Deep Dive: MSD Pro 600 Single Channel Ignition System

10 min read

Deep Dive: MSD Pro 600 Single Channel Ignition System

10 min read

The popularity of Hot Rod Magazine’s Drag Week has spawned a number of similar drag-and-drive events and with good reason. Where else can you race five or six days in a row and hang out with loads of other hardcore race guys?

This has also led to some seriously fast cars being challenged to drive hundreds of miles, which in the case of most drag cars, were never intended to do. Not only from a smooth ride and comfort perspective, but from a component and parts aspect. In short, many go-fast parts are built specifically to go fast, not go long. High volume fuel pumps, race-built transmissions with huge stall converters, high flowing injectors and carbs and high output ignitions are designed primarily for quarter-mile blasts, not a few hundred miles.

MSD Pro 600 8001

When it comes to the ignition system in drag racing, the hotter the spark at the plug gap the better, especially in the case of alcohol or E85 fuels and with forced induction setups. MSD offers a number of systems from their Pro-Mag to 8-Series ignitions to deliver extreme energy to the plugs, but these systems were never intended for miles of cruising. To answer the need for an intense spark that can handle long duration cruising, MSD drew on their experience in programmable ignition controls to develop a powerful new ignition with an adjustable spark output, the Single Channel Pro 600 CDI.

The Single Channel Pro 600, PN 8001, was developed using some of the advanced technology of its multi-tasking 8-Channel sibling for multi-coil applications, but built for use with a crank trigger and distributor. The new ignition produces the highest spark energy of any MSD CDI, plus it has a number of unique features built into it to serve these extreme engines that see race duty as well as tackling high mileage drag-and-drive events.

“The Pro 600 ignition is ideal for drag-and-drive racers, or any other racer that needs to overcome maximum cylinder pressures and race fuels,” explained Joe Pando of MSD. “Combined with the advanced programmable features of the PowerGrid, this ignition delivers everything a racer needs – and more.”

To achieve a blast of huge spark energy on the track, but being able to make the secondary components of the ignition system (rotor, cap and wires) survive, MSD made the output of the ignition adjustable. When set at its default, the ignition delivers a stout 325mJ of spark energy, but can be switched on the fly to deliver a whopping 600 millijoules combined with 250 microseconds of spark duration. At its peak, the current at the plug can reach over three amps!

This energy boost can easily be activated through the green wire of the ignition. “When the Green wire is connected to ground via a manual switch, rpm switch, timer or other means of programming, the ignition switches to full output. When disconnected (open), the ignition steps down to ‘only’ 325 millijoules, which is still far more than any other ignition,” Pando explained.

The Supporting Cast

To achieve the big spark power numbers and endurance of the Pro 600, there are a few important components that must be used. To start with, the Power Grid Controller must be used to manage and record all of the output and controls of the Pro 600. In fact, the ignition housing was developed to act as a mount for the Power Grid and the two plug directly into each other through a 4-wire Deutsch connector.

The new HVC III Coil also must be used to handle the excessive current and voltage supplied from the Pro 600. “The winding materials and ratio of the HVC III Coil were designed specifically to handle the strength of the Pro 600,” Pando said. “Another unique feature of this coil is a third terminal called the Current Sensing circuit which allows every firing of the coil to be recorded and reviewed with the ignition’s View software or through a Racepak system. This technology comes straight from working with the Top Fuel teams and is extremely valuable info to have at the hands of the crew chief or tuner.”

MSD Pro 600 data spread

This screen capture from MSD’s View software shows the rpm trace (green) with the current output of the coil (blue). The two vertical lines show the peak outputs during a run. The blue line shows 6,987 rpm with 3.2 amps of current at about 2.6 seconds while the red line shows 3.27 amps at 7,729 rpm.

One more extremely important part that must be used with the Pro 600 system is a special rotor tip. “This may not sound all that important, but remember that the tip of the rotor handles the extreme heat of eight firings of the ignition every rotation inside the cap so it sees a lot of heat,” Pando said. To answer the need of a long-lasting rotor, MSD developed a unique rotor tip. The rotor has two small holes machined in it to help reduce the mass of material while air is able to circulate through the rotor tip to help remove excessive heat. “It’s a small component but it must be used for extreme applications that run for a long amount of time such as on the drag-and-drive events.”

Additional Features

MSD Pro600 Rotor

With the large dose of spark energy going through the distributor, MSD developed a new rotor tip with two machined holes which help dissipate the heat, resulting in increased endurance of the rotor and secondary components.

There are several other features built into the background of the Pro 600 CDI to improve its efficiency as well as protection. There are two internal temperature sensors to monitor the IGBT transistor as well as the temperature of the ignition. If the internal temp exceeds 257 degrees Fahrenheit, the output will be reduced to help prevent permanent damage. The highest temp can be reviewed in the PowerGrid’s data files as well as the rpm it was recorded at. To aid in the ignition’s efficiency and need to draw more current from the battery, any unused spark energy is recycled back to its capacitor. To help identify any issues, there is diagnostic LED that will signal you to open the Alert Window of the data files and look for errors such as an Open Load, High Temp, Low Current, Shorted Coil and other warnings.

Whether you need an extreme output ignition for the track or for the street and strip, the Pro 600 CDI Ignition delivers the spark energy, endurance and programmability to give you the edge.

MSD Pro600 wiring

The Pro 600 connects to the battery, coil and the green wire which controls the spark energy is connected through a switch to ground. The rest of the wires connect directly to the PowerGrid and CAN system via sealed, locking Deutsch connectors.


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