The previous owner had installed an HEI distributor. These are great units, but the install left a lot to be desired. As I discovered when I was first trying to get the car running reliably, the wiring was incorrect, and was not supplying a full 12V to the HEI. This resulted in it running really poorly, it would backfire and pop at pretty much anything above 1200 RPM.
My theory is that someone installed the engine and transmission, couldn’t get it running right, and never got the car on the road with the new setup. They parked it until we bought the car.
Once the power was sorted out, the car ran much better, but it still wasn’t great. I bought a new module for the HEI, expecting that might be the problem. When I opened up the distributor to install the new module, I discovered that the whole distributor was in pretty sad shape. The weights were covered in rust, the posts and the holes were very worn, and they did not move freely. That was causing inconsistent timing, which didn’t allow the engine to run as smoothly as it could.
After looking at what it would cost in parts to rebuild the existing distributor, I ended up just buying an entirely new Accel unit for less money.
I got the 59107 distributor, which comes complete with everything…except the coil. Oops. I transferred the coil over from the old distributor, and will use that until I get a new one.
The challenge with changing the distributor is that it’s a little bit of a gamble on where the timing is set before you can get the engine running so you can check it with a timing light. It doesn’t have to be exactly on the perfect position, but it needs to be at least in the general area.
As it happened, I put the new distributor in one tooth different than the old one. It still works fine, and I was able to set the timing properly, but the vacuum can is aimed differently than the old one. Not a big deal though.