Traction Avant Electronic versus mechanical Ignition

Electronic Ignition

1st October 2014 - Well the car took a 'hissy fit' today and cut out around 1.25 miles from home. Checked it over and there was no fuel issue so checked for a spark at the plugs and there was nothing.

Swapped the new coil for an old one and still nothing, so it looked like a faulty 'Powernition' electronic distributor that came fitted to the car when I bought it. Called a recovery truck and the driver was of the same opinion, faulty distributor so the car was duly recovered home and placed in the garage.

Confirmed today that the distributor has failed via a simple multimeter test. With a multimeter set to volts, connect red on the meter to red on the coil and black on the meter to black on the coil, crank the engine with ignition on.

As the rotor arm goes around you should get a 'pulse' on the multimeter, no pulse = dead distributor.

Finding someone to take a look at the 'Powernition' distributor with a view to repairing it however proved impossible so it meant replacing it completely.

My friend James had a used (but not very much) '123' Electronic distributor designed for use on several Citroen models, including the Perfo engined Traction Avant so I swapped mine for the 123 and the car fired up straight away, though ran a bit 'rough' After some trial and error the timing was reset and all appeared OK.

Rather than getting potentially stuck at the roadside again in the future I then sourced a new mechanical distributor from Claude Renel in France, wrapped it in heat shrink and tucked it away in the boot of the car 'just in case' as I didn't want to get stuck at the roadside again.

19th October 2014 we went to Driffield (and back) for a Citroen Rally and covered 240 miles with no more problems.

In January 2019 after driving another Traction Avant and talking to James Geddes at Traction Repairs about our cars performance as it seemed to lack the 'get up and go' of the one I test drove, I decided to take the 123 Electronic ignition out and replaced it with the mechanical type. The car actually starts and runs better on the 'old fashioned' technology. I have sold the electronic unit on for the cost of the replacement mechanical one as well!

123 Electronic V Ducellier Mechanical Visually, the 2 distributors look very much alike as can be seen in the image as it appears the makers of the 123 unit copied the Ducellier distributor but without the external vacuum advance unit as the internal 'electronics' are pre programmed with the correct advance curve.

Personally I'm not convinced that it's a worthwhile upgrade.

Cost wise, the mechanical Distributor is circa 25% of a replacement electronic unit so I could replace it at least 3 times in the future and still be better off financially (replacing the points, condenser, rotor arm and distributor cap would cost circa £21.00 in total should something go wrong). So it appears that counter to the claims made, not everything out there equates to actual 'progress' in the Classic Car world!


Following a 450 mile round trip to Coventry for the Citroen 100th Anniversary Rally at Coombe Park I can confirm that the car runs much better with the new distributor. It pulls better, fuel consumption is better so it's a win win for me.

Last Update: 3rd June 2019