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Electronic Ignition Upgrade for your Datsun 320 Truck


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If it's an actual Nissan EI distributor...




Here are the C and B terminals...




Canadian gas is up to 10% ethanol. My weed eater jug of mix lasts at least two years. I leave rte weed eater outside leaning against the shed wall. Every spring three pulls and it starts. My 710 sits from August to may and takes quite a few cranks to get the gas up to the carb but starts/runs normally other wise. Maybe the gas is different here.


On trips to Canby I don't notice anything different with the gas, but I don't drive the shit out of it to notice either.

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The rig is running WAY better but when I shut it off it rumbles a little then puffs a little smoke out the air cleaner snorkel. Is that symptom of timing that needs adjusted or perhaps my carb needs adjusted? I'm running a new carb and I'm not confident I have the richness or idle speed dialed in.

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It's called 'run on' or 'dieseling' and is caused by the engine firing the cylinder without any spark from the ignition. Like a diesel it uses engine heat and heat from compression to do this. So, there are many ways to calm this down but if your idle mixture is too rich I would start there.


Turn the mixture screw in slowly and idle speed my increase or decrease. If it should decrease turn the other way, but set it where the idle speed is fastest. There is about 1/2 turn of range where it's this good. Just do your best to set in the middle. Now turn the idle speed down and repeat. Assuming the idle speed is improved, turn it down. Repeat until idle quality is the best you can make it and the idle speed remains unchanged. Could take 8-10 tries or only 2. It's best if the engine is in good tune with valve clearance and timing set first. If the idle mix is right and the idle speed proper it should shut off with the key.


Things that can cause or contribute to 'run on'.


TOO high an idle speed

Engine running too hot.

Too hot a spark plug range

Carb flooding causing carbon to form in the combustion chamber. Could be choke left on or not set right

Compression too high for the gas octane used

Poor low octane gas used

Improper timing


If all else fails to fix do what I did with my '70 Dart with 10.5 compression. Hold brake on, place in 4th, lift clutch to lug the idle down slightly and then turn off ignition. Engine will stall quickly, wair for it to stop and let clutch up all the way.

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People are so used to automatics these days, take it out of gear and turn it off which don't work with these vehicles/engines.


I shut mine down by coming to a stop(foot is on the brake to stop anyway), while leaving it in gear and keeping my foot on the brake I turn the key off and let out the clutch at the same time, there is no run on, and it is in gear like it should be when I park it.

If you leave your vehicle in neutral when parked one day you will regret it, others have done this and paid the price, the truck rolls down hill and hits something, a tree, another vehicle, the house, and if your unlucky it could end up in the road or worse when your not home.

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I always park in gear and emergency brake on. Always use the e brake. Constant use, if for no other reason, keeps the cables and linkages shiny and rust free. So when you do use it, it doesn't stick or jam on that one time a year you do. It also reminds you that it needs adjusting. Face It, your brakes are the most important device on your vehicle. The e brake backs this up.   

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Richen it up.  Fuel cools hot spots.  Hot spots cause run-on.  Of course so do vacuum leaks, so if the carb isn't sealed to the manifold or the manifold to the block, a vacuum leak will usually make your idle higher not lower.  


The hatred for 320 distributors is because they get gummed up internally.  They need oil - never grease on the advance weights.  They also need the proper amount of spring tension, and a little less advance than the factory put into the distributors.  Then they work great - FAR better than a shitty knock-off of a 45D distributor online.  I can buy those "Accuspark" distributors for $18 delivered to my doorstep.  I don't sell them because they are pure Crap.  Yes, crap with a capital C.  

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How is a leaner mixture going to make the idle go up? When the idle screw is turned in (less fuel) the idle drops.


When my vacuum hose from the intake falls off the snorkel, the engine will barely idle and stalls.


I've never see the idle go up unless the choke is on and it's running rich.

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Well I gave up on my 320 distributors, I could get it to run one day and the next day it would not even start, I ruined a battery running it down so many times trying to get that damned engine to start, it sometimes would hit maybe once but it would not start.

I did alright with a Pertronix unit modified to fit in the 320 distributor, but after I double clicked and smoked the second unit I gave up on that also(kind of expensive lesson), but it sure started way better. 

Then I modified a Matchbox to fit and it started and ran way better, that was just before I pulled the distributor out of that MG Midget engine, but the matchbox will not work positive ground, as the housing is a dedicated ground and cannot be changed, now if my/this 320 had been converted over to negative ground a Matchbox is a great distributor to use as that is what is in my NL320, but my L320 is still positive ground and that is where the Crane ignition system works for me, it has an optical trigger and can be wired for positive ground, and it runs the best it has ever run since I have owned the truck.

I did buy one of them "Accuspark" side entry cap distributors for the other 320 I have as it is RHD and has to have a side entry cap, but I have not installed it yet as that one has started every time so far, well after I put a shitload of time working on that distributor, it's the only one I have left with a stock distributor.

The fact is we cannot get parts for these 320 OEM distributors, we cannot buy new ones either, when ebay has a dist. cap for sale it is over $40.00 plus shipping, I have not seen points or ROTORS for sale publicly since I bought what Tana had(I bought 3 complete tune up kits and I believe I got the last of the rotors) which is the only reason that RHD 320 still has a 320 distributor in it.

These MG/Triumph type distributors are basically the only thing that will keep these 320s on the road unless someone starts making ignition parts for them again.

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I would have probably kept the original dizzy, but without parts, and it isn't parked in a Datsun Museum, it only makes sense to make the change. The AccuSpark as well as the other 45D4's look like the original. It almost looks like they shared the casting. I really like driving this truck and now I can. I hate to say it, but I'm selling it and having it run well probably will help.

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I left my key turned on for a few hours while doing body work and the points must have been in the closed position. Dizzy and coil fried. Including the rotor. Looks like my stock dizzy is permanently retired. I think I'm going to replace it with a refurbished Lucas points distributor. 

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I didn't know that could happen, I have left my key on all the time in the past and didn't have anything like that happen.

All my daily drivers are diesel or have electronic ignition, I only have two points distributors left, a 320 and my 67 Roadster which hasn't been out of the garage in a couple years now.

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Well that could happen to a Lucas (Prince of Darkness) distributor too. Try to find or make an electronic ignition and up grade. Wayno will an A series matchbox fit or be close enough to make it fit??


The EI system has a circuit that shuts it off if you leave the key on and the engine is not running. You can't harm it or the coil.

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Well it turns out I have 2 different A series matchbox distributors, one is gear driven and it doesn't have the drive slot that all  my other distributors have.




I have no idea what the gear driven one is for, I bought it as an A series Matchbox, as you can see there is no slot in the end of the shaft, I can still likely use it as the slot does't drive anything in the E1/J13.

The other matchbox with a slot appears to be the same as the L series matchbox without the pedestals on either of them, but I would have to install one in a E1/J15 block to know for sure, the weird one with the gear also has a mount plate like the J13 distributor which likely can be modified like the J13 series plate to mount to the E1 block which makes things easier.

Like I said, to know for sure I would have to take the drive piece off the A series dist. and replace it with the E/J series drive parts and install it to know for sure if it will work in the E1/J13 blocks, but it looks good so far.

There is also another difference between the A series and L series matchbox distributors, the L series(on left) has a smooth shaft from top to bottom, while the A series has lower spots in the middle of the high spots on the top and bottom, I have no idea if this will effect anything.


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^^^^Shoutout to Distributorguy he knows his stuff. He coached me on the casting markings for the old Lucas 25d distributors and I picked up a rebuilt one from the early 60s on eBay for $100. Gapped the points and my truck runs like new. Starts first crank, idles beautifully. Feels peppy when I accelerate. 


I thought I was having problems getting the timing dialed in and carb adjusted but I think most of my issues were the shitty stock 320 distributor. 

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This thread may have been about an electronic ignition upgrade(Matchbox), but what it is really about now is that MG/Triumph distributors will fit our 320 E1 engines and you can still get parts for them which is not easy to do with our Datsun 320 distributors(E1 engine).

I suspect whatever MG distributor you bought you would have had the same results if it was new or rebuilt.

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^^^ For sure. Also I used my 320 hold down clamp on the Lucas 25d and it fit like it was made for it. 

I also used the stock 320 distributor clamp on the MG distributor(360 degree adjustable), but I used a J13 mount on the matchbox as the 320 clamp don't fit them.

By the way, Thankyou as you just reminded me I have another Matchbox in a box in my parts set up for a 320, I was thinking I needed to buy another one to modify for the work truck.

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