Okay here is what I thought about and have come to a conclusion concerning;
I wasn't liking the dialled back timing because the motor falls asleep when using the 1.8L setup with or without the 1.5L MAF in place of the 1.8L MAF. Sure enough, just as I had suspicions about the 1.8L setup with a 1.5 MAF installed being slower than a stock setup, I reinstalled the 1.5L components and things came back to life very quickly for the little engine. The only time I would get ping is when the throttle was just past tip in before applying the foot down further; continue to lean in to the throttle further and the ping was much reduced.
My best results to date have been using the 1.5L MAF with one the the two little bypass holes totally plugged from the factory (this is not one the cylindrical tubes that is already blocked for the 1.5L factory setup); the 1.5L MAF in question came from a Canadian model C10 body style car (Eagle Summit) that had the 12V motor but an older ECU that was different from the 89-92 12V I was used to seeing. That one hole being the only difference has proved to reduce ping thus far with 40+ inner city KM's and counting. The only difference with the two MAF's was that one had the plug in one of the small bypass holes and the other had a larger hole the size of the plug.
I was somewhat disappointed that I could not get the 1.8L setup to work more to my advantage and taking into account my view point for why I was doing this in the first place -
Reasons to try the 1.8L setup
I have a motor that has been warmed over by cleaning up all the metal to metal intake joints and matching the 1.8L TB to the intake.
Head was decked .006" of an inch so compression has been raised 1 or 2 decimal points (IMO).
Performance has improved overall and minimum 87 octane is sufficient enough to keep the motor from getting damaged over the long term - high test would only decrease the chances of the ping being a problem.
No significant timing changes were needed or applied to maintain instant benefit.
Only the TB is responsible to leaning things out a little bit.
A 1.5L MAF is now in the mix with smaller bypass holes - results TBD
Possible fun with an SAFC to dial out the ping at low throttle situation may be something to look into for humours sake.
I was not prepared to change to the 1.8L setup and then have to do some cam timing changes, timing at the distributor, play with the air bypass holes on the MAF, and then have to live with high test gasoline 90+ cents/litre (in Ontario) to make it work such that the motor wasn't going so lean that my fresh rebuild (or plain old motor) wouldn't burn up a piston top. Not the way to tune in my book because no matter the combination, bottom 87 octane could not be used to make the setup happy enough to not ping and knock like stones hitting your undercarriage (gross exaggeration for showing a relationship).
This was fun to try no matter what the outcome and can show what can be done to the little motor that so many people are running around with. I was only sorry to see that the ping couldn't be dialled out due to the 1.8 ECU timing differences that couldn't be easily overcome with low octance fuel and MAF bypass tuning. So, here I stay with the 1.5L setup and I will stay on the lookout for other fun possibilities to try and make the ping go away for good as ignition timing can't be played with enough, without having an Eprom ECU, or simply playing with a secondary air fuel controller.
Looks like the upgrade path that was blazed by business's such as RPW just to name one, are the best option to follow for those that have the 12V ECI with all the right drivetrain options. If I have to be happy with the motor for now, then the focus can go towards the rest of my tired suspension and the 93 Elantra brake setup that's sitting around waiting to be bolted in.
I came, I tried, I learned .... another day goes on.