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Electronic Ignition system for 67 650SS

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Hi Chaps,

I'm looking for your experience/opinion of the best electronic igniton system for this bike, having read the NOC Electrical Compendium and faced the myriad of potential systems.

The bike is pre-coil. It is 12v, having magneto, regulator, Zener diode, alternator.

I would like a system that replaces the points, magneto, mechanical advance/retard and something I can set the timing accurately without having to remove the timing cover. Not really looking for ultimate progammability - pre-programmed is fine. Just want to replicate the original system with a more modern, accurate, reliable, electronic system.

Cost and reliability are obviously considerations after functionality.

That is your mission, should you choose to accept it.

Cheers, Len

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You could buy one  of the electronic Lucas magneto's that have been constructed by the BTH company. The Pazon conversion also works very well, and it is a fit and forget option. It is a mushroom type system, that fits in place of the standard magneto. BTH also do an electronic magneto, for the Norton twins.

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hi Leonard - You suggest that your bike is a '67 650SS in your heading so presumably the engine number is after 121307.   If so, was it  you or a previous owner that fitted the magneto in place of the twin contact breaker assembly and advance unit ?  After engine number 121307 all 650SS and Atlas models had twin concentric carburettors and the twin coil / capacitor discharge ignition system.  If by some chance of fate you have retained that small casting with a tin-lid that replaced the magneto or you can get it from a previous owner then converting to an electronic ignition system will be much less expensive and easy.   A modernised Lucas Rita or Boyer system are very capable and simple to 'time' accurately.   Also more expensive alternatives such as Pazon , Tri-Spark and Power Arc are also good.  If you haven't got your points carrier box (chain driven) then you probably will not have an ignition switch nor twin coil set.   Of course your bike may have been a '66 model registered in '67.  So it will be an expensive modification just to get your ignition timing easier....... A company called Kirby Rowbottom used to make a good set that used a Matchless points carrier that will fit your SS but I don't know if they are still about.  I should try Al Osborne through the NOC to see what he can suggest.  I know magnetos wear but new bearings and careful work on the cam-ring with an oil-stone can bring new life to accurate timing with a magneto.  Good searching, Howard 

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Are you having magneto problems?  I've had more ignition problems since I impatiently went to electronic ignition (RITA) many years ago when the mag condensor failed and I didn't want to wait months for the reconditioned mag to reappear.   Nothing wrong with RITA - but the associated charging, battery, fuse holder (!!) etc have all let me down.  Which reminds me - the Dommie currently has a modern solid state regulator, but no external capacitor.  Must buy one in case of a flat battery. 

Just another opinion!

Incidentally - one of the old systems notoriously went to full advance if the battery voltage was low.  That would be good in the middle of a race, but bad for your ankles if you try and start it with a low battery.  I think modern ones are different.  The advance curve in the old (now defunct?) RITA does not depend on the battery at all.

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Hi after reading an article in RH  352 I bought a Thorspark ignition system for my 650ss 1968 and it was simple to fit . Go to Roadholder archive and check April 2017 RH352 , regards Frank.

 

Just a few facts to keep us on track with the RITA. The company that took the LUCAS RITA amplifier and adapted it to motorcycles, Mistral engineering, has gone, while the LUCAS parts were stopped being made back in the 1980s. But the RITA amplifier and all the pickup parts are now with me and I occasionally repair the amps (they have been extremely reliable). Any coil ignition system is reliant on the battery and its charging system. No issue if you run around with a magneto you can ignore battery and its charging and always ride home in the dark!

There never was an advance curve issue with any RITA. The earlier one AB5 from the late 1970s only had one issue, they used twice as much power as the later ones which use the same power as traditional points.

 

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hello well My early Norton Manxman 650  built December 1960 was started today after it winter layover and she started with 3 swings of the kick start she was fitted back in December 1960 witch is the original Magento too this Manxman which is a Lucas K2FC  and was rebuilt by me back in 2016 this was an easy task to do having engineering equipment to carry out these tasks I have done electronic ignition before but it like anything else just like a Rolls Royce its only as good as its battery and I have had batteries stolen from my bike before now the bike in question was a honda cb550  and had to leave it at a pub yard locked up and had to walk the 23 miles home. if this had been my Norton I would have rode home no worries   but having said all his electrexworld.com has a self-generating CDI system that will fit in place of the alternator  and has lighting coils  and it made to fit other brands  of british motorcycles  so you can go CDI ignition  with lighting for the same cost as boyer or pazon  ignitions   so you have two in one  so see there web site  yours  anna j

Thanks for the info. The engine number is 117285, Frame R1491586, both original, I believe. The bike was first registered 1/7/67 but, as we have discussed before, may have been an earlier build. I believe the electrics I describe are standard. No chance of getting parts from the previous owner - the bike was bought in July 78 and has not run since. I don't even think it was running then, looking at the engine! It ran for the first time last weekend (Yey!!). A quick review of the electronic systems available suggested I could improve it relatively easily but, it would seem I need to do a little more research. Looking a the other replies, it doesn't look like there is a concensus that 'this one will do the job and it's really cheap!'

Cheers,

Len

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Thanks guys. As usual, lots of good advice. I think I'll run the newly  restored bike as it is for now, while I do a little more research and procrastinate some more. Sadly, I don't suppose any of us will be going far on our bikes for a while.

Cheers,

Len

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I believe that the auto-advance unit is the main drawback with the magneto. Otherwise I'd wish that my 650SS had one. Might be lucky, never had a problem with any magneto. At present four easy starting magneto bikes. The amount of parts involved in a working coil ignition makes it more prone to malfunction.

On different motorcycle forums, there is an awful lot of complaints and opinions on different electronic ignitions. Keep in mind that a system which has been around for many years and have a lot of users of course will have more failures than a newly designed system with few users.

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Good Morning again Len - Thanks for your reply with numbers.  So yes you have a '66 build engine that was built with a Lucas K2F magneto. Your frame is a Dominator 99 from 1960 which is quite satisfactory for your 650 engine.  I am pleased that you will ride it before commencing an upgrade.  Remember that those early slimlined-framed Dominators with 650 engines were unbeatable in the early 1960s winning Production Class Endurance races all over the Country.   Have fun and take care.  Howard    

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hello  well now for start this bike is made up from parts from two other and the  frame and maybe running gear  from a 1960  model99 and the motor from a Plumstead 650  build around 1965  so its  not a 1967 bike   and it's been sat around for some time  before  it was registered  in 67  and the best way to go is with Electrex-world  STR 102D witch comes everything you need in this kit  and goes in place of the alternator  and has lighting coils built-in and CDI ignition   so you can wire it into the bikes wiring  and will cost less than 300 quid and it will work without a battery, And I have had motorcycles for well 45 years  and this the way I  would go if my mags went duff,   and I would forget the rest they only work with a good battery and your bike is only as good as its battery  With Electrex-World equipment you can fit it and forget it and if the battery dies you can still start and ride your bikes  just like you have a magneto   now have fun              yours  anna j 

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We all seem to consider either a magneto or electronic ignition.  I recognise the electronic systems are very low maintenance (near enough zero), and the amplifier should give a good fat spark.

But why not 'butcher' a magneto and wire its contacts back to the battery and simply use it to trigger conventional coils?  You don't have the benefit of zero points maintenance, nor an amplifier system, but most of us were brought up with conventional coil ignition vehicles and they were good enough for most of the 20th Century.  It's low cost and presumably not much work.  If Al reads this - what are the drawbacks?  It's mot worth marketing of course - since there's almost no cost involved if the mag is already dead.

With no distributor the points will break twice, so it might need twin 6v coils and lost spark.  Maybe that's the issue - weaker spark?

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So the mag has died and we use the points to fire a coil system? You have the two timing issues with a worn cam ring and a mechanical advance/retard. You still have the two magneto bearings. IF you wanted an ignition system on the cheap and you had a dead mag and where happy to contend with the above then carry on   

Quote.Keep in mind that a system which has been around for many years and have a lot of users of course will have more failures than a newly designed system with few users. As it happens the Lucas RITA has been about since the late 70s, not a lot is heard about them as they are still working.

By the way a small word of warning re the first post on this subject. Len Unwin says his bike has a

The bike is pre-coil. It is 12v, having magneto, regulator, Zener diode, alternator. 

I very much doubt it has a regulator-most likely a rectifier. Now a word of warning if you have a magneto (no ignition load) and you want 12V with a zener diode as a 'regulator', and you have a two wire alternator then you can burn out the zener if you ride fast with no lights. As the Lucas zener is only good for 100W while a decent two wire alternator is supposed to give 120W . This was NOT a standard factory electrical set up. The early Atlas had something similar but they retained the 3 wire alternator (RM19) and some alternator switching to 'stay safe' In a lot of cases people run magneto's with 12V and zeners-they 'get away with it'

Sorry Alan, Freudian slip - meant to say rectifier, not regulator. The electrical system is standard, as described in the Haynes manual.

Howard and Anna - slightly confused by the dates of the components as I thought these were the original engine and frame. We have the original  green log book for the bike. The bike has got early 7" forks,  however.

Thanks for your continuing help everybody.

Cheers,

Len

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Just to say with my 3 bikes of a 1959 Dommie, a 1971 T120R and a 1957 Bullet I have three ignition systems. The electronic Boyer on T120R failed after 15 years or so and been replaced with a Wassell with no problem to date after 2 years, The Dommie on its standard system usually starts no problem except for the need  to clear the carb out from time to time. The Enfield started every time until recently until the Lucas SR1 after 60 years burnt its coil out. Weighted up new system using magneto with internal electronics but felt given pressure on battery of such systems and the alternator (also 60 years old) to keep fully charged and that it had lasted 60 years plus with no issues (14 with me) I have just serviced had magneto serviced. My only problem now is getting the auto advance unit back on the magneto rotor and timing as what should be simple is proving more complex. Trust helps Cheers Hugh

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hello now some of you are not getting it the best way to go with electronic ignition system that is a self-generating ignition system just like the old type magneto without any points and has CDI ignition with lighting coil fitted inside the flywheel it fires by a magnet contact and inside the flywheel is a set of more magnets and coils for the lighting system and all modernized and up to date now Electrex World.UK website does the STR102D that is made too fit Norton Twins including a Jubilee and Navigator BSA  A10 and A7 and A65 and Triumphs 3ta 5ta 6t t110 t120 and Matchless and AJS Twins  Or if you're strapped for cash you can by the PIT bike set up it will need some engineering to fit the shaft end on the Norton alternator twins and a backplate making with slots for timing adjustment now the pit bike set up fires every 360    so there is a wasted spark all that needed can Be found on the Pit Bike Web site. Twin coils can be found on the Boyer Website and there be some wiring to do and a degree plate to make and you have to set the timing at 29 degrees fully advanced, now I am66 year old And I could do this job if I had too and just with basic tools  So then you have a system you can rely on and one that will start your bike and run without any Battery, except for the lighting now look into this and see what you can do. As God with not do it for you!   yours  anna j

Hello my good man  well your motorcycle is from 1960  witch will be the frame and running gear And was a model99 600cc Has R14 in the frame number denotes Model 99 600cc  you engine is from late 1965 to 66  has it has engine number 18 117XXX  now 18 or 18ss denote a 650cc engine and the gearbox may be an mk2 AMC   Now I do have all the  Norton twins data  and from the factory records As it was me that did the biggest part of the research on the  early 650 twins the Norton Manxman models built for export only  built from  November 7th 1960  the first 650ss came up for sale  from late-July and august 1961 and the last Bracebridge 650 were made early October then Bracebridge closed and everything moved to Plumstead  near London  and Plumstead bike had a letter P on the end of the engine number.Ps and all Norton motorcycle have matching engine and frame numbers like my 1954 model 88 twin  and my December 1960 Norton Manxman 650 twin and 1961 Norton  Navigator 350 twin       yours  anna j 

In reply to by anna_jeannette_dixon

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Thanks for the tip Anna.  I am sticking with my original spec 6 volt system after much thought and discussion on this site. (Shock, horror from some people!) so was considering electronic ignition to go with my "as standard" coil/distributor for my 1959 99 Special  (According to John Hudson!)  Although I have seen the adverts in bike press I haven't looked into what is actually involved with CDI.  Does it replace the distributor?  I have a new alternator/stator but would I need to remove it?

I also have an old K2F magneto from my old 1955 88, which I believe still works.  Not checked for about 40 years though!  Not authentic for my year and model though.

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If you have a magneto that has been rebuilt by a competent magneto specialist you will have years of reliability but unfortunately there are a lot of people who advertise magneto repairs who have`nt  got a clue.Paul Wolf NOC Magneto Tec

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Hi Anna

I have just purchased an Electrexworld CDI and charging  system like you I thought it seems a great idea but have been horrified that what they have supplied to me this week would be very dangerous to fit as the way the rotor is now fitted there is no load  to the engine drive sprocket. They are now using a tapered collet to secure the rotor which makes no proper contact to secure the main drive sprocket.  I have spent all week on the phone trying to talk to some one that has any idea of what they are talking about, finally I found someone  who just tried to talk over me when I did manage to get them to listen and they studded the photos that I had sent, it did then come clear to them what a big mistake they have made and are now working on the problem they have created. Have you fitted one of these systems to one of your bikes if so when? I might be wrong on this but I think they might have changed the rotor fixing that before the rotor bolted up solid on a key way to the sprocket the same a the Lucas rotor did. If any one has fitted one of these what you know would be helpful. In the meantime steer well clear of the ones for Norton Dominators with a tapered collet fixing.

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Oh dear.

What i have feared (and quite a few members of the EYNoc branch have feared)  for a while has happened again. Anna has 'recommended' or advised someone to use an electronic ignition system that she has no experience of.  

Anna will quite happily tell you what Electronic Ignition to use, but when questioned about this she says 'i dont need electronic ignition as i use a magneto'  She has no experience of fitting an electronic ignition to a 650ss  

I repeat, take anything she says or 'recommends' with not a big pinch of salt but a huge shovel full     

In reply to by anna_jeannette_dixon

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Hi Anna, although I may not  be going down that route, I had a look on the Electrex website and can't find anything with that part number - STR102D.  Their search engine isn't too good either but there is a unit STK-102D-DC for most old Brit bikes including Nortons, so I'm thinking it must be this one. Price isn't too bad at £282 inc VAT for the basic system.

Interestingly it works with either 6V or 12V systems.  I am being a rebel and intend to stay with 6V for my 1959 Dommie so it could work for me!  If I did change I would miss the PRS8 switch though - or perhaps adapt it to suit?

Thanks for your info.

Stay safe.

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Grant Tiller has a write up on the Electrex setup, summary 'avoid at all costs' but you have to read to the end to find that out.

 

https://granttiller.com/electrex-world-unboxing-fitting-opinions

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Don't forget to do something sensible with your old magneto. Its cash value will be considerably more than that of any electronic system...which might indicate something...last year I had another of my occasional breakdowns because the charging black box broke down. No charge = no ignition. I was lucky to be at a show where I bought a new battery and just got home running total loss.  Its not a frequent occurrence but a decent mag won't let you down.

Thanks for the link John.  Electrex is another one which will never be on my Christmas List now.  You've saved me money!

Anna - if you have one that works properly after fitting it as per their instructions, you are lucky!

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Hi Lionel ,If you intend to just bumble around and go to local classic events then the dissy 6v set up will work fine.  Regular  annual  maintenance and  carefull fitting of NOS parts  (points/cap/rotor arm)  will do, the Dissy can be refurbished . If you want to retain the look but get strong sparks ,just fit a cheap boyer points assist box in the battery area  and convert to 12v. 

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Slightly insulted by that word but I definitely won't be doing marathon trips on it so I would refurbish the dizzy, or pay a specialist to do it as I can afford to now!  Gone are the days of "tight budget"!

I last used it with my 1955 K2F magneto as I'd had a bit of trouble with the distributor, but as I've said before, my experience with contactless electronic ignition on cars was largely favourable so that is a consideration.  I still don't intend to change to 12 Volts though!

Anything that replaces the points and condenser is good although I'm also wary about electronics failing and leaving me stranded.  The simplest mod to the 18D2 would be to replace the internal capacitor with a more robust external one, as well as renewing the springs and anything that shows wear.

 

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Be wary of the washer /shim in the timing cover . Looks an innocent little thing ,but if too thin or missing can allow a meeting of parts that should be appart..  Shortly after that its all  in bits. And even a bumble is out of the question.

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I am in the same boat as I am not sure whether to rebuild a magneto for my 1966 Atlas engine. But, has anyone thought of the Lucas distributor Triumph used on the 1954 on twins. I had one on a Thunderbird, and found it reliable, the lack of distributor caps was solved by Lucas making some out of Austin Seven ones with two blanked off holes. I converted to 12 volt on it by mounting a car dynamo in front of the engine, and fitting a pulley on the crankshaft and drive belt. It lasted for many thousands of miles.

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Everyone who gives up with a magneto seems to go directly to electronic. That is...a current interrupter and amplifier. But the vast majority of cars throughout the 20th C had a simple contact breaker with coils. Is it not possible to just use the K2F magneto contact breaker the same way? Just add coils and a bit of rewiring?

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It may be possible David,  but a reasonably big hurdle is that the points rotate (on Lucas mags at least) and the cam stays still. To use the mag body would need some serious mods to get the signal out, maybe via the slip rings? I know this isn't insurmountable,  but I can't imagime it would be easy to do.

Just my thoughts, would be happy to be corrected if I've got it wrong!

Regards, George 

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Dear Members,

Swallow hard and pay Paul Wolf to overhaul your magnetos. I have paid two fairly well known companies to overhaul my M01 and K2F magnetos in the past and they both failed within 5 years.

Paul found pretty major faults with both previous overhauls: now my machines start first or second kick and are equipped with readily replaceable condensers should they fail.

He richly deserves his position as the NOC magneto guru.

Remember: buy cheap, pay twice.

Anthony Bolton 

 

 

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