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Hello Tim,

I'm helping my brother-in-law restore a 57 with a rebuilt 272. He has a shop manual but it does not address installing the distributor without a known reference point. The motor was rebuilt but the distributor was not installed.

If the motor is rotated with the number one piston at the top of the compression stroke, is the rotor cap to be pointing directly at the number one electrode of the distributor cap?

He replaced the breaker points with a magnetic switch assembly, which the dealer told him was a direct replacement no adjustment required. Does that have any effect on the installation procedure?

Do you have any suggestion for starting a rebuild the first time? 

Thank you for your help.

James Hardy

A  James,

Most Ford dist. caps have a one cast into them, if not a one there should be a round raised area.  Looking down at the cap it should be just left of the bottom clip with the vacuum diaphragm pointing away from you.  The rotor turns counter clockwise and the fireing order is 1-5-4-8-6-3-7-2.  One being the front cylinder on the right (passenger) side of the engine.  Bring No. 1 to TDC on the comp. stroke and slip the dist. in place with the rotor pointing towards the No. 1 position on the cap. (I like to make a mark with a Sharpie on the dist. housing where No. 1 is with the cap off)  When you start to push the Dist. into place remember that it will rotate as it goes down on the gear, so compensate for that. Also if it won’t go onto the oil pump shaft, just "bump" the engine a little while pushing down till it goes into place.



If you have points you can put an ohm meter across them and turn the dist. till they break contact and that will give you a starting place for your timing, but since you have converted to a magnetic pickup just point the rotor to the No. 1 plug wire, aim the little pin on the point cam to the pickup, and make minor adjustments to the timing while cranking and it should fire. Once it fires set the timing with a light and lock it down.  Now you are ready for break-in.


Once you have the engine started check for oil pressure, if none in 10 sec. shut it off and find the problem. It is best to spin the oil pump with a drill motor and a 1/4" socket till you have oil pressure to prim the system before you ever install the distributor, that way you know the pump is good and the engine holds pressure before you start it. If after all that you don't have pressure after starting, the problem is most likely the dist. did not connect with the pump drive shaft.

OK, now you are running and have good oil pressure. Run the RPM up to 2000 and hold it there for 20 min. (always watch the oil pressure and engine temp. nothing over 210 degrees, shut it down if there is a problem) this will mate the cam to the lifters and seat the rings. You want the high idle so lots of oil is being thrown around on the cam, lifters, and pistons.

I hope this will be helpful to you, feel free to ask any more questions.

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