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My Triumph Obsession, Part IV: An ignition coil lasted more than a half-century

Published in blog.hemmings.com

New $34.99 ignition coil from NAPA. Photos by the author.

With Lucas electrics being the butt of jokes for decades, it’s time we give credit where credit is due.

A few weeks ago, while heading out for a run in the countryside, just one block from my house my 1967 GT6 MKI went dead. It had been running quite well then suddenly no power. Back at my garage, the glass fuel bowl was clearly full, but I decided to change the fuel filter in front of the two Strombergs because it was filled with a bit of sediment. The engine started right up and off I went for a quick road test…..and then lost all power again. After a few minutes sitting on the side of the road, the engine finally fired and I was able to coax the old Triumph home.

With fuel showing in both filter and fuel bowl, it was time to check ignition. Pulling out the #6 lead (which is closest to the windshield so I can better see if there’s spark), connecting it to a spare spark plug, and reaching into the dash and turning the ignition key, I didn’t see any spark…then spark…then no spark…then spark…then no spark.

The original Lucas ignition coil, with its distinctive aluminum casing.

The ignition coil was cold, an obvious sign it wasn’t working. After 51 years, the original Lucas coil finally died. Yes, the factory-installed Lucas coil lasted more than a half-century, which I think is very honorable, and beyond the normal life expectancy that any coil is projected to last.

So, how do I know that this was the factory-installed ignition coil? When I purchased the GT6 from Dr. Miller, the car’s original owner, he gave me his log book which listed every single expense from day one. Be it gas, parts, or servicing, Dr. Miller noted everything that had been done to his beloved GT6 and included the date and mileage when parts had been replaced along with brief notations. There is no such mention of the ignition coil ever having been replaced.

Not wanting to wait the week-plus to order by mail a new Lucas sports coil, or even a Bosch blue coil, I went down to my local NAPA auto parts and bought a standard 3-ohm plain black ignition coil off the shelf for $34.99. Thirty minutes later, after putting on the correct wire connectors, a quick twist of the key and the 2.0-liter straight-six engine fired instantly and revved easily without any stumbling. A quick road trip for a few miles and all was well again. And as a precautionary measure, I added a second fuel filter; this one located between the gas tank and fuel pump to prevent sediment from clogging the pump.

So, thank you Lucas for manufacturing such a well-made ignition coil that provided reliable service for over 51 years. Well done.