For those of you too young to remember when points ignitions ruled the roads, just imagine broken-down cars with their hoods up every few hundred yards on the highway. Imagine parking lots echoing with the sound of engines farting, sputtering, and ultimately failing to start, and the associated screamfests among the stressed-out victims. Imagine getting 4 MPG a few thousand miles after your last tuneup; in fact, imagine having to do tuneups every few months. For all these nightmares and more, what was the culprit damn near every time? Ignition points!
We're talking about a simple little device here, basically just a spring-loaded switch inside the distributor that opens and closes to fire the spark plugs, via a little cam on the distributor shaft. It's a low-grade pain in the ass to get a new set adjusted right, involving feeler gauges and a bit of back pain, but anyone can learn how to install and adjust ignition points… and therein lies the deadly allure of the cursed things: when a car with a points ignition system is running like crap, most of the time you know right where to look for the problem, and you can fix it for cheap with a couple of hand tools and 15 minutes. You are a hero! A problem solver!
Meanwhile, electronic ignitions, which generally operate on a magnetic-sensor principle, just keep working forever (yeah, yeah, all you points lovers have harrowing tales of electronic ignitions that failed, and such stories always end up with the victims being dismembered and eaten by Sendoro Luminoso guerillas in Philadelphia, their final cries for mercy mixed with self-recriminations over their foolish spurning of good ol' ignition points in favor of them newfangledy eee-lectronic whatsits).
“They are in the process of sifting through their belongings, so you can imagine the pain they are going through right now,” said Custer County Sheriff Shannon Byerly, in explaining why the couple did not want to talk to media. “This home is about 4 miles from the original ignition point but the fire got on the top of the ridge line and just wreaked havoc.”