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Still cannot get 1930 Model A Ford to idle


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I ran the car last year and it quit on me. Will start, idle for 10 seconds, and then quit. Worked on carburetor myself, and it wouldn't idle. Had it cleaned at a shop, better than I could do, and still, the same thing, maybe idles a little longer, then quits. Seems to, when idling, want to step on the accelerator MORE, but don't have this ability, as the throttle is advanced. Don't know what to do. I followed this technique to start:

https://search.yahoo.com/search;_ylt=AuXQWbPV5FrRtlfh946lz5KbvZx4?fr=yfp-t-901-s&toggle=1&fp=1&cop=mss&ei=UTF-8&p=how%20to%20start%20model%20a%20ford

Okay, actually I reviewed it when it wouldn't start, and the only thing I did not do is step on the accelerator as the throttle was advanced all the way. Would this make a difference? There is plenty of gas, gas lever open, I am pushing the spark lever down when starting, key is on, etc.

I don't know really what to do now. Would like to actually drive more than 3 miles, which is as much as I have driven this car since owning it for several years. Reason for driving so little is simply because I cannot ever seem to get it to start. Would try again now, but need to charge battery and leave for work.

THANK YOU.

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Never start your car with the spark lever in the advanced( Down) position, always start in the retarded position. Starting it while advanced can cause a kickback and damage your starter. Sounds to me like you have a fuel problem. something is plugged up somewhere. Disconnect the line at the carb, place a can under the tube, open the fuel valve under the tank and check for flow. Did you check the fuel filter in the carb inlet? Do you open the choke control rod 1 full turn from close before starting a cold engine? It is more than just a choke rod. Are you sure that the engine is timed correctly? Is your manifold sucking air somewhere that upsets the mixture. Are you sure that your idle mixture screw and choke adjustment screw are actually seating or are they leaking. If they leak you will never get the carb to perform correctly. Is your float inlet valve operating properly and letting fuel in? Was the carb ever "rebuilt" by using new parts. New parts won't guarantee a trouble free carb as many of the repro jets are not made correctly. Are you sure that nothing is missing in the carb like needle seats or are you sure that all the passageways are clear? There are many things that can cause problems for Model "A's" but they are not insurmountable if you are familiar with the car and it's workings. Sounds to me that your are unfamiliar with the Model "A", so you might try contacting the Model A ford Club or the Model A Restorers Club and asking if there is a chapter in your area. Chapter members would be willing to help you with your problem.

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Yes. The car IS started with the spark retarded and advanced as started, so this is not the problem. If one removes the gas line as it enters the carburetor, it flows fine, so this is not the problem. I will try again soon with the choke control knob one full turn open, but I think it was about at that point before. I have read about timing the engine, but this is too complicated for me to do, so I am hoping that is not the problem. Where is the fuel filter in the carb inlet located? I think I have the idle mixture screw is okay, I read about how to, and adjusted that last year. Or, since it still isn't working right, maybe that is wrong now, too???How do you tell if the float valve is working properly, if the carburetor is assembled--you can't see in it when it is assembled. I don't know if the carburetor was rebuilt or not. How do you tell? It is a Zenith carburetor. I think everything is clear as I had it professionally cleaned at a garage by someone I trust. I am somewhat unfamiliar with the Model A. But, I decided to get one because they are simple and reliable, so I did not think I would ever have so much trouble with one.

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I think the Zenith is your problem.

Zeniths have micro holes all over the place and they can be difficult clean out.

If you didn't get in there with a fine wire and physically go through every hole and passage it's likely still plugged somewhere.

Is you wish to run the Zenith you'd better get a good gas filter between the tank and carb.

Does the idle adjustment screw have an effect at idle?

Edited by cahartley (see edit history)
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Well, I had a friend from the Model A club over, and we went over the distributor, carburetor, fuel line, spark plugs, and timing. As well as the gas cap. It seems like it is now running but rough, and it will quit after 5 minutes. Now charging the battery and added 5 gallons of fresh (from October) gasoline to the 1 gallon in there, which wasn't as fresh. Much better than before, but still not 100%. At least I don't feel so dumb, as it wasn't so simple after all! If not able to get it running smoothly, I was told there is a paid mechanic from the club, and I guess I will hire him to get it right. Any other suggestions? The gasket on the gas cap is certainly not preventing a seal, as it is not brand new, and that is not the problem, as it is no different with the gas cap off or on. Anything else come to mind before I hire a mechanic?

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Not the carb. The sediment valve at the bottom of the gas tank or the fuel line between the tank and carb is partially clogged with rust particles. The car is only running with gas in the carb bowl. After you let it sit. The gas s-l-o-w-l-y fills the bowl. Close the valve. Remove the fuel line. Put a bucket under the valve. Open the valve. Gas should shoot out! My guess is it will not. If it does shoot out, blow through the removed fuel line.

Disassemble the sediment valve. There should be a 3" long 5/8" diameter screen cylinder in the bottom of the tank. If it isn't there, or if it is torn, replace it. (Snyders or Mac's). Clean out the bottom of the tank before you replace it.

This is a common problem for Model A's and '26 & '27 model T's.

My '26 Model T spent alot of time sitting in the garage until I figured this out.

Dwight

Edited by Dwight Romberger (see edit history)
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Gas flow is good. I thought so, and so did the individual who helped me with it. I have been able to get this car started before, so I know how to do it. I drained the tank, as it was running, then quitting, and it was thought that fresh gas would make it run better (the gas in there was from October or so). Now, I can't figure it out, it won't even turn over. Again, gas flow is fine. Before all this, it would run for 10 seconds and quit. With old gas, and with the help I had, it would run 2 minutes or so and quit. All I did was drain the gas and put fresh gas in, and I cannot even get the 10 seconds anymore. I am truly baffled.

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Here is some of what I replied to you last August.

"As I suggested to you in an earlier post, you really need to buy a copy of Les Andrews Model A Ford Mechanic's Handbook and join a local club. If you do those two things, I would expect you to be having loads of fun in a few weeks.

If I remember correctly you are in Pennsylvania. If you don't have it fixed by October, send me a PM. I can stop by on my way to Hershey and am pretty sure I can get your Model A Ford running with minimal work. I really think that there are other hobbyists near you who can get you up and running much more quickly than October."

I never heard from you so I did not stop by to help last October. I will be going back to Hershey in October but I really hope you get it running by then. Did you ever buy the Model A Ford Mechanic's Handbook? There are several simple potential problems that an experienced Model A Ford owner should be able to figure out. I would suggest you try another known good carburetor and see if that fixes it. If that does not fix it, I would suspect it could be a leaking intake manifold allowing too much air and thus screwing up the air/fuel mixture. Installing a new Intake Manifold gasket would be an easy cheap potential fix.

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If you have good flow through the fuel line when you disconnect it from the carb, then cahartley is right. I would add the possibility of a stuck (up/closed) carburator float or valve. Do you have an aftermarket fuel filter?

If the carburetor float or valve is stuck, how do I know that? I don't know if an aftermarket fuel filter is present or not.

Edited by mrcvs (see edit history)
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I do have a copy of Les Andrews' book. It has proved somewhat useful, but again, still no improvement in a year's time.

I did not e-mail you because I thought it was a simple problem, but obviously not the case. Maybe since it does not have 'real' gas--could it be as simple as that? If it is not running by October, I will contact you, but either by then, it will be running...or not, and I had a fellow over from the club yesterday who has been doing this over 40 years now.

Once this is running, I might just sell it and be done with it. I have two antique cars and have driven a total of 5 miles in them over the last three years. I think it may be a fallacy that cars in the old days ever ran good. I wasn't around then, but, if I had to guess, they probably did not run most of the time.

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As I said above......take the carburetor apart again, remove every plug and jet, carefully wire every passage you can find, flush everything with carb or brake cleaner (I prefer brake cleaner) and reassemble.

You didn't mention if the low speed needle has any effect....... :confused:

Can you MAKE it idle better if you partially choke it?

If you can it's the idle circuit.

I wish we lived closer to each other.......I'd be happy to go through that carb for you!

BTW......been there and done this MANY times....... :mad:

Edited by cahartley (see edit history)
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Assuming the guy from your local club that was over knew what he was doing and the carburetor checked out OK, I strongly suggest you order a new carburetor to intake manifold gasket and an exhaust manifold gasket set. A slight intake manifold leak sounds like a good possibility that lots of otherwise competent folks might miss and could easily present the symptoms that you are describing.

Edited by MCHinson (see edit history)
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If the carburetor float or valve is stuck, how do I know that? I don't know if an aftermarket fuel filter is present or not.

If you have an aftermarket filter you would see it. It would be on the metal fuel line somewhere between the outlet on the bottom of the fuel tank and the carburetor inlet. There is nothing on a Model A that would hide a fuel filter, all of the fuel line is easily visible on the car.

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If it was mine I would just buy a new, or borrow a used, Tillotson carb and add an inline fuel filter to it. It takes less time to change out a Model "A" carb than to tinker with it. If that worked you would know the Zenith is the problem.

If taking a lot of long trips, say a week or two away from home, it's easier to just carry a new carb and distributor with you for roadside repairs. Total cost for both is about what a modern car costs to fix at a garage when it breaks down.. and swapping out is a lot easier than trying to troubleshoot on the side of the road.

An employee of Hagerty bought a Model "A" Ford and used it as his only transportation for a year - it was towed twice, once because of one the modern "improved" components.

Just my two cents

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Assuming the guy from your local club that was over knew what he was doing and the carburetor checked out OK, I strongly suggest you order a new carburetor to intake manifold gasket and an exhaust manifold gasket set. A slight intake manifold leak sounds like a good possibility that lots of otherwise competent folks might miss and could easily present the symptoms that you are describing.

Okay, THANK YOU! Do you have a link to where I might find what you are describing?

Part of the problem here, admittedly, is my wife chewing me out about this car constantly. I live in a subdivision and she hates even having them around. It was her choice of housing, NOT mine, and it is less than ideal for hobbies such as I like. Much better on 20 acres with barns and garages!

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If it was mine I would just buy a new, or borrow a used, Tillotson carb and add an inline fuel filter to it. It takes less time to change out a Model "A" carb than to tinker with it. If that worked you would know the Zenith is the problem.

If taking a lot of long trips, say a week or two away from home, it's easier to just carry a new carb and distributor with you for roadside repairs. Total cost for both is about what a modern car costs to fix at a garage when it breaks down.. and swapping out is a lot easier than trying to troubleshoot on the side of the road.

An employee of Hagerty bought a Model "A" Ford and used it as his only transportation for a year - it was towed twice, once because of one the modern "improved" components.

Just my two cents

Where do you recommend getting another carburetor? Ebay? Also, if I do get one, how do I know that it was not someone else's headache and I am not simply purchasing another problematic carburetor? Same thing about the distributor?

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You can buy a new carburetor but I would be surprised if you can't find a local club guy who will loan you one to try to make sure that is the problem before you spend the money for a carburetor.

Gaskets that I think you might want are at these links:

http://www.brattons.com/product.asp?P_ID=1260&strPageHistory=search&strKeywords=intake&numPageStartPosition=1&strSearchCriteria=any&PT_ID=all

http://www.brattons.com/product.asp?P_ID=1263&strPageHistory=search&strKeywords=13770&numPageStartPosition=1&strSearchCriteria=any&PT_ID=all

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Where do you recommend getting another carburetor? Ebay? Also, if I do get one, how do I know that it was not someone else's headache and I am not simply purchasing another problematic carburetor? Same thing about the distributor?

If you really want to spend the money on a carburetor, you can swap yours for a known good one through Bratton's:

http://www.brattons.com/product.asp?P_ID=1270&strPageHistory=search&strKeywords=carburetor&numPageStartPosition=11&strSearchCriteria=any&PT_ID=all

I would still suggest you contact your local club guy again and ask him if he knows of anybody who would loan you a carburetor to try on the car to see if the carburetor is your problem. It only takes about 15 minutes to swap a carburetor on a Model A. If that fixes it, you know you have a carburetor problem. If not, then you can look for another problem, such as an intake manifold leak... which is my current best theory based on the available information.

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I would get the gaskets first and borrow a carburetor to try if the gaskets don't fix it. I hate Ethanol in fuel but a Model A Ford will handle Ethanol much better than most newer antique cars. The primary problem with ethanol in fuel is that it absorbs water vapor out of the air over time. I don't use Ethanol fuel in any engine that will be sitting for a long time. In my daily driver, I use ethanol fuel without any problem. In antique cars and small engine equipment that are going to be sitting for extended periods of time, I use Non-Ethanol fuel exclusively.

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I'll tell you straight away I hate Zenith carbs for the reasons I listed above.

When I got my '29 Model A it had a Tillotson carb on it which is nothing more than a Zenith clone.

I took a shot and snagged a Schebler carb on ebay for cheap, got it, cleaned it up inside and out and zoomed until I sold the car....... :D

I never met a Schebler carb I didn't like.

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In my experience, both Tillotson and Zenith Carburetors work fine as long as they are in good shape and rebuilt properly. To properly rebuild a Zenith requires making sure you clean all of the passages and flow test the jets. Too many people simply install new jets without flow testing them. If you don't drill out the plugs and clean all of the passages, a rebuild job is not complete.

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I had a Zenith on my p/u for 16 years with no trouble. I did buy a "rebuilt "unit from a rebuilder once. It would not work properly. I took it apart only to find it was missing pieces. I then took it all apart, flowed all the jets, soldering up and drilling new holes in the jets so they flowed at the correct rate and I never had any trouble since, well one time the float valve stuck open and spilled gas everywhere but a good rap on the carb corrected that. I had Tillotsons that didn't work half as well. they have a bad tendency to warp.

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I'd drain all the gas, clean the tank, change out the gas, overhaul the settling bulb, and replace the carb if it was mine. I had a sliver of rubber get caught in the jet of my expensive vette engine and the symptoms are very close to yours. It started great, ran great for five to ten minutes, then it sputtered and coughed and hardly ran at all. Shut it off wait half an hour and it was fine for another five minutes. Did this many times. When the engine heated up the rubber sliver in the jet expanded and shut me down. It took a month and $600.00+/- to figure it out. I have a Zenith on my '29 A and it works very well. Use non ethanol gas for sure. Best of of luck getting to the bottom of your problem.

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I wonder how your Model A is doing now? You now have your third separate discussion of this problem going on in the General Forum. You now have a bunch of folks giving you generic old car advice as opposed to Model A Specific advice. I really love the response asking if the timing could be out of order. I wonder how you could do that on a Model A Ford? In each of the three you have described the problem a bit differently, without the history of what you have tried and how it changed the car's behavior.

If you want to get the car running, you really need to follow a systematic troubleshooting process. I still don't see in any of the discussions where you have attempted to try a borrowed carburetor which was one of my suggestions a while back. Every old time Model A guy I know has a spare carburetor laying around so he can simply swap a carburetor whenever there is a fuel related problem. If I understand correctly you have attempted some sort of carburetor cleaning/repair at least two times yet you still have not tried a spare borrowed carburetor to see it that fixed the problem. That would be my very first suggestion, and should diagnose the problem in about 15 minutes.

If a carburetor swap does not change the behavior, then your carburetor is probably OK. If so, then if the car is still running very rough for its short time, I would suspect an intake manifold leak which I have previously suggested as a potential problem. If it is running smoothly and then dying, you could have an electircal problem. Describing exactly how the problem presents clearly and following a systematic troubleshooting process and clearly describing how the car responds to each part of the process and change attempted should result in your car running properly soon.

Following different suggestions in a haphazard manner from two different discussions without describing what you are doing and how the car responds will likely take a long time to solve the problems(s). I know you must be frustrated with this car, because I am getting frustrated trying to help and realizing that I can't help because you don't seem able or wiling to describe the problem clearly, follow instructions, and provide feedback to those who have been trying to help you. Good luck with the car. When you want some help please ask.

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Well, I let this thread die, as I was getting more responses on the other forum (General Discussions). You resurrected it, but the other forum gets more responses a LOT quicker. If I don't have a carburetor to borrow, how can I do what you suggest? Anyways, the carburetor was completely rebuilt yesterday, and it is not the problem. If you open the nut at the bottom, gas comes pouring out, so no occlusion anywhere! Gas is fresh and good. Just started it and I got about a minute out of it, or nearly so, a few other attempts yielded 20 seconds. Now what?

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The fact that gas pours through the carburetor in that manner does not mean that the carburetor is working properly. That does confirm that you do not seem to have a fuel flow problem through the tank and fuel supply lines. Did you ask the local Model A guy if he or another friend had a carburetor you could borrow to try on the car? That is generally the first step and easiest way to diagnose what is suspected to be a fuel related problem. Who rebuilt the carburetor? Were all of the plugs drilled out? Saying it was rebuilt yesterday does not tell me enough to know the condition of the carburetor from afar.

Lets try again to see if we can find out the current condition of the car.

When you get the car started how does it run? Smooth until it dies, or does it run rough?

Does it die as you are adjusting the spark advance lever, or does it die while the spark is still retarded, or does it run as you advance the spark and die sometime after that?

Edited by MCHinson (see edit history)
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I have been in contact with mrcvs by Private Message and phone. It will probably be Friday evening before he will have time to work on the car but we have identified some troubleshooting ideas for him when he has the time to work on it. Stay tuned. I feel confident that we will be able to get it going soon.

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I had 15 minutes to spare, but hope to work on this tomorrow evening. In the meantime:

Question: Not having a crank yet (on order from Bratton's), I am trying to adjust the ignition timing. You can do this using the fan. I have tried to do so, and the timing pin does not go in despite turning the fan pulley. Presumably, it is because you must actually turn the crank pulley, which makes sense, as this is where the crank goes and because this is near the timing pin. I can easily turn the fan, but cannot turn one bit the crank pulley. Is in neutral, spark is retarded... How ever do you turn this without a crank shaft? Thank you.

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Yes, the the crank pulley must turn. I always just made sure the fan belt was tight, stood on the timing pin side, and put my left hand on the closest side of the belt and my right hand on the furthest side and pulled and pushed. You might want to pull the coil wire out of the top of the distributor so it doesn't start, however unlikely that might be. If for some reason it won't turn take a couple of spark plugs out ....

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Matt Hinson is helpful. I will call him again...

In the meantime, parts came from Bratton's yesterday. I replaced the coil. Still no improvement. A friend who knows about cars helped me adjust the timing a few days ago, before the crank arrived. By depressing the starter, we were able to do it.

Next, I guess, replace the condenser. Easier said than done. I don't want to remove the distributor, because, first, it is adjusted, and secondly, I cannot get it off anyways, and fooling around with it messed things up in the past. Nonetheless, no matter what I do, I CANNOT get that screw that is parallel to the condenser out, the one that is in the direction of the driver's side!!!! What do I do? I even drove the old condenser out, reasoning it needed a new one, anyways, and, what remains behind (or what differs from the old one and the new one) is that the brass metal part that contains threading on the new one is separated from the old one, and, hence, remains behind. This is all that is left, and I STILL cannot get the screw loose or remove this piece from behind (in really constrained corners). Now what do I do? Something tells me that even once I get this fixed, however I do it, the car still won't run, as nothing else seems to work, either!!!

By the way, what do you think of the quality of Bratton's parts? I don't know how long a coil will last, and if the old one was original or not, but the one from Bratton's is not identical. Also, the new condenser is longer than the one removed, independent of the brass threaded part.

We are approaching a year now without a functional, running Model A. It seems confounding that it simply quit for no apparent reason nearly a year ago, and here we are, still, today.

I am not totally mechanically illiterate. I can take something and replace it with something identical, or similar, like the coil. I can back out a stuck screw, usually, but not just this one!!! I can take a wire with a broken clip, which is unable to be used again, and strip it and wrap it around the positive point of the coil, e.g., I can improvise. But I lack the ability to figure out what is wrong with this car and the patience to get it to run. It just seems like to me it quit for no apparent reason, so it should be a simple fix, of a simple car, with good results.

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Can you post or text me a photo of the condensor you removed and the replacement you bought? The replacement and the original should be the same unless perhaps someone changed something in the distributor from original equipment in the past. Call me anytime.

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Matt Hinson remains ever helpful. Here is where we stand now...

Okay, first....this whole thing has made me learn a lot. I ripped apart the distributor today and put it back together, did the timing, etc., all stuff I knew of in theory and never did before.

So, the problem with the condenser--turns out, after I ripped the distributor apart, the old condenser is smaller than the one obtained from Bratton's AND that screw I never could get out was not the right size. I had to drill it out! So, I installed the new condenser, checked the spark form all 4 spark plug wires and from the coil wire, and it is strong and white! Have gas on, gas in tank, key on, timed correctly with rotor pointing towards #1 spark at about 4 o'clock as facing from the passenger side, and...well, turns over, but won't fire. Before, when only dealing with the carburetor, as you recall, it would fire for 20 or 30 seconds.

We have got to be INCREDIBLY close here!!!! Anything come to mind before I hear from Mr Hinson?

I have learned a lot here. Evolved from a whiny my car won't run to just what I wrote now.

Right, though...if the sparks are firing, I have gas, carburetor works, AND, in order to get sparks the coil and condenser must be working, it seems to me, according to the laws of phyics, it would be IMPOSSIBLE to not fire, but, here we are!

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I think he will get it soon. In our last phone conversation, I suggested he double check that the timing pin is giving him good information. I once found out the hard way that when "the book" says that the pins are slightly offset so you can't put the timing gear on wrong, it should have said, the pins are slightly offset so you really have to work to force it on 180 degrees off. The prior owner of one of my Model A Fords did that and it took me a while to figure that one out.

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Ahh, mrcvs is making some progress - excellent. I thought it might be the armored ignition cable going from the ignition switch to the distributor grounding on the distributor from being tightened too much - but he would have no spark at all in that situation, and on re-reading I see he says good spark all around. I am not sure I like the starter bump timing method, I know even hand cranking that pin can somethimes take a couple times around to cooperate - hope that is it.

When it runs better than you have seen it run before you will be thrilled - AND having repaired or replaced most of the key components to reliable operation you will be posting about long Model A runs in no time!

Edited by Steve_Mack_CT (see edit history)
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