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Distributor Overhaul with help from Milt Schornack How a distributor overhaul improved everyday performance

Milt Schornack is a name long associated with Pontiac performance.   He worked at the Royal Pontiac dealership in Royal Oaks, Michigan in their heyday.   Remember the Royal Bobcat cars?   Today, he still works on cars via mailorder modifications.   He has a website set up with information on his services.   Milt and his son Jim run it at http://www.miltschornack.com
 
I needed a distributor overhaul and a conversion to electronic ignition.
That's where they swap out the original points and condenser in favor of electronic ignition parts.   They change out the points assembly with a new part called a Pertronix Ignitor.   You can also get a better coil called a Pertronix Flamethrower.   These parts resemble the stock components and can be added to a "stock" car without ruining the appearance of anything.

Pulling the distributor.   The easy steps!
click ->distributor project   Get the air cleaner out of the way.   The distributor is behind it.   I'll bet you knew to pull the hoses off it before removing it.

click ->distributor project   The air cleaner is off.   So far no tools involved.

click ->distributor project   Screwdriver time.   Twist the two screws that hold the distributor cap on.   Note the exact position of the distributor cap before you whip it off.   It will have to go back on the same way.   Now take off the vacuum hose that goes to the distributor.

click ->distributor project   Also remove the ignition wire that connects the distributor to the coil.

click ->distributor project   Socket set time.   Fit a socket to the distributor hold-down bracket bolt.   Its at the base of the distributor shaft.   One measly bolt holds the distributor in place.   This picture shows the bolt and hold-down bracket after being wrenched free.   Note that it's oily.   My gasket between the distributor and intake manifold was leaky.   A new gasket was only $2.50 at the local auto parts store.   Looks like a little flat donut.   No big deal.   The new gasket will keep oil from leaking onto the intake manifold.

click ->distributor project   Note the exact orientation of the distributor before you do anything else.   It will rotate in the hole.   Note exactly how its rotated in relation to the firewall.

click ->distributor project   Then start rotating and pulling upwards on it.   It will come right out.

Look at the old distributor.
click ->distributor project   This is the old distributor we just took out.   You can see the points and condenser on it.   It has the word "REMFG" stamped on it, meaning it was previously remanufactured or rebuilt.

click ->distributor project   Milt later figured out that this distributor started life in a Firebird, not a GTO.   No big deal, it will still work perfectly in my GTO.

click ->distributor project   Examining the splines.   It's oily and that's a good thing.   There was considerable endplay in this shaft though.   Milt was able to fix that up.

Send old distributor to Milt.
Then wait a short while.   It comes right back in the mail like a boomerang.

Get it back again.
click ->distributor project   Here is the new stuff Milt sent.   He re-worked my old distributor to have a Pertronix Ignitor in it instead of the old points.   Look at the other stuff he sent.   Instructions, the Pertronix leaflet, a box with a new Pertronix Flamethrower coil, some crimp-on ends for the new Pertronix wires, etc.

click ->distributor project   Here is a closeup of the little black Pertronix unit.   Sorry, the camera got TOO close!   Its a fuzzy picture.

click ->distributor project   This one shows how the black Pertronix unit does not actually touch the spinning detents on the shaft.   That's the beauty of the thing.   It does not rub on it or wear it out!   A yellow hand points to the air gap.   Another fuzzy pic, but that's the last one, really.

Put in a new coil if you want to.
click ->distributor project   The old rusty coil before removal.   It was the original one.

click ->distributor project   The shiny new coil after installation.   Looks better.  I rotated it so the Pertronix sticker does not show.

Put in new distributor and make adjustments.
Installing the rebuilt distributor is easy.   The instructions Milt supplies are adequate.   Mine was a little harder to get oriented correctly because I forgot to pay attention to how the old one came out.   You're supposed to note which plug wire the rotor is connecting with before you yank the old distributor out.   I had to go back to the shop manual which basically told how to orient it.   Put the distributor in the hole with the vacuum advance valve sticking out toward the drivers side of the car.   And I also had to remove the first spark plug and feel where the cylinder was at the top.   Had to crank the engine with the coil wire removed a few times to get the cylinder to the top.   They call this top dead center.   When the piston in cylinder #1 is up, sitting at top dead center, the rotor is supposed to be making contact with plug wire #1.  At this point, timing, or advance is zero.

Connect the Pertronix wires to the coil.   See the printed instructions at this point because you may have a resistance wire to contend with.   My car did not have one.

Plug off the vacuum advance hose.   Then whip out a timing light, start the car.   Rotate the distributor a little bit till the timing shows 12 degrees.   That's it.   Enjoy better performance and a smoother running engine.   The best part is - there's no more points to adjust or replace.

Sound interesting?  Arrange to have Milt Schornack do his magic to your distributor or carburetor at http://www.miltschornack.com
You might also be interested in the book about Milt Schornack's days at Ace Wilson's Royal Pontiac Dealership and the Royal Bobcat cars they built...
coverMilt Schornack and the Royal Bobcat GTOs book by Keith MacDonald & Milt


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Here's a comment from a recent visitor...
Says Gene Bragalone (gbragalone.@yahoo.com) - "You seem to need to addresss three diferent main reader types and you do it well. The "original" fans, the "Just get by" group, and my favorite, the folks who like to look almost original but like to have it perform well so will do things like scrap the junk ignition and ... install different distributors."