HEI Distributor

1976 Camaro HEI distributer

One of best inventions in the early 70s, is the High Energy Ignition (HEI) distributor (alternate spelling distributer). The HEI distributor has no points- it uses built-in electronics to determine when to fire the sparkplugs. It also incorporates the coil inside the top of the distributor cap. It is larger than a regular distributor and won't fit certain applications like tripower carburator setups.

2 wires are used plus chassis ground

There is only one wire needed to run it - that's the Ignition +12V. There is a second wire used for an electronic tach pulse. The case provides the path to chassis ground through the cam gear and the distributor hold down bolt. Here's a desciption of the wires:

  • Ignition on wire

    • connect to the ignition switch ON position
    • use 14 ga wire
    • See red wire and brown connector at the distributor in the previous picture

  • Tach line

    • connect to an electronic tach
    • See black wire connected using a white connector to distributor in the previous picture
    • use 18 ga wire

The HEI distributor is pretty damn simple. I can't think of too much else to add to it. Plug it in, hook up one wire to the ignition switch ON position and you're done! Got to like that!

There are smaller versions of the HEI distributor that have an external ignition coil. They were used in the late 80s and up.

Small version HEI that requires external coil.

External coil - needs a bit more wiring to connect.

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Copyright June 2011 Eugene Blanchard