Should I switch to a high energy ignition?

November 1, 2018 | By Staff


I have a 1967 VW that I have been thinking about switching to an HEI ignition system. My son says that this will improve the car’s performance, and I won’t need tune-ups anymore. What is your opinion?


Don’t do it. That is my opinion based on experience. I converted my 1968 Beetle to HEI a few years ago and the system only lasted a few days. An air-cooled engine produces a lot of heat, and the aftermarket conversion HEI system I installed fried quickly. I was driving along the next day and the car just stopped. No warning, no sputtering, nothing.

If you do decide to install such a system, you will need to reconfigure the distributor, install a hotter coil, and add special sparkplug wires and special sparkplugs. So converting to HEI is not as cheap as you might imagine. And besides, stock air-cooled VW Beetles are not revvers, so the usual highperformance problems of insufficient coil saturation and weak spark are virtually nonexistent with them.

If you want a bit more oomph, a much better solution is to ditch the old vacuum advance distributor for a Bosch R9 centrifugal advance type. You will have to drive the car with a little more élan because it will rev faster than it did before, but you will like the extra bottom-end acceleration. They are available from VW parts and performance stores.