Popped open the hood this morning, 14 year old son in tow, ready to pull the plugs and turn the motor over by hand–testing to see if there’s a bind or something else horribly wrong deep inside the engine.
Pulling the plugs, we noticed a pool of gasoline on the manifold. Had the aforementioned son crank the motor for a while (something he just loves doing) and discovered gasoline geysering out the vents on top of the carburetor.
This turned out to be very good news. Not only was the gas pooling on the outside of the engine, it was also pouring down the throat of the carb. When we turned over the motor by hand with the plugs out, two of the cylinders barfed up a couple ounce of gas on the power stroke.
The “sticking” I noticed in starting was almost certainly the starter trying to overcome a cylinder full of liquid gas, which just doesn’t compress well.
As for the fuel geyser, the solution is a fuel pressure regulator and a double check of the float levels in the carb–simple enough and there’s plenty of time before the new ignition parts arrive.
Two other mysteries were put to rest: hand cranking the motor over to top dead center, we discovered the timing marks, long hidden under rust, with a bright light and some sandpaper. Also, we were able to determine that the transmission is lots older than the car (1962 or earlier), but the starter and flexplate (the big ring that the starter gears engage with) are from a 65 or later car. An odd, but workable combination.