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Atwater-kent distributor


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My father owns two Franklins with AK distributors. I had such troubles with one of them, I finally gave up and put a delco in it. The caps were not available, and NOS caps would crack and fail in a matter of months in use. Finally somebody began to reproduce the caps, but I think he was asking close to $500 a piece. A friend of mine who is very knowledgable, modified a delco from a Chevy. It's of the era, so unless you know what you are looking at, it looks correct. Caps and points are available anywhere.

Surprisingly, the second car runs great with the AK distributor. We've only had it for three years or so, and I've never even had the cap off.

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Steve, I appreciate your advice here. I have a gremlin in my 27 boattail. I've done everything you can do without getting into the engine, which is a good strong engine with good even compression and good vacuum. The car runs for ten minutes, backfires though intake and exhaust, then eventually quits. Once it cools down, it starts and runs fine for another ten minutes. After much work, and research on the club site and with club members, I've come to the theory that the problem is in the distributor and, because of the history you mention, is likely the distributor. The boattail's sister, a 25 sedan, has exactly the same problem.

Anyway, I think I've found an NOS cap, expensive, and I'm going to buy it and try it. Next step will be the Delco you've suggested, a solution I had heard of. Which model Delco?

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Before you give up on the AK Type RA distributor, with which my 1922 Paige 6-66 is also equipped:

1. Check for a clogged exhaust system, particularly the muffler, as follows: Rig a vacuum gauge so you can see it from the driver's seat. Start the car cold, warm it up for a couple of minutes, then bring it to a steady running speed of perhaps 1200-1500 rpm while the car remains at rest (i.e., not under load). Note the vacuum gauge reading after it stabilizes. Maintain the same engine speed for 3-4 minutes. If the exhaust system is clogged (muffler, or pipe from a critter nest), the vacuum reading will drop steadily after perhaps two minutes as pressure builds up even before performance problems become noticeable.

2. Remove and thoroughly check the distributor body. Check the advance weights to see that they are not confined by gummy grease residue--and look for broken or stretched advance weight springs. Type **RA** point gap for the Paige was 0.015 (15 thousandths), whereas the Type **CA** distributor used on otherwise-identical 1921 and early 1922 Paige 331 cid engines was only 0.008 to 0.010 (eight to ten thousandths). The two distributors take entirely different caps, the Type CA not being perfectly round but having a 'bulge' on one side. The two units also used entirely different rotors. Pursue the usual tests of primary wires inside the distributor not shorting out as the advance operates.

3. Check the carbon button in the distributor cap and its spring. Check the inside of the cap for carbon tracking and cracks. I've been able to repair some hard-to-find cracked caps by (a) using a tiny Dremel drill at each end of the crack to keep it from propagating further, (B) using a dental pick to clean and 'vee' the crack, and © applying about five thin coats (one per day) of **epoxy** nail polish to fill the crack. Carefully examine the rotor for continuity and possible cracks, and for correct application.

4. Check the coil for heat breakdown--preferably with a Sun (or similar) coil tester, or at least substitute a known-good coil for testing purposes.

5. I do not rely on NOS or pre-war NORS condensers, which frequently had internal insulation made of wax paper which has likely broken down during many decades on the shelf. Use freshly made condensers. On my pre-war cars, I use Onan part no. 312-0256 on my 1920s and 1930s Pierces. They were $10.95 each plus shipping from Onanparts.com, Your Onan Parts Solution in April of this year. They are highly heat-resistant condensers of the common modern appearance, and may not fit inside your distributor without a little machine work to the distributor plate. Or, mount your new condenser on the coil if judging points are not that important.

Is your car the delightful Franklin pale yellow boattail that was on the CCCA CARavan out of Thomasville, GA in March 2011?

Please keep us posted on what you find! Good luck with your investigation!

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Brilliant and useful observation. I have checked valve clearances. All good. I'll check the exhaust over the holidays, and I'll check the advance weights. I do suspect the carbon button, and when I get a new distrib. Cap ill have a better take on the problem. The coil is new, and now snug behind the firewall. I have some doubts about the ignition switch. Hate these gremlins, but so worth it all when it gets sorted out! The car has ad Pertronix electronic ignition, bit it has been checked with good points as well. Same problem.

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