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How to install/align distributor in 1937 President 8? SOLVED!

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I'm trying to put the distributor in the 1937 President 8 engine and set the timing.  In principle, the wires from the Delco-Remy 662M distributor cap for the front four cylinders come out one side of the cap facing front, the others come out the cap facing rear.  However, my cap has the wire ports for the front four cylinders facing pretty much to the back.  This is for the cap with the wires exiting horizontal.  I think I have the engine at TDC, but removing the #1 spark plug doesn't let me see the piston, though the valves are closed.  The rotor is pointed slightly towards the back of the engine, say about 240 degrees to the front-to-back axis.  I can pull the distributor and flip the distributor drive shaft 180 degrees to bring the rotor around if that's what it takes.  I have the 1937, 1938, and 1940 Shop Manuals but they aren't specific about alignment of the rotor and shaft.  Any guidance?



Edited by Gary_Ash (see edit history)
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Yes, of course the oil pump section would tell me about lining things up for the distributor!  I should memorize the entire shop manual.  I looked down into the hole after pulling the distributor, saw that the slot in the shaft was more like 90 degrees to the cam instead of parallel to it.  Time to drop the oil pump:


1.  Find oil drain pan, clean it scrupulously, drain out 8 quarts of fresh oil with break-in lube added.

2.  Undo thirty 5/16 screws in the oil pan, trying not to let it drop on me or tear the fresh gasket.

3.  Undo the oil feed line from the pump, undo the two nuts on the pump and drop it.

4.  Attempt to figure out which way and how much to turn the oil pump gear, re-install the pump.

5.  Oops, wrong way.  Drop pump.  Turn oil pump gear four teeth the other way.

6.  Rinse and repeat.

7.  Eventually get the orientation right, push up the pump, tighten the nuts, re-attach the oil feed line.

8.  Attempt to push the pan up to get a couple of screws started.  Fail!

9.  Find enough wood blocks to lift the pan, insert long 5/16 bolts to catch the pan

10.  Push the pan up a bit, insert a few screws.

11.  Back of pan hits bottom cover of bell housing, remove cover.

12.  Insert rest of 30 oil pan screws, tighten gently on cork gasket.

13.  Attempt to pour oil back into engine, use up half roll of paper towels mopping up spills.

14.  Clean up oil drain pan and funnel and self.

15.  Set static timing with ohm-meter for #1 cylinder, cut spark plug wires, install boots and clips, attach to distributor cap.

16.  Stand back and admire job that took all afternoon, take a few photos.

17.  Old guys should not be lying on the garage floor doing this kind of work.  Pour a nice glass of Scotch to celebrate. 



Cylinder head where distributor mounts.



Distributor drive coupling at bottom of distributor drive hole showing slot aligned with cam axis.



Distributor wired to spark plugs.  Now, where to mount the coil?

Edited by Gary_Ash (see edit history)
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Yes, I could very much use a lift, but I missed my chance to make the garage ceiling tall enough to have a real lift. It probably would not have helped much in removing and reinstalling the oil pan. What I really need is my 14-year old, 5’-11” grandson to take a major interest in working on my cars.  He might if I give him one. 

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One of the first pieces of advice I received before opening up my 31 Pierce was to realign the oil pump before putting it together. The second piece was to buy an endoscope that is used with your smart phone so you can skip a lot of ups and downs associated with your steps 4 thru 7...

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I also see you used ARP studs.  Did you use their sealant?  I used studs once and had water seepage at each stud.  I went to their website and read how the make the threads.  They said to use their sealant when a stud goes into water.

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Rex, fortunately, that is NOT a crack in the head.  It is a raised casting defect, not sure what the official name is for something like that, maybe a vein.  It could have been in the sand mold.  It does not appear to be a "cold shut".


Jerry installed the ARP studs, as well as ARP rod bolts, not sure what he used as sealant, but he's done a number of these engines.  I'll have to keep an eye on the torque of the nuts once I start running the engine through a few cycles.  That will still be awhile before engine start-up, much plumbing and all the wiring to do, plus make the mechanical linkage from a gas pedal to the carb actuating shaft.  In fact, I have no pedals at all yet.  Right now, I'm just glad to have the distributor sorted out.  


I do have three extra reproduction distributor caps.  They are the two-piece types with a screw-in terminal for the coil wire.  Delco-Remy part numbers are 1854390 and 1854433, $175 each.  Also fits 1935-37 Packard 8 with Delco-Remy distributor.



Raised casting defect lit from side. 



Reproduction distributor cap.

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Your list is great but you forgot to add - 

18- Check for pan leaks.

19 Repeat 9-18 at least one time to stop leaks. 


It's fun being old (in body but not in mind) trying to do a young mans job.  


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The next time if you want to save the work and expense of the flat cap, just buy a RR100 or DR196 cap where the wires come out the top.   It was used on the late production 31 president and then used by delco on GM cars into the late 50s.

Readily available for 20 bucks.  snaps right on.  works great, and cheap.

rr100 cap dr196 cap.jpg

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Gary — Don’t feel bad. I went through  the same drill several tears ago when my engine was rebuilt by one of the most reputable shops in the country. Me: “Do you want me to leave you the shop manual so you can set the timing right?”  Them:  “No, we’ve done this before.”


 I think they wound up refunding me $400 to buy the new pan gasket and my labor to drop the pan and put the oil pump in the right position and reassemble.  I think there’s a thread about that either here or on the SDC forum.  

There was no way I was going to leave it the way it was with the wires all looped around the engine bay



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Rex, the other cap is cheaper and I'm sure it works just as well.  The problem with the Indy car is that the height under the hood is very limited.  Even with the flat cap, the lead from the coil gets very close to where the hood surface will be.  Here's today's picture of the coil mounted on the side of the block and the high tension wire connected to the distributor.   The Indy cars had hood bulges because of the carbs sticking up so high, and they used low-mounted magnetos instead of the top mounted distributor.  Additionally, the original spark plug wires were run inside of metal tubes for most of their length.


Do I need insulating spacers to keep the wires apart?  Rubber insulation is usually good for 1,000 volts per mil (1/1000"), so 7 mm o.d. wires should be good to 120,000 volts to ground or better.  I don't want to encounter cross-firing, though.  From one wire to another ought to be good for 240,000 volts.  Of course, this applies to new wires, not old ones.



My engine, May 22, 2020.



Studebaker factory 250 cu in engine ca. 1933-34 showing magneto and spark plug wires in metal tubes.  Distributor drive gear was used for tachometer.

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