New Parts and Some Inspiration

Ready to move ahead on getting the engine auxiliary pieces installed. Picked up a fuel pressure regulator, a cool in-line pressure gauge. Then, sent away for a distributor, coil and wires, just to make sure the ignition is system is solid and stays that way.

New ignition and fuel parts
New ignition and fuel parts

Everything arrived pretty fast, but the distributor, sold by Amazon arrived looking like a previous return. The box had been opened and poorly repacked. Lots of loose parts in the box and the distributer cap had been damaged. Reluctantly, I sent it back. If I want to fix broken parts, I’ve already got plenty to do.

Rather than try mail order again, I stopped by Goodies, a local speed shop. They ordered me essentially the same part for the same price, minus the shipping. By Friday, I should have all the parts I need to get the engine back together.

In the meantime, the new carb was disassembled, the floats adjusted (they were just a tad out of spec) and reassembled. I’ve got a cold, so health permitting, I’ll get a jump start putting the wires together and the carb back on while waiting for the new distributer.

Inspiration to get out to the car has lately come from old episodes of Overhaulin’ on Netflix, especially this rework of a 65 Thunderbird into a roadster.

65 Thunderbird Roadster by Chip Foose
65 Thunderbird Roadster by Chip Foose

Mysteries Unraveled

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.

Edelbrock Fountain
Edelbrock Fountain

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.

Timing Marks
Timing marks revealed!

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.


I know I said I would tackle the ignition system before trying to fire the t-bird up, but with the fuel system all new, I couldn’t resist. And, in fact, the bird fired right up, ran for 30 seconds or so, then slowly sputtered out. More attempt to start it resulted in flooding and an odd moment or two when the engine ominously seemed to “stick.”

The insides of the distributor should not be fuzzy.


Well, crap.

I popped of the distributor cap and–imagine my surprise–the pickups were encased in rust. The rotor and cap were not in much better condition. Under the rust, it looked like the pickups were held on by nuts (or maybe screws. Or maybe both). They turned fine, but didn’t come loose.

The distributor on the car is an MSD Billet. Pretty pricey when new, but now fit for the dust bin. And yes, a new Accel distributor, coil and wires are on the way as of tonight.

As for the strange “sticking” issue, I’m going to pull the plugs tomorrow and turn the engine over by hand to see if there’s a bind in there. Hopefully, it has more to do with a mis-matched starter and flexplate–lots cheaper to fix than pulling the engine apart (not that there’s not some appeal there, mind you.)

Fuel and Fun

The 90 degree fitting I ordered for the fuel pump outlet arrived on Tuesday, went on to the pump on Wednesday and went into the car, with the pump, shortly after. I cleaned up the coil, which was in the way and had to come out, then reinstalled it this afternoon.

Fuel Pump
A clean fuel pump installation.

Belts for the alternator and the power steering pump were tightened and everything hooked back up. Everything is ready to go, but there are a lot of variables in play: a completely new fuel system, new alternator and numerous smaller parts removed and reinstalled.

This all started, really, with a gimpy starter, so much of that system is relatively untested as well.

Lots of balls in the air and air in the fuel line. I cranked the engine a few times to see if I could get fuel up the the clear filter. Unfortunately, the battery was weak from the last starting attempts and didn’t crank the engine fast or long enough to bring fuel up to the carburetor.


I hooked up a trickle charger, gave the bird a bath and am wrapping things up to let the battery charge overnight. Today it was 70 degrees, but tomorrow should be a nice day for a drive, too.

Some New Parts

A slow weekend for the ‘Bird, but progress on the restoration. I installed a new oil pressure sender (which should get the oil pressure gauge moving again, leaving only the gas and amp gauges dead.) and put in a new alternator.

Oil Pressure Sender
Oil Pressure Sender. Will be nice to see the gauge working.

In addition, I installed new belts and did some prep work for the new fuel pump–including a slick chrome fuel line and new tubing to feed the carburetor. All in all, the new parts went in smoothly–perhaps suspiciously so.

The original line from the fuel pump to the carburetor was metal tubing bent specifically to run from the pump to the original Autolite fuel inlet. Coming out of the pump, that line make a sharp 90 degree bend–something I didn’t want to duplicate with a rubber hose, fearing it would kink or otherwise restrict the fuel flow.

Shiny New Alternator
Shiny new alternator. All the wires got new, clean terminals, too.

After some time online and even more time with the good folks at my local auto parts store, it looks like I found just the right fitting to make the bend and allow a straightaway installation for the fuel line.

The fitting should be in tomorrow. With that, I should have everything I need to fire her up once more.