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Old 06-22-2010, 11:09 AM
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Skip White 65,000 Volt Distributor Revealed

Normally, I stick to known brands and pay the premium. However as of late, I've been noticing a lot of companies selling us knock off goods with their stickers, while we're still paying a premium for their product. Case in point: MSD's Street Fire distributor is made in China, much like this Skip White unit that I just picked up. For $80 dollars, I received a 65,000 volt HEI distributor as well as a set of universal Accel 8.8 300+ Ferro-Spiral Race Wires. The wires alone are $99.99 on Jegs, so basically it's like getting a free distributor, and a $19.99 discount on the wires.

Too good to be true? That was my first thought. My second thought was I'd buy the pair, and check out the distributor first hand, then show you guys the results. Worst case scenario I scrap the dizzy and use the plug wires. So, onto the pictures:

The box is branded "TSP", or "Top Street Performance." Clearly a very generic name.



What's inside? A completely assembled HEI distributor. No added frills or even instructions. It was packaged very well though:



Now, my first impression of the assembled product surprised me. I was expecting obvious signs of poor quality control and workmanship, inferior plastics, terrible machining tolerances, etc. However, everything seems to be top notch, exactly what you would expect from a distributor 3 times the cost. That's on the outside though. Time to do what any real gear head would do: Take it apart!

My initial findings again, are surprising. I found a high quality adjustable vacuum advance unit, welded weight pins, nicely crimped and sealed wiring; Again, what you would expect in a name brand part. The Ignition Module has no name or way of identification other than the manufacturer's numbers, so at this time I will have to say that I cannot vouch for the quality of the electronics. The polished finish of the distributor body is flawless.





Here's a critical one: The drive gear. This one appears to be average quality, it's nothing exceptional as it's just a run of the mill cast iron drive gear for use with flat tappet cams.



Up top, I have nothing but good things to say about the cap, rotor, and coil. I've heard rumors of the plastic being cheap and brittle, but when compared to my MSD cap and rotor, the difference is negligible. All of the cap terminals as well as the rotor have brass contacts, which we all know are superior to cheaper aluminum contacts in durability and conductivity.

The coil once again "appears" to be high quality, but that's hard for me to say for sure. Nothing about the weight or outward appearance would give a hint of poor quality. The carbon button is constructed with a brass spring and a Buna-N insulator.









The plug wires are high quality as expected from a name like Accel. They are a factory sealed product, so I'm a little baffled as to why Jegs sells them for $100 while White can sell them for $80 WITH a distributor.







So, the final verdict: As long as Skip White sticks with his current supplier (Top Street Performance), you can't go wrong with his HEI distributor if you're on a budget. The distributor normally sells for around $40 dollars plus shipping. The MSD Street Fire normally goes for about $145. Jegs and Summit each have their own distributors which are no different from the White or MSD unit ranging from the $90-$130 dollar range.

Feel free to discuss my findings.

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Last edited by Jr. Mechanic; 06-22-2010 at 11:20 AM.
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Old 06-22-2010, 12:35 PM
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A couple observations/comments:

In the 3rd photo, if what I'm seeing is in fact what is there, the top of the shaft that has the advance weight pins, looks to be finished w/a mill bastard. Actually a mill bastard would be much smoother.

What were the ID of the bushings and the OD of the shaft? There's virtually no way to know what the shaft, etc. is made of or its heat treat, etc. (if any). I don't know that that would be a deal-killer, but I mention it anyway- devil's advocate that I'm being, here.

What was the end play w/the gear installed, as delivered?

A melonized gear will be an additional ~$25.00, if one is needed- it's impossible to tell from the photos whether the gear is treated or not.

The electronics are a major part of any ignition system. Without knowing anything about what is in these distributors- other than the coil is capable of 45K V- it's hard to compare them to other distributor components that have published parameters.

All in all though- I think the distributor is (barring any problems when in service) still an option to anyone on a budget. And after seeing this one a little closer, it is better than the price would indicate.

FWIW: Just heard the Chinese are raising the value of their currency. The days of super cheap Chinese goods may be on the decline, going forward.
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Old 06-22-2010, 01:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cobalt327
A couple observations/comments:

In the 3rd photo, if what I'm seeing is in fact what is there, the top of the shaft that has the advance weight pins, looks to be finished w/a mill bastard. Actually a mill bastard would be much smoother.

What were the ID of the bushings and the OD of the shaft? There's virtually no way to know what the shaft, etc. is made of or its heat treat, etc. (if any). I don't know that that would be a deal-killer, but I mention it anyway- devil's advocate that I'm being, here.

What was the end play w/the gear installed, as delivered?

A melonized gear will be an additional ~$25.00, if one is needed- it's impossible to tell from the photos whether the gear is treated or not.

The electronics are a major part of any ignition system. Without knowing anything about what is in these distributors- other than the coil is capable of 45K V- it's hard to compare them to other distributor components that have published parameters.

All in all though- I think the distributor is (barring any problems when in service) still an option to anyone on a budget. And after seeing this one a little closer, it is better than the price would indicate.

FWIW: Just heard the Chinese are raising the value of their currency. The days of super cheap Chinese goods may be on the decline, going forward.
The top isn't perfectly milled, however it's not anywhere as bad as the picture makes it look. The lines are grease from me moving the advance weights back and forth.

I didn't pull the shaft apart, however that might not be a bad idea. I'll also break out the dial indicator and check the end play.

The gear seems to be identical to a factory GM gear.

You're absolutely right about the electronics. I keep a spare module and coil in my emergency pack, so I'm more concerned with the mechanical aspects of the distributor.
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Old 06-22-2010, 01:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jr. Mechanic
The top isn't perfectly milled, however it's not anywhere as bad as the picture makes it look. The lines are grease from me moving the advance weights back and forth.

I didn't pull the shaft apart, however that might not be a bad idea. I'll also break out the dial indicator and check the end play.

The gear seems to be identical to a factory GM gear.

You're absolutely right about the electronics. I keep a spare module and coil in my emergency pack, so I'm more concerned with the mechanical aspects of the distributor.
Yeah, I wasn't sure about the milling on that. Hard to tell exactly what I'm seeing...

The end play is likely wide- almost all the distributors that are sold as OEM replacements are- as are the original distributors we've all seen taken out of engines, so that in itself isn't a condemnation of the SW dist., but is another added cost to get a shim kit if a person doesn't have any to use on hand. You could use (stacked, if need be) feelers to check it.

If the distributor gear could be compared to a melonized gear, there's a possibility an educated guess might be made as to whether this one is treated or not.

I'm wondering what the shaft OD is, if it's 0.490" or what- if changing gears is needed.

Typo above- I said 45K V, it is 65K V.

Anyway, thanks for going to the trouble of posting this info- Good Job.
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Old 06-22-2010, 01:40 PM
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i have the skipwhite HEI and i also just picked up a MSD Street Fire, I held them side by side and they look VERY similar but their is some differences.
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Old 06-22-2010, 02:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FastOrange
i have the skipwhite HEI and i also just picked up a MSD Street Fire, I held them side by side and they look VERY similar but their is some differences.
Pictures.

I posted pics a couple weeks ago of a Skip White and an MSD Street Fire side by side and nobody here could tell the difference. There were very minor differences but since one was purchased almost 4 years ago and the other 4 weeks ago that's to be expected.

As far as ACCEL wires............ Except for a 30 year old set of NIB points I have stashed I wouldn't use anything with ACCEL on it anymore if they paid me!
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Old 06-22-2010, 02:17 PM
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I second Hippie on anything with Accel written on it, I can`t put that stuff in the trash fast enough.
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Old 06-22-2010, 02:21 PM
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The Skip White distributors I have used have a .491" shaft and were of much tighter end play than a stock distributor, the one I checked just to verify was .012". Didn't measure shaft od/bushing id but it was nice and smooth, seemed a good slim fit

Bought these 3 years ago, when they were advertised as having a 4340 billet gear(the gear alone was worth the price of the whole distributor!) on them as I wanted the distributors to run with a solid roller cam. Can't tell you how good the module and coil are, we gutted them to just the magnetic pick-up and used them to trigger MSD or Holley ignition boxes.

They have worked fine for a couple years now.
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Old 06-22-2010, 02:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hippie
Pictures.

I posted pics a couple weeks ago of a Skip White and an MSD Street Fire side by side and nobody here could tell the difference. There were very minor differences but since one was purchased almost 4 years ago and the other 4 weeks ago that's to be expected.

As far as ACCEL wires............ Except for a 30 year old set of NIB points I have stashed I wouldn't use anything with ACCEL on it anymore if they paid me!
i can believe it, to me, the only differences are, the gear, coil, Cap/Rotor and the three wires attached to the cap. Everything else looks 99% the same.
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Old 06-22-2010, 02:49 PM
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I used Skip White on my BBC Hot Rod and now on my 36 Ford with a SBC.

I'm happy with everything I'v gotten from him.


454 RATTLER
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Old 06-22-2010, 04:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FastOrange
i can believe it, to me, the only differences are, the gear, coil, Cap/Rotor and the three wires attached to the cap. Everything else looks 99% the same.
That's not even different on the ones I compared but it's a fair bet even they manufacturer has multiple vendors for that stuff. You can be sure though both came from the same source regardless of whose name was on them.
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Old 06-22-2010, 05:15 PM
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Hey Jr. , enjoyed your thread and thanks for the pics but i was a bit distracted by those bare feet of yours. You might be looking at a new name, " Barefoot mechanic " . . . sorry, I couldn't help myself. Hope you got a sense of humor. Great pics.
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Old 06-22-2010, 07:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hippie
That's not even different on the ones I compared but it's a fair bet even they manufacturer has multiple vendors for that stuff. You can be sure though both came from the same source regardless of whose name was on them.


Should have mentioned, NOTHING on my StreetFire has a MSD Logo or PN on it, other then the sticker on the Dizzy itself.

I also just bought a Advance Curve kit for it, and reliazed, the stock Skipwhite/Streetfire springs let it advance WAY to much, according to the graph that came with my kit, it uses the lightest springs possible.
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Old 06-22-2010, 07:32 PM
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question for you skipwhite/ebay guys, does yours truly have adjustable canister for vacuum advance, i stuck a allen key done mu SkipWhite and dint fell **** to turn, tried on my StreetFire and could feel it right away.
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Old 06-22-2010, 08:19 PM
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I got this in my 383 stroker using an external msd coil and some other mixed msd ignition parts and love it. The vac advance is adjustable but its the type where counterclockwise "limits" the amount of vac advance NOT how soon the vac advance comes in. It appears to come in around 8hg and is reliable above 10hg. At full clockwise youll get something like 24-26' more advance, counterclockwise lowers the vac advance from there. I think I needed 8 turns just to take away 10' advance.

Had this in my car a little over 2 years and had better timing results than my older msd dizzy which was 15+ years old?? From the internals everything looked better and more precise than a stock GM dizzy I had and since my older MSD was shot I cant compare.

Because of recent experiments on my dizzy I will be checking the rotor phasing tomorrow I hope. Havent missed a spark yet....I think.
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