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Tech Review-MSD 6LS Controller

Posted By: Steve Baur
Written by Todd Ryden
Photography by the author
It is universally known that Chevrolet LS engine platform is by far the most popular powertrain swap of choice these days — and for good reason. The engines are proven performers, make great power, and are compact enough to fit in any muscle car and even pretty much any other vehicle.

There is one aspect about the LS engine family that likely holds back some people from making the swap; electronic fuel injection. Many enthusiasts just don’t want to deal with the idea of converting to fuel injection with the extra wiring and high-pressure fuel line plumbing. Even with all of the nearly plug-and-play fuel injection systems available, it’s understandable that some would prefer to continue down the path of carburetion and its art of simplicity.

The good news is that MSD has the answer for those wanting LS performance, but want to stick with their proven carburetor — the 6LS Ignition Controller. 
The 6LS (PN 6014 in red, and PN 60143 in black) is a compact controller designed to manage all aspects of the ignition system (and then some) so a carburetor can handle the air/fuel metering. Obviously, a new intake manifold is required, which Holley offers in several versions including single, dual and split plane designs that accept a square-bore carburetor. Note that an electric fuel pump is still required, as none of the Gen 3 or IV engines are equipped with a mechanical fuel pump boss.

Looking to enjoy the performance and endurance of an LS engine, but prefer to retain the simplicity of a carburetor over fuel injection? MSD has a solution with its 6LS Series Ignition Controller. 

Even for those that are leery of wiring, the 6LS makes it a simple task with factory-style connectors for the cam and crank sensors, coil packs, and coolant temperature. It is set up to accept the two different style crank/cam sensors, 24x/1 or 58x/4, so all of the LS platform engines are covered. Of course, battery and ignition connections are required, but that’s it. 
To ease the intimidation of programming, users can choose from several pre-set timing calibrations through a rotary switch. There are settings for nearly any LS-based crate or donor engine to get your new engine fired up and driving smooth.

For those that have put a little more compression or cam into their engines, the ignition settings can easily be adjusted and programmed through MSD’s View software (free to download). Once the software is opened on your PC, you’ll be able to map out a complete timing curve and even change timing between cylinders.

To make things simple, the 6LS offers several preset calibrations for popular LS engine swaps including LS1 to LS7 engines or truck series such as an LM or LQ series. You can also use the company’s Windows-based View software to develop custom calibrations. 

A few other advanced features of the 6LS include setting a two-step rev limiter for a launch limit and overrev protection. There is also a built-in 2.5-Bar MAP sensor that allows a timing curve to be based on boost pressure or can serve as a basis for a vacuum advance while cruising. If nitrous is your thing, a step retard can be set up to activate when the giggle gas is flowing.

One more trick feature is the Launch Retard map. This allows you to retard the ignition timing at the launch to soften the power at the rear wheels then is ramped back in based on time. This serves as a great tuning tool on the drag strip as does the 8MB of data recording storage provided in the 6LS as well!

If EFI has been keeping you from swapping over to an LS engine, the 6LS is the answer to your engine swap plans. The unit is basically plug-and-play, doesn’t require a laptop or advanced programming, and controls all of the ignition aspects, while an old-school carb meters the air and fuel. (It should be noted that the 6LS can also be used to support aftermarket throttle-body injection systems like the Sniper or Atomic systems as well!) 

The Controller has a direct plug-in harness to connect to the LS sensors such as the cam, crank and coolant along with the coil packs. 

The crank sensor, either 24x or 58x, is located on the passenger side of the block behind the starter. It is best to remove the starter to easily plug in the connector and route the harness. 

The cam sensor position started on the top rear of the block in early LS production, then moved to the timing cover. The early cams were a 1x while and in most cases, the 4x is used on the timing cover (there was a short transition time where a 1x was used on the front as well.) To make things easy, MSD supplies the connectors to cover each application.

The coolant sensor is optional but is generally located in front of the driver-side cylinder head. 

Each bank of coils has its own connector. 

If you’re using a stock engine, simply select your application using the rotary switch on top of the unit. However, if you want to set your own timing curve, idle speed and optional step retards or rev limits, download the free View software and open the 6014 file. This example shows the setup page where you can set the max rev limit, launch limit, coil type and more. The selectable gauges can be viewed in real-time with your laptop connected. 

The ignition timing is fully programmable if you choose. In this example, the idle timing is set a 14-degrees until 1,000 rpm where it begins to ramp up to 30 degrees at 3,000 rpm. You can also set timing based on engine temperature, individual cylinder timing, a launch retard and much more. Or, keep it simple, load a pre-set calibration and start driving.

To further simplify such swaps, Holley offers a few different cast aluminum intakes that accept a square-bore carburetor. The Street Demon carb is a solid choice for a cruiser and is easy to set up and maintain. 

MSD Ignition
(866) 464-6553

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