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1935 AUBURN SC Distributor Rebuild.


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During the summer, driving the 35 Auburn SC Speedster, coming off the line at a stop light while it was 95 degrees plus with a 106 feels like temperature our slick little speedster was becoming unhappy. Remember, at these temperatures ANY carburetor and fuel system is going to have issues. Well, when I got back to the shop I went through everything, and didn't find any issues. I attributed it to temperature and the super charger not liking the heat. Car ran fine at 2000 rpm, but just off idle it still wasn't happy. With other things to fix during the pandemic, I placed a post it note to take the car for a spin when temperatures were back to normal........think mid 70's. So last week the shop was finally clean and free of any vehicles, and I decided to take another poke at the speedster. It fired right up, and I pulled it outside. Immediately I knew we had unrelated heat issues, and experience told me right away it was ignition. PROBLEM.......I had recently done a head gasket and also did new cap, rotor, and wires.....and fine tuned the engine. I couldn't imagine what was wrong........so, instead of guessing, we did the proper diagnostic procedure I preach so much about. I knew I had good compression, valves were perfect. I knew the fuel system was better than new. And having recently gone through the cap, rotor, and wires we had only a few places to look. Power to the ignition switch was good....(always start with the primary {battery voltage} when diagnosing ignition systems.) All was good to the Hershey lock switch, and to the coil and distributor......battery voltage AND grounds were all fine. So....we know we have either a coil, condenser, or points issue. Since I had never taken the distributor and placed it on the Sun Distributor Tester, I figured I would start there. Pulled it out of the car, set it up un the machine, and placed my chair in front of the Sun machine. Immediately I could see one set of points was very far off.......much too tight. Spun the unit up and I could see points fluttering, and the synchronization was off seven degrees. It wouldn't adjust like it should while on the machine. I have seen this before many times over, with incorrect points being used. Fortunatly we stock NOS ignition for all our cars. Inspection showed the points in the unit were correct. Interesting........so, I removed the distributor from the Sun Tester and immediately grabbed the lobe and sure enough, it was flopping around like a fish...........the car had severely worn bushings in the Autolite Distributor. I ordered up some bushings.........all the regular sources were out of them, but managed to find a set on a shelf out west. So here we are now.......a 100 point car, and when restored they didn't go through the distributor..........has new paint, plating, and components in it........but not bushings. I expect the knurled them and they were tight until we started putting miles on it.......we drive ALL our cars........as much as possible. More photos to come............

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Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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Have the distributor mostly apart.......and then, disaster struck...........the removable jaws in the vice slipped, while driving out the pin holding the drive lug on the shaft. It hit the floor.....actually taking a chunk out of the epoxy down to the concrete. The distributor housing did NOT survive. Now more work. Nothing is ever easy, and nothing ever goes as planned. I located another housing within a few hours. It will delay the project, and add to the cost.......hey, what’s new? The adventure continues.........photos tomorrow morning.

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1 hour ago, auburnseeker said:

I thought that only happened to me. Glad to know I'm not alone. Question is who's pocket does it come out of????


I hope your volunteering! Where do I send the bill! 
 

Stuff happens when you work on cars. It was in a Snap On vise, with Snap On aluminum jaws, and tightened as much as I dared and not damage it. Trying to tap out the pin on the shaft as gently as possible.......which I have done 100 times........and never had a problem. This one wasn’t moving, and I didn’t use any more effort than usual. I already found a good used casting.........the overnight shipping will cost more than the part............fact is, even with experience 70 year old parts fail, and things go wrong when servicing them. I wasn’t in a hurry, it just happened. Such is the way of old cars. In the end, the car will be fixed. It certainly wasn’t doing anyone any good with bad bushings and a running problem associated with it. I will photograph the process and the set up on the Sun Distributor Tester, and will make a video of the points synchronization and the advance curve. Should be a fun project to cover here.

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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15 hours ago, alsancle said:

Why does everybody but me have their own distributor and coil machines?


Having them makes you look like a mechanical wonder........they find LOTS of problems that normally would be difficult to impossible to locate. I bought my first Sun machine in high school. I have owned four of them over the years. Now parts are available.......so I only keep one on hand.......use to keep two working units back in the day. People who drive dual point cars that run we’ll usually have had their car set up on one.

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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The slop in the bronze bushing was more than I have ever seen before. The gap on the floating set of points would go from .06 to .15 depending on position. At low speeds it definatly was causing problems. Interestingly, the bushings are off the shelf standard. We will install new ones and then ream to size. The shaft shows very little wear. This is the first Autolite distributor I have ever had to take down this far. Basic and simple. Very straight forward. Quality of the unit is middle of the road at best. Setting up the points and getting them in sync are more difficult than any Delco unit I have ever worked with. It will be after the holiday before I get this finished as we have people coming to visit.........not sure it's a good idea. More later......Ed

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There was lubrication in the bushings when I took it apart. It was very loose. It was overlooked or intentionally skipped when the distributor was rebuilt.......everything was done, except the bushing. That’s the problem with old cars......once shortcut and it comes back to haunt you. 

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On 11/23/2020 at 9:54 PM, edinmass said:


I hope your volunteering! Where do I send the bill! 
 

Stuff happens when you work on cars. It was in a Snap On vise, with Snap On aluminum jaws, and tightened as much as I dared and not damage it. Trying to tap out the pin on the shaft as gently as possible.......which I have done 100 times........and never had a problem. This one wasn’t moving, and I didn’t use any more effort than usual. I already found a good used casting.........the overnight shipping will cost more than the part............fact is, even with experience 70 year old parts fail, and things go wrong when servicing them. I wasn’t in a hurry, it just happened. Such is the way of old cars. In the end, the car will be fixed. It certainly wasn’t doing anyone any good with bad bushings and a running problem associated with it. I will photograph the process and the set up on the Sun Distributor Tester, and will make a video of the points synchronization and the advance curve. Should be a fun project to cover here.

Works for me - we will send Randy the bill :) 

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Ed, 

Neat project.

Those advance weight's bores appear to be excessively worn, judging by the photos.

Interested in seeing your fix for that, if that is the case...

Myself, I have thought about boring them out and fitting them with oil-lite bushings. The trouble is that the true centerline is difficult to locate, due to the wallowed out bores.

The rivets to the advance spring bracket appear to be different from each other.  One appears almost flush in comparison to the other. Not sure if it is supposed to pivot or not. Can you investigate and satisfy my curiosity?

You are correct with the quality comment of "middle of the road at best" of these distributors. 

 

Good luck,

Tom

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Auburn is finished. It runs fantastic. It's hard to describe how poorly the car ran off the line to about 1100 rpms with the bad bushings. It feels like a new car. The car always ran well........and in less than 500 miles it went from good running to lousy with the bushings. I placed the distributor on the Sun Machine...........got it dialed in perfect. Checked the advance curve also. This is the first Autolite distributor I have ever rebuilt.............everything I have done in the past was Delco, Owens, DeJon, Northeast, Atwater Kent, and a dozen others I can't remember. The Autolite unit was the poorest quaility of any unit I have ever worked on. It was simple to deal with, and there were no real problems. I was able to adjust the idle down a bit, and set the timing where the factory recommends. After dialing it in..........it seems most happy at exactly what the Motors Manual says it should be at......any extra timing even with VP Fuel, and I doesn't like it. 

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One other short note........I have openly offered to check any coil for members here on this form..........last week I recieved two factory coils off a 1929 Pierce Arrow. Both coils tested bad. It seems almost every coil over fifty years old I test shows as poor or bad. For years I ran cars on coils anywhere from forty to 100 years old. NOT anymore. It's very plain to see the old units start breaking down when hot and under load...............NO VINTAGE coil I have ever tested was ranked as excellent or very good. So.......my new thought is from now on, when sorting any car, I will add off the car coil testing to the list of things to do as a routine. 

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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Sure......visit........

 

 

www.parmountd.com

 

He buys and sells them, and as you can see he also restores them. My unit is modified with all solid state electronics, and is set up for magnitos also. 

 

 

 

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Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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Ed,

The photos show the distributor housing appearing to be deformed in shape, meaning "not perfectly round" as it should be. If so, did you reuse / attempt repair to / or replace the dropped housing?  

Also, the horseshoe shaped clip holding the cam appears not to be fully seated. The upright clip prongs should be much closer together. Easily corrected with more attention. Or outright replacement,  as that clip is still available NOS.

I never did get a reply from my earlier post dated November 26th, what was your analysis?

Tom

 

 

 

 

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Tom....I bought two replacement castings. (entire distributors) Installed bushings in both of them. The photo you see of the clip is actually a “before shot”  dissembling the unit.......It got mixed in out of order from the photo chain in my folder. I used a clip that wasn’t bent to reassemble the finished unit. There are slight differences in the replacement castings...........numbers cast into the bottom of the unit. The one I used was identical to the damaged one, and the spare with new bushings has the screw hole for the condenser about twenty degrees off of the original unit. The one I ended up using was off a Cord.....so the unit turns the opposite direction.........so the advance mechanism isn’t interchangeable, but everything else seemed to be identical. (the only parts I changed was the casting and clip) The advance curve was exactly as it should be......my book gave five different rpm/advance values. The point flutter is now gone.....it’s interesting that it only occurred below 1200 rpm. So it was most noticeable at a stop light or intersection........I think centrifugal force centered the shaft over 1200. 
 

I don’t have a message from you on November 26th. Please resend it. Either it got lost, accidentally erased, or ended up who knows where. I don’t remember reading it or seeing it. I usually answer all messages in less than 12 hours.

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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Ed,

Thanks for the update, makes more sense now. 

Re: Nov. 26th is post number 19 on this thread.

Next time you have a chance: measure the spring wire diameter for me. A few years ago I made a set for another forum member here. Took his non SC Auburn distributor and converted it to SC specs. Something I care not to do again, unless it involves a suitcase full of cash and a vacation from my family <grin>.

How many genuine SC Auburns and Cords were made and remain?

 

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Sorry.......I’m getting old. My screen doesn’t show post numbers, but the date let me find it. They weren’t worn. I did check them the next day after you posted. There was dirt/grease causing a shadow........they were absolutely fine. I have done countless Delco units all pre war. Decent interchange with them. We recurve lots of different units......but making new weights and changing springs can take LOTS of time. We spent untold hours on Pierce and Cadillac units......the owners seem happy to make the investment to drive their cars. With today’s fuel, and a modern rebuild on an engine, you can make a lot more horsepower without any issues. You also have to do the fuel system, and the exhaust.......98 percent of the cars have too small Pipes and mufflers installed.

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On 11/26/2020 at 4:26 PM, John_Mereness said:

It hit my shoe last night - 1K savings (foot is bruised though) - my having "butter fingers" sums it up nicely as it was there and next thing I was grabbing for it and .... Relocated the anti-fatigue mat for next project. 

Spot on foot seems to have gone away as of late last week. 

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On 12/18/2020 at 3:12 PM, edinmass said:

One other short note........I have openly offered to check any coil for members here on this form..........last week I recieved two factory coils off a 1929 Pierce Arrow. Both coils tested bad. It seems almost every coil over fifty years old I test shows as poor or bad. For years I ran cars on coils anywhere from forty to 100 years old. NOT anymore. It's very plain to see the old units start breaking down when hot and under load...............NO VINTAGE coil I have ever tested was ranked as excellent or very good. So.......my new thought is from now on, when sorting any car, I will add off the car coil testing to the list of things to do as a routine. 

Words to live by !!!

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 12/22/2020 at 9:54 AM, John_Mereness said:

Words to live by !!!

I know the coil on my 1960 Pontiac doesn't really compare to an Auburn or Pierce Arrow coil, but when I was getting the car sorted out for a start for the first time in 28 years, the first thing I did was to replace the coil.  

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On a modern car where direct coils are available, they should all be replaced. Pre war coils are often speciality fit and one year applications, and to keep a car correct it can be difficult and expensive. 

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10 minutes ago, edinmass said:

On a modern car where direct coils are available, they should all be replaced. Pre war coils are often speciality fit and one year applications, and to keep a car correct it can be difficult and expensive. 

Was that out of necessity (evolving technology, engine design, etc.) or just a way for the manufacturers to be different from each other?  I know most manufacturers couldn't just go to a coil company and pick coils to use and designed their own.  

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Most of it was anti theft, and for special wiring considerations like startix, Hershey lock, temperature control......yes, some coils are water cooled, fitting through the firewall, lots of reasons. Ignition by 1930 give or take became much more universal and consistent.

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