unilite Comp 9000 large cap rotor (shutter wheel) which out of production and painfully hard to find.
Back in the early 1980's I used to frequent a Super Shop in Chula Vista, CA when I transplanted a 351c into my 1970 Maverick. And yes it was all Mallory equipped from Super Shops!
 

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If you already have a good functioning Mallory I'd stay with it. There isn't a better built or more reliable distributor. It's built like a tank and uses an optical sensor. They are harder to kill than the Petronix modules. I burned up 2 petromix modules (100a/pc) in my last car before I paid 400 for an MSD. ye NEW they aren't cheap, so I bought MSD for the spring tunability. Yes, Holley has your parts. Don't call they keep you waiting for ever. I'd use it unless it's real old with loose bushings. HEI won't fit with any factory components on the Fords. You'd be better off with Fords later model electronic dist. If it was me, I'd sell the box and get an MSD 6a. I buy used 6A's and send them to MSD. They rebuild them for @ 97.00. It takes a week. The good thing about Mallory is you can get used ones & the modules cheap on Ebay or etc, since their co did such a lousy job with the branding and following up with their product.
 
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I went holley dual sync. Spark box is hidden in the cowl.

Wanted to have the option of coil near plug in case I wanted to get a bigger blower.

Currently have term x stealth 4150 on top of a 174 blower
 
I have run a Mallory UniLite in my Model A's 351C for 20 years and very satisfied from day one. I had to change the module once which was replaced with an old shelf item from the early 90's. I have no availability issues with caps or rotors. I would buy a few next time you need one...
Thanks, Jay
 
Well started this thread looking for some validation on the idea of swapping out something that works. Now reading your comments, sounds like I ought to just stick with what works for now and see what I can do about cleaning up the wiring so I don't cringe every time I open the hood.

Not sure why I've had such trouble getting the correct parts. On that rotor in particular I never ended up getting the correct one even though it went straight from their list. Ended up having to swap the brass insert from a different rotor to get one that fit correctly.

The HEI thing was really mostly about just cleaning up and having less wiring running around and fewer separate components to hopefully end up with fewer things to break. But agreed with the comment that I don't love the way it looks and is sort of in the way up top.

I'll have to ponder this a bit, and if there are some sales I might just try and load up on spare parts for the Mallory on BF or look at swapping out to that setup @Don C mentioned as that seems pretty tidy.

Thanks!
 
I don't have any experience with MSD, but of course see it used everywhere then when you look at reviews I see a lot of people complaining. So I'm sure there's a lot of good and some bad to go along with that. When I worked at Super Shops Mallory was religion and I swore by the stuff and I'm sure it's still good. I hear you on parts, but I had to order the rotor 3 times before I got the right one even though I had the part numbers. So basically just looking to clean up the engine bay and use more off the shelf stuff if I can do that without taking a performance hit.



That's very interesting. I didn't see any application guide, but that distributor will work on a 351C? And do those ignition modules act as the coil or is a coil still needed?



Good times indeed. I'm from down in San Diego, but had a lot of that culture here and went up to LA pretty frequently. Super Shops was a weird place. They'd train teenage kids to be able to spec out performance builds soup to nuts and formulas were pretty well set so even guys without much wrenching experience would learn how to debug problems.

The flips side is that the place was sort of a cult of sorts. They'd pull you in and basically indoctrinate you on the company culture and you were basically doing company stuff 24x7 and they'd expect you to work insane hours and other bizarre things, like I had to take multiple lie detector tests. Not because anything was wrong, the company would just send these guys around to audit the stores and they'd sometimes make the whole staff of minimum wage workers strap in and take them. I know a lot of people I've talked to don't have that cultish takeaway, but I also know a bunch of people who left there sort of feel like they were deprogrammed after they left. Yes, at an auto parts store, and yes, that's weird.
Yes, that distributor will work on a 351C and a 429, 460, 351M and 400. It needs a separate coil. I would use one like this, made for the Duraspark:
https://www.rockauto.com/en/moreinf...RkR5Lw9TSHQCMMv93GTROX3pkquIq7SP+hk1MjXUmLfU0
The Duraspark module requires full battery voltage, the coil requires a ballast resistor, which comes with the Painless conversion harness from Summit.

EDIT: Here is the installation manual from Painless:
https://www.painlessperformance.com/Manuals/30812.pdf
 
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I don't have any experience with MSD, but of course see it used everywhere then when you look at reviews I see a lot of people complaining. So I'm sure there's a lot of good and some bad to go along with that. When I worked at Super Shops Mallory was religion and I swore by the stuff and I'm sure it's still good. I hear you on parts, but I had to order the rotor 3 times before I got the right one even though I had the part numbers. So basically just looking to clean up the engine bay and use more off the shelf stuff if I can do that without taking a performance hit.



That's very interesting. I didn't see any application guide, but that distributor will work on a 351C? And do those ignition modules act as the coil or is a coil still needed?



Good times indeed. I'm from down in San Diego, but had a lot of that culture here and went up to LA pretty frequently. Super Shops was a weird place. They'd train teenage kids to be able to spec out performance builds soup to nuts and formulas were pretty well set so even guys without much wrenching experience would learn how to debug problems.

The flips side is that the place was sort of a cult of sorts. They'd pull you in and basically indoctrinate you on the company culture and you were basically doing company stuff 24x7 and they'd expect you to work insane hours and other bizarre things, like I had to take multiple lie detector tests. Not because anything was wrong, the company would just send these guys around to audit the stores and they'd sometimes make the whole staff of minimum wage workers strap in and take them. I know a lot of people I've talked to don't have that cultish takeaway, but I also know a bunch of people who left there sort of feel like they were deprogrammed after they left. Yes, at an auto parts store, and yes, that's weird.
A cult of sorts...interesting, I've never worked there, but that mentality does occur. I love hot-rodding and modification, when done correctly and pragmaticly. I love restored cars as well too. It used to be, that when you were modifying your car, there was information, and experienced older guys, not sales people, who were in the business , and you could get guidance from them. Parts selection seems to have always come down to either buying what your engine actually needs, or buying what you want to give it. The first one adds power, the second one doesn't.
 
I've also got the unilite on my vert. I did have some issues with cross talk from a spark plug wire, but once I got the cable routing cleaned up I've not had any more issues.
 
Just a thought, as you probably already know, there is a difference between the cheap modules and the Mallory branded ones. Do yourself a favor and purchase one to put in the glove box along with the spare rotors. There is also black Distibutor caps available if you don't like red...
 
you guys have a lot more money than me. here is how i handled my distributor problem.

SKP SKDIFD15 from rockauto $52.79.​

then i put a
Ignition Conversion Kit For Ford 1957-1974 8 Cylinder #1281 Durable Replacement
US $33.77 from ebay.

its all new ,it looks original , its electronic and cost less than $90 and i carry, the new points and capacitor that was removed, in the glove box for an emergency.
 
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