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DELCO-REMY DISTRIBUTOR 663-Y REBUILD (Step-By-Step photo guide to the 663-(?) Distributors)

Gary W

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A Step-By-Step Guide to Rebuilding a Delco-Remy 663-Y Distributor

A complete photo essay to help guide the novice through a complete distributor rebuild.



I received a call last week from the family I bought my 1937 Buick from that there are a few spare parts in the back barn.  I drove over and found this Delco-Remy 663-Y Distributor sitting in the corner.  It was in very rough shape, but I grabbed it because it is the correct distributor for my car.  I figured it can't hurt to have a spare in the trunk just in case.  Being I've never torn into one of these units, I started at the top and took photos throughout the entire process.  I'd like to show the steps that I took to complete the teardown, the cleanup / inspection and finally the reassembly.


The Delco-Remy 663-(?) distributor was used in many makes and models over a few year period, so I think anyone who has a distributor based on the 663-? platform will find this series of posts helpful.  Actually, being most distributors share so many similar components, I think anyone contemplating this project will find this step-by-step photo essay helpful.





Over the next three posts, I will show how I made this transition




First post of the rebuild is the step-by-step disassembly procedure.  I'll refer back to the step numbers as I go through.




I will refer to the manual for the correct part names.  I added a few things to the drawing in the left margin!  (Buick tends to leave out some details!)



OK.....  Let's go!




Remove Cap, Rotor and Felt from the distributor cam.




Remove the condenser hold-down screw, remove the points hold-down screw and disconnect the low-tension lead from the insulated terminal inside the housing.




That screw head is the eccentric screw for adjusting your point gap.  It is permanently fixed to the breaker plate.

Pry up the points off the point stud and remove the points, condenser and low-tension lead as a unit.




Insulated Terminal:  Once the low-tension lead is disconnected, slide off the inner rubber insulator and then pull the entire rubber assembly free from the housing.




Remove the screws to free the spring clip assemblies from the outer housing.  The ground wire is attached to the spring clip assembly closest to the vacuum advance arm.




Remove the other side of the ground lead off the vacuum advance arm and remove the ground lead.

Remove two screws and lock washers and remove the vacuum advance unit from the housing.




Rotate the breaker plate so the balls lineup with the half-round channels in the housing and lift the breaker plate straight up and out.

Once the breaker plate is removed, the mechanical advance system of centrifugal weights and springs are exposed.




Carefully remove the springs that connect the weights to the distributor cam.  I did this within the bowl just in case the springs flew off.

With the springs removed, a little wiggle and the distributor cam will lift straight off weight base and free from the weights.




Notice one side has a longer peg, the other side is flush with the distributor cam bottom.  That longer peg will only go back in one position.




Remove the weights straight up and out.  You may want to note the positions so they go back in the same spot.




Under the weights are these very fine, small brass washers.  The weights sit on these and rotate on these.




Remove the grease fitting lubricating nipple.  Then remove the large screw to free the "shaft brake" spring and felt.  

A 7/16" Allen wrench is all that is needed to remove the octane selector.  




Time to get the gear off.  I tried to tap the pin out.  No way.  I ended up drilling it out.  Use a bit smaller than 1/8".  It came out stuck to the bit.




IMPORTANT!!!  There are three thrust washers between the gear and the distributor housing.  The heavy bronze one goes up top. The two thin ones sit atop the gear.




Withdraw the shaft / weight base from the top.  

IMPORTANT!!!  There is another very thin metal thrust washer under the weight base that sits at the opening.  Don't lose it!




Disassembly is complete.   Next post for clean up and inspection!



Edited by Gary W (see edit history)
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A Step - By - Step Guide to Rebuilding a Delco-Remy 663-Y Distributor

Part Two:  Degrease, Clean, Inspect and Paint




Again...  This is the note sheet for the clean up process.




I used my wire wheel to clean all the crud and rust off the components.  I covered the Delco-Remy badge prior to the wire wheel because that is very thin metal that will be ruined.

** DO NOT wire wheel your distributor cam!  I'm sue the wire wheel will scratch the lobe surfaces!**




All cleaned up!

After throughly cleaning all the parts with mineral spirits, then the wire wheel, I further degreased everything with acetone.

**  DO NOT allow any chemicals, paint, cleaning solutions....  to get inside your vacuum advance unit!**




I used my electric drill to rotate the shaft while cleaning it with 2000 grit paper.  

I used an oil-soaked rag up and down through the distributor shaft bushings to clean out any debris

Be sure to clean out the oil drain hole at the bottom of the distributor body.




I used a 600 grit paper to smooth out those raised "skids" that the weights slide on.

I used the same 600 grit to smooth out the bottom of the weights to be sure the sliding surfaces were not pitted and moved freely.


At this point, I slid the oiled shaft through the bushings and checked for any excessive side play.  It rotates so much better now!

If your shaft has a lot of side play, new bearings / bushings may be in order.  I got lucky, its a good snug fit.




I painted the housing and all the parts that are visible when the unit is installed.    I did put a light coat on the springs to hopefully slow the rust.




I used Rust-Oleum for the parts once they were all cleaned and acetone rubbed.




Be sure to cover the hole so no paint enters the guts of the vacuum advance unit.  I covered the end of the arm as well so it won't gum up the mechanism inside.




For the Delco-Remy badge, I simply used a sharpie marker as carefully as I could.  Use two coats.

Then, wipe the face with a 2000 grit paper to rub off the raised borders and letters.  


I tried the same technique using parchment paper to rub the marker off, and it worked very well also!


Get all your parts and tools ready for the rebuild!   Next post!




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Step-By-Step Guide to Rebuilding a Delco-Remy 663-Y Distributor

Part Three: Reassembly Procedure




The step-by-step procedure I used for the rebuild




All the parts for the weight base are ready.  I chucked the shaft and lightly oiled the "skids" that were smoothed out from step 5 before.

Place a small drop of oil and set the small  brass washers back on their posts.



Slide the weights over the posts with a touch of oil.  I placed them in the same position they came out.

Slide the distributor cam over the shaft, and settle it between the weights.  The peg will fit into the hole in the weight base.




Replace the two springs that connect the weights to the distributor cam.    Check for easy action and retraction.

Second photo:  I'm calling them "wings":  Check the "wings" don't rub against the top of your weights!  Mine did and prevented full and easy retraction.

I made just enough adjustment to clear the wings from the weights.





A drop of oil on that thin thrust washer and place it  back in position at the base of the bowl.





Oil the clean, polished shaft and slide it through the thin thrust washer and down through the housing bearings.

Your centrifugal advance mechanism is now back in position.





Lower Thrust washers

Slide the Thick Bronze washer up to the distributor housing first.

Follow by sliding up the two thin washers.





Slide the gear up to the thrust washers and align the holes.  You may have to turn the gear 180 degrees to get the hole perfectly aligned.

Drive in the 1/8" diameter roll pin to secure the gear to the shaft.  I used a pin 7/8" long.

I was able to spread the protruding ends to create a mechanical lock.


*********  EDIT HERE:  ********

I received advice from a fellow forum member that these split pins may have a tendency to "walk" so I replaced the split pin with a solid 1/8" steel rod cut to size:



I cut the solid steel rod, heated it and formed a divot in the center.  

This "mushroomed" the rod and I was able to use a rivet punch to form a head.




Then over to the gear where I repeated the "heat and peen" process on the other side to complete the solid pin installation.





Breaker Plate:

Normally, you would line up the balls with the vertical channels in the housing, drop it in and rotate into position.

In photo one, you can see the deep ball bearing grooves worn into the housing.  These grooves would not allow my plate to rotate at all, so I had to use a replacement.

I opted for the plastic inserts that replace the original ball bearing design.  Easy to install, and the plate rotates easily.

I'll discuss the replacement "fixes" on the next post.





Secure the vacuum advance unit to the housing using two screws and lock washers.  It really can only go in one way so the arm attaches properly.

Attach the inside end of your ground lead to the vacuum advance arm.






Install the insulated terminal.  The metal housing fits right where my finger tips are.

Push the stud through the housing, then install the inner rubber insulator.  Secure with a 5/16' nut.





Set your points over the stud and the eccentric.  Insert the hold down screw lightly.  Set your point gap at .015" and secure the points.

***  NOTE:  when I tightened the hold-down screw, the gap tended to open a little.  So I closed it a little, tightened and checked again until it was correct.





Low Tension Lead:  Secure one side to the insulated terminal, the other gets attached to the points.





Condenser:  Secure the condenser to the breaker plate lining up the dimples.  The condenser wire joins the low tension lead at the points.

**  NOTE:  I custom cut and soldered the condenser wire.  It was way too long and sloppy in there.





Octane Selector:  Use a 3/16" Allen wrench to install the plate, washers and nut.





Shaft Brake / Spring:  Install a new felt in the spring, generously oil and insert the spring back into the housing.  

Secure it with the large screw and washer.





Grease fitting:  First, be sure the grease runs through it.  Once installed, pump the grease in to fill the reservoir until you see the grease exit out that small hole there.





Spring Clips:  Install the screw to secure the spring clips to the housing.  Your ground wire is attached to the clip near the vacuum advance unit.





And finally.. Install new felt into the cam.  Apply Lubricam to the cam lobes.

Snap on the rotor, align the slot in the cap and snap it in place!


Ready for a test in the car!


Next post......  just some observations about the rebuild.







Edited by Gary W
Split pin changed for solid steel pin (see edit history)
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Rebuilding a Delco-Remy 663-Y Distributor:   Observations and Notes

Notes, repairs and test on the car




This is my end notes after the build.  I got the "other makes and models" part from the internet, so don't use it as gospel.


The main point is that the Delco-Remy 663- platform appears to be very popular and used on many different models.

I know some have the advance arm below the breaker plate, some have different point/condenser positions, but overall the order of operations should be about the same.








First, a discussion of the breaker plate replacements for the original ball bearing system:

This is what I had in my distributor housing.  I'm sure many look just like this.

I had deep worn grooves in both the housing AND the carriers so re-using the original was out of the question.

So I looked into the solutions:





These are the "fixes" for a worn housing

1. Delco-Remy Service Package No. 1913500:  A complete new plate with points, condenser, wires and plastic molded bearing inserts to allow the plate to rotate smoothly.

2. Delco-Remy Service Package No. 1914446: JUST the breaker plate with the three plastic molded bearing inserts.  You transfer all your wires, points, .. to the new plate prior to installation.

3.  Steel insert ring:  This thin steel ring fits in the distributor groove and creates a new smooth surface to allow the balls to rotate freely.  You use your original plate and you get three new polished steel balls.  

I tried the #3 steel ring first, as it seemed like the best solution.  Unfortunately, because my carriers were also so pitted, the plate would not rotate at all and just locked in position.





So I went with this one.  Three plastic bearing inserts and a new plate.  Easy install and the plate rotates just fine under vacuum and comes back.

Notice how nicely the wires in the diagram fit so nicely around the interior of the distributor.  That's why I custom cut my wires.





This was the trial for the steel insert.  Easy enough to install, but it would not rotate at all.  The deep grooves in the carriers would not allow the balls to roll.

I did try to slightly adjust my carriers inward to decrease the pressure, but to no avail.  

But I thought you would like to see the setup when it's installed.

You also get two new, shorter screws to install your spring clip assemblies so the screw doesn't stick into the groove.





I read on the internet that the original condensers are better that the new ones.  Are they really?

All I can say is when I compare the NOS condenser from the Delco-Remy Service Package 1913500 (complete plate), the condenser is fatter, the wire is thick and the wire is the perfect length.

Photo one...  compare the new condenser on the left with the NOS condenser.  

Also, the wire isn't soldered, it just came apart, so I cut it to length and soldered a ring terminal to it.

Look at the complete NOS plate with a new condenser.  The wire is just too long.   So I customized it.








If you look at the right photo, you'll see the amount of travel of the vacuum advance arm is quite small.

When I studied the unit itself, there is a metal tab that limits the "pull-in" distance.  It only goes about 2 1/2 mm in the units I just received.

That metal tab limits the advance in both directions.  So I decided to compare this to a few originals:





The plate travels about 13 degrees.  Am I understanding the spec sheet correctly?  

So the arm moves a distance about the diameter of the screw head connecting the arm to the plate.  (if that drawing is actually a scale drawing)


Photo two:  I measured three original units.  The operational "Window" is 3 1/2mm to 4 mm before the arm bottoms out on the tab.  The original have a larger "window" to operate in.

This translates in the arm pulling in an extra mm.  What that translates to in terms of degrees, I'll leave that to you guys.  I just thought it was interesting.





So, I used the Mityvac to check the operation of the vacuum advance units.  The smaller window replacement units have a very narrow band of operation.

In the third photo, the white lines mark the entirety of the vacuum advance movement.  

So I cleaned up a good working original, and my new lines look much more like the drawing in the book.  It moves just that little extra.


But the plastic replacements do allow easy rotation and return under vacuum pressure.








Here are the tune-up specs in the book.  

I was focused on the 31 degree dwell angle.





So, When I first installed the rebuild, I let the car warm up so I can get her idling down.

My first attempt showed a dwell of 35 degrees.  So I read that there is an inverse relationship between dwell and gap so I opened the points slightly.

Now, I have 31 degrees dwell at 750 RPM.

It sure sounds nice, so I hope I have it dialed in correctly.



Thanks for reading along!  I hope it was not too many photos of the easy stuff, but It may help someone contemplating this!


Next Post:  A few before and after photos









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Delco-Remy Distributor Rebuild:  A couple Before and After Photos



I'm happy with the results.  A few photos:





















Quick note here:  The wires fit in real nice and neat.

You can see my vacuum advance marks still on the housing.  




Have a great night out there!


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10 hours ago, Gary W said:

The wire is just too long.   So I customized it.

I did the same with mine.


10 hours ago, Gary W said:

So, I used the Mityvac to check the operation of the vacuum advance units.  The smaller window replacement units have a very narrow band of operation.

In the third photo, the white lines mark the entirety of the vacuum advance movement.  

So I cleaned up a good working original, and my new lines look much more like the drawing in the book.  It moves just that little extra.

Interesting.  Where did you get your replacement from?  My original advance unit was shot, so I bought a rebuilt one from Bob's (returned my original as the 'core').  I didn't notice a difference between them, but honestly I don't think I looked at that lever limit stop as closely as you did.  I'll have to give mine a closer look the next time I have it open.


Maybe I missed it, but did you do anything to clean out the old grease in the reservoir before you painted and reassembled the distributor body?  Maybe shoot brake cleaner into the grease fitting hole and rinse it out?  I just re-lubed mine before the Glidden Tour and it seemed to take grease OK and I did as you described and filled it until it started to poke out of the 'full' hole.


Lastly, your dwell meter looks similar to mine and I assume it's a 2-wire meter (i.e., coil '-' terminal and ground).  @Bloo has weighed-in on use of '12-Volt' dwell meters on 6-Volt cars.  Honestly, I hadn't given it a second thought until I read his reply (https://forums.aaca.org/topic/360997-engine-rpm-guage-for-6v-55-hudson-wasp/#comment-2200848).  What got me thinking is the shop manual claims that 0.015" point gap should equate to 30* of dwell for my straight eight.  My 2-wire dwell meter reads ~33*, however.  So, I began wondering whether the 3* difference is real (i.e., my gap is a tich too close), or is it a difference in the 'points open' voltage seen by my meter when attached to my 6-Volt Buick?  I haven't performed the meter check that he described yet, but that's on my 'to-do' list.  The car runs fine, so it hasn't been a priority, however, I want to find out so that I can make any adjustments the next time I make a dwell measurement on my Century.


Gary, thanks for posting this rebuild procedure!  The description detail and photos really take the mystery out of the process.  As you said, this general procedure probably applies to many other similar distributors for other cars as well...

Edited by EmTee (see edit history)
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3 hours ago, EmTee said:

What got me thinking is the shop manual claims that 0.015" point gap should equate to 30* of dwell for my straight eight.  My 2-wire dwell meter reads ~33*, however.  So, I began wondering whether the 3* difference is real (i.e., my gap is a tich too close), or is it a difference in the 'points open' voltage seen by my meter when attached to my 6-Volt Buick? 


That is probably not what it seems.


Dwell is just duty cycle ("on" time) specified as degrees instead of percent. 30 degrees on a 6 cylinder scale equals 50%. You can tell whether the dwell meter is doing what it should by checking with the car not running. 0% dwell (points open) should read zero degrees, and 100% dwell (points closed) should read 60 degrees. If the meter is doing that, its fine. Low voltage only matters when it prevents the dwell meter from doing that.


Dwell that does not come out as it should at the specified point gap is usually a different problem, points cam wear. Think about it, for the right amount of "on" time, the rubbing block on the points needs to open the points by contacting the cam at the right place on the lobe. When we set the points with a feeler gauge, we are not using that same point on the lobe. We are using the highest point on the lobe. The highest point probably wears down the fastest with use.


If the lobe is worn down, you would need a narrower points gap to wind up with the correct dwell. Within reason, this is OK. If the cam wear is too much, the gap will just not be wide enough when the dwell is set. You get the same sort of symptoms as you would get by setting the gap too close, like points arcing, points burning up too soon, lousy idle, etc. If you instead set the points gap to spec with a feeler gauge, the points will come into contact with the cam early. They will open early and close late and there will not be enough dwell. That translates to not enough coil "on" time. The main result is a weak spark at higher RPM.


I think 3 degrees is probably in the margin of error and doesn't necessarily indicate any problem. You also seem to be off in the wrong direction to blame it on wear. If the dwell meter is doing what it should, I wouldn't be too concerned about it.


Edited by Bloo (see edit history)
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Good read.


 You know, back in the '50s when I learned to drive and had my first cars, I don't remember "dwell" being mentioned.  Just set the points and drive.  Often.   The points, that is.  Would they have run better if we had paid attention to the dwell?  Perhaps.



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Dwell Meter and the replacement vacuum advance unit:





9 hours ago, EmTee said:

Where did you get your replacement from? 

Like you, I also got my replacement advance unit from Bobs.  But I was too lazy to send back my core!  But it gave me a chance to do some internal measurements.  I found the difference interesting also.


10 hours ago, EmTee said:

Maybe I missed it, but did you do anything to clean out the old grease in the reservoir before you painted and reassembled the distributor body? 

I gave the entire housing a 24-hour bath in mineral spirits, checking in every once and a while to get a tooth pick or small awl in the grease reservoir to break up the old petrified grease.  


I have a nice canister that the distributor housing fit in just perfect.  Let the mineral spirits break down the old grease.  Then I used Brakekleen, compressed air and acetone to be sure it was all out.

Before I mounted the grease nipple, I pumped grease directly into the reservoir until it came out red on the other side AND down the internal shaft bushings.



10 hours ago, EmTee said:

Lastly, your dwell meter looks similar to mine and I assume it's a 2-wire meter

Yes.  I have a small dwell - tach meter.  It works for 6 or 12 V and you connect black to ground, red to the low tension terminal of the coil.  Pretty straight forward.



I got this one only because it says for 6V or 12V




The instructions for the two-wire meter.




Just two basic settings.... Dwell and Tach.   It says it does more...  




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16 hours ago, D Ronc said:

How many hours does it take to organize all those photos

A couple days to select the photos, re-size them for the forum max limit, organize them to tell the story....  this one took a few days.  (I restored the distributor much quicker!)




9 hours ago, Rock10 said:

Where did you find an Allen wrench short enough to get to the octane thing

I actually had the same issue.  I customized one of my old allen wrenches on the grinder, and even gave the sides a very slight taper to make it fit a little easier.  




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I did the identicle rebuild on Phil's distributor last week. Only difference was I set it up on a Sun tester. Checked the vacuum and centrifugal advance curve. And tested the function up to 4000 rpm. Not difficult to do, but something necessary that very few pre war cars get done. Yes, it makes a huge difference in performance. Obvisously these are the before shots. Someone had installed a set of points 10 years ago when they thought they would make the car run.........they never got it started.





Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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59 minutes ago, edinmass said:

I did the identical rebuild on Phil's distributor last week.


I noticed your vacuum advance arm is UNDER the breaker plate.  Is your distributor a 663-F?

I'd love to ship my unit out to you to test it on your equipment!

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27 minutes ago, Gary W said:

I noticed your vacuum advance arm is UNDER the breaker plate.  Is your distributor a 663-F?

The breaker plate is different than the '37-'38 cars, as it also doesn't have the 3 tabs that hold the balls that ride in the groove.  Does it use balls and the groove?  If so, they must be under the plate in this case.





Edited by EmTee
Added photo (see edit history)
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This is really great stuff as I am trying to rebuild 3 distributors right now.

Couple more questions.

Did you use a solid or split roll pin, where did you get it and how did you stake it?

What did you use for felt in the shaft hole and under the rotor?

Thanks again.


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I used SPLIT, Stainless Steel Roll Pins from McMaster Carr.  They only sell them in orders of 100 so let me know how many you need!  I'll send you some.  (send me your info privately and I'll get them out to you)





I used the "handle" side of my punch to drive the roll pin in position.  I actually was able to spread the "split" a little bit prior to installation to give it even more friction.  The pins are 1/8" diameter, 7/8" long.  You may be able to go one inch length and give the ends a little mushroom spread to ensure it stays, but they lock in tight.  I tried to remove it after install and it has to be punched all the way through.





Felt:  I have a Model "T" and there is a felt sleeve that fits over the gas fitting to the carburetor.  I have them around so I cut one of them open and formed it into a round shape to fit in the cam and an elongated shape for the shaft brake spring.  

Edited by Gary W (see edit history)
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Gary, Happy to set it up on my machine at the end of the month, leaving for the Duesenberg tour tomorrow. Got to do the run as a "wrench".  I can turn the distributor around the same day. Just package it in a USPS flat rate box, and enclose a pre paid return postage sticker. No charge for checking out the distributor.....happy to help any pre war car guys. Best, Ed



PS-yes, on the 34 the arm is beneath the plate. 

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2 minutes ago, Rock10 said:

Any source for a solid pin?


As much as I hate to say it..........we make them up for every job.........

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6 hours ago, edinmass said:

As much as I hate to say it..........we make them up for every job.........

Do you use 1/8” stock, cut to length?  
what material?


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Don't want to hijack this great thread, but I do have another question.

I have 3 vacuum advance units. 2 won't hold any vacuum. 1 will hold, but leaks off slowly.

Since the engine is providing constant vacuum when you need it, won't that one still work?

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He doesn't have any for the 36 S 40. (663F)

I probably will for the 663Y I'm rebuilding. That's the one with the slow leak. The two I have for the 36 won't hold any vacuum.

I found a place in TX that will rebuild them. I'm thinking of going in that direction, but he has an 8 week backlog.

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10 hours ago, Rock10 said:

Does anybody know the size of the steel balls?

Smaller than you would think. I dropped mine on the shop floor and they went 20 feet. Fortunately the floor  was clean, and I found them easily. I would guess 5mm.

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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Gary - you amaze me.  I hereby award you restoration of the year for this thread and the one for your car.  I think many of us greatly appreciate your documentation efforts.  I know I have a hard time documenting my work when I have a completion goal in mind.  Your extra effort is commendable and appreciated.

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I'm rebuilding 3 distributors. That's nine balls.

5 were .250, 2 were .228, and the other 2 were different smaller sizes.

So I ordered some new balls. Had to order 50 so if anybody needs a replacement, let me know.

Should be here by Monday.

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