Updated: Dec 27, 2019
1956 Ford Four Door Victoria!
The summer has been very busy and at times the 55 Ford Fairlane just sits as a project in the garage, waiting for the final adjustments and installations. Recently though, a very neat opportunity came up to help a newcomer to the 50s Ford engines. I thought that this week it would be good to show the success that the internet and an online presence can bring, what with all of the negative press these days.
Many of you know that I frequent such websites as Y-Blocksforever and the FordBarn, asking my own questions about 50s Fords and at times giving helpful answers when I can. A short time ago, a relatively new (about 2 years) owner to a 56 Ford posted a question about a distributor problem he was having with his original 292 Y block. Thankfully he was able to post some pictures of the engine compartment and a few of the veteran owners online had pointed out that he had a distributor/carburetor mismatch. Ford shipped the 54-56 engines with what was called a load-a-matic distributor. This was manufacturer speak for a distributor that had only a vacuum advance mechanism - no mechanical advance. If you hook the vacuum line to a carburetor specifically made to match the signal there is no issue. Just make sure your points and condenser are in good shape, give yourself a good initial time, and away you go. The previous owner of the 56 had installed a late model Holley 4 barrel, replacing the teapot with something that was easier to tune and not as prone to leak. However, the old dual advance diaphragm distributor (but still vacuum only, and matched to a Holley 4000 four barrel carb) was still in place. After hearing the opinions of a few of the FordBarn forum members the current owner purchased a rebuilt distributor that would have replaced a 1957+ Ford distributor (so that he now had vacuum and mechanical advance - Ford had this from 1957-64 in their Y blocks). Obviously this came with a set of new points and a condenser. The owner reported a great improvement for performance, but it did not last 50 miles. He actually had to have the car towed home because the spark signal was so erratic and there was no power, no advance, and according to him the engine just wanted to shut off.
When I saw the owner's posts on the forum I happened to notice that his tag line said Cincinnati, Ohio. Of course, this is very close to my neck of the woods. I offered my assistance and told him that if he would like, I would be more than happy to come over and take a look see myself, bringing with me a good distributor that I had extra in my stash. I also gave my take on a points eliminator kit. He kindly accepted my offer and sent me his address - he lived only 8 miles away! Arrangements were made to be at his place at 8:30 am Saturday morning, so I dug out a couple of good 12 volt coils, a resistor, distributor, and a points eliminator kit from my parts inventory thinking all of this may help him get back on the road.
When I pulled up to his garage I could not believe what I saw... a 1956 Ford Four Door Hardtop! And the colors were a match to my 55 Fairlane!
I have personally seen quite a few 1955/56 Ford automobiles at shows, garages, through relatives and friends, and all the like. Everything from Victorias, Crown Victorias with a glass roof, Parklanes, and even the Business Coupes. However, I had only ever witnessed a car like this one on one occasion - almost 25 years ago. Ford did not make this style in 1955. As you can see from the photos this car has four doors like the Town Sedan or Mainline/Customline, but of course there is not a post, so essentially this is a hardtop. You can see the word "Victoria" on the driver's door.
The owner was very cordial and welcoming. We hit it off within the first minute or two talking about all things mechanical, and of course before too long we fired up the 292 to listen to the problems. The car would barely idle. He explained to me that during the previous week he went to a car show after installing the new distributor. On a 30 mile, one-way run he experienced no trouble and things ran great. It was not until the return trip (and not too far from home) did he experience enough trouble to bring him to the place to call a tow truck. I listened to the idle - it was definitely rough and was easy to discern that it was a spark issue. My first thought was to check the points - maybe the gap was not right. With a rebuilt distributor you never know - the rubbing block on the points could have worn down quickly , maybe the set screw was loose, etc. Out came the feeler gauge and a look see. Everything seemed ok. Nothing from the distributor wire looked out of place, and all of the plug wires, the cap and rotor, and everything else looked good. He had just installed a new 12 volt coil and this tested good previously. The resistor looked bad but without having a multimeter (why I didn't bring one I have no idea!) we could not test it. Since I had a good spare and it was simple to replace we swapped out the resistor, checked everything else, and then fired it up and tried to set the timing. It ran, but it was still sounding and feeling like junk.
I offered my points eliminator kit. It had been used a little, and was already installed on a good distributor that I had extra back when I was running engines on a test stand. This replacement and hookup only took about 15 minutes or so and we were ready to fire it up. Instant success. The owner timed the distributor and had me turn the carburetor idle screw where he believed it best and we hopped in for a test drive. Some of the footage is below in a video I recorded from the front seat.
He was pretty happy with the results and so was I. When considering his initial problem my thoughts are that the points and/or condenser just did not last long in that rebuilt distributor. We did not have any spares or test equipment to discover which one was not performing up to snuff, but it didn't really make a difference. Neither one of us had replacements. From what I have heard, the companies who are rebuilding distributors are not putting quality points and condensers in them. These units are being sourced from overseas and the quality control is just not up to par. I guess if we had some NOS units things would be different.
Here is a photo of what the ACCEL 2020 Points Eliminator Kit comes with to switch your 1957-74 Ford Distributor over to a solid state ignition.
You can use your original distributor, advance, coil, and resistor. Another bonus is that you can keep your original distributor cap and plug wires too. The work is quite simple to do and of course if your car is a driver, replacement parts can be had at any auto parts store right off the shelf. I have run these units on several Y block engines in cars and trucks and have never had a bit of trouble with spark, timing, dwell, ignition. Also, with these kits I have never had a problem with leaving the ignition in the "on" or "run" position and having anything burn up like the original Pertronix kits that many discuss online.
Hopefully I can get back to the 55 soon... after spending a ridiculous amount of time trying to get the roof to buff out I have decided to go back and re-clear that section.
The picture above looks great from a distance but if you zoom in you can see the scratches. This work should be pretty basic but you know how it goes. The whole reason I got myself in trouble in the first place was because I shot the clear coat outside, in the driveway, with no cover. The bugs had a field day in the fresh coats of clear as they all gathered for an afternoon swim. This time I will remove some things in the garage to give myself enough clearance from above to shoot the final coats. Let's hope it goes well.