Why the magneto ignition on the SA200???

By larryNo Comments

There are questions that customers and prospective customers seem to ask daily. One of the most asked is why did the SA series machines have a magneto ignitions instead of a distributor or electronic ignition?

What new engine driven machine can you purchse, today, that comes stock with a magneto ignition? The only thing that comes to mind is a chainsaw, lawnmower, or a weed-eater-and these units have electronic magnetos-no points and condenser!


A magneto is an electro-mechanical that generates its own high voltage electricity and correctly directs it to the proper spark plug just in time to ignite the fuel/air mixture to produce proper combustion. It needs no external electrical power to operate.

 When the original SA200 came on the market in 1939, it did not have an electrical system-no battery or generator! It was like an old tractor-you had to hand crank start it!

When I was munchkin in the 1950’s ignition failure and constant ignition maintenance was a fact of life. Every six, seven, or eight thousand miles you took you vehicle to your local mechanic. He would replace your points, condenser, rotor, rotor cap, and clean your spark plugs-it was a part of life!

Ask yourself when was the last time you had an ignition failure in any vehicle you drive/ When was the last time you heard anyone say their vehicle had a ignition problem. For me it was 1974!

Why, you ask, did the magneto stay on the SA-200 until the last one rolled off the assembly line? The simple answer is the welders wanted to see a magneto on their machines! Lincoln had one code number that came with a Prestolite, points distributor (Model IBT-4706)-the welders would not buy them! Miller used the same Continental F-163 engine, with the Prestolite distributor in many of their most successful engine driven machines. They worked just fine!

The most common magneto found on the SA-200 was the Fairbanks-Morse FMX4B16. There were some American-Bosch-very good units, but so expensive! Neither unit is in production today, but parts should be available for years.

We suggest that our customer convert to out electronic ignition, when facing the prospect repairing or replacing their magneto’s. We use the Prestolite distributor with an electronic module installed, in our kits. We send the original points plate with the distributor upgrade kit. If the module ever fails-you pop out the module and install the points plate (a ten minute effort) the points are preset. Our kit is complete with distributor drive rod, cover plate to cover the magneto hole, and our system comes with low oil pressure, high temperature automatic engine shut down. Complete install instructions and a toll-free 800 number if you have any questions! You can’t go wrong

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