The Volvo Parts, Accessories &
Performance Specialists Since 1963

The Benefits of a Pointless Vintage Volvo

2019-03-01 - ipd Staff

*** Disclaimer; Direct from ipd’s Tech Tip archive!  This tech tip contains information from previous publications.  Products mentioned may not be available or the information may not be accurate due to changes in supply, manufacturing, or part number association.  Please contact ipd Customer Support if you have further questions info@ipdusa.com


One of the more common questions we hear from customers who own pre-1975 B18 or B20 powerd Volvos is ‘how do I get rid of my (problematic) ignition points?’ This is usually movitivated by two elements: first, these distributors are more than 25 years old and the shafts develop lateral slop that makes adjusting the points to the proper gap difficult, however it is not impossible. Second, and regardless of the condition of the distributor, the points begin to wear as soon as they’re in use; their condition begins to degrade immediately.

We sell two products that allow the Volvo B18 & B20 engines to run without points and condenser, the Crane-Allison and the Perlux (or Pertronix). Of these, the Perlux is the more affordable (around $90), simplest to install (two wires & one screw) and most compoact (fits inside the distributor). The possible drawback to this device is that it won’t fit into the B18 distributors; they’re too small. Also, the Perlux is less precise than the Crane-Allison at high revs (6000+).

The first step to installing a Pertronix kit is to acquire a distributor from a Volvo B20 engine; these are easily are identified by their smooth texture & aluminum color. B18 distributors are rough textured  and (should be) painted black. These are no modifications required to install a B20 distributor on a B18 engine, though they do not use the same rotor or distributor cap.

The “black box” unit mounts inside the distributor where the points used to be, with two wires leading out through the distributor. The black box is triggered by a collar that fits on the distributor shaft just below the rotor. Inside this collar are 4 magnets, 90 degrees apart.  As each magnet passes the black box, it triggers the coil. Just like the points would do, but without any mechanical contact and thus, without any component wear.

There are two wires on the Pertronix, one red and one black. Depending on what model you have and how its configured, there are several possible ways to connect the wires up. 140 series w/o tachometers are the simplest: the red wire connects to the (+) terminal on the coil, and the black wire connects to the (-) terminal. 122, 544 and early 1800 models that use the armored cable to the (+) will require slightly more attention, and 1800 models with tachometers are more complicated still. Even so, installation should not take more than an hour and the end result of never having to deal with worn, pitted, burnt or sloppy points can really make the effort worthwhile.

If this is something you’d like to consider but aren’t sure whether the installation process is realistic for you, give us a call & we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have.