(I think I have the hang of the forum now)
Thinking I could enjoy a few days driving before winter, I dug into the exhaust header gasket first. The driver’s side header practically unscrewed by hand, except for the last bolt closest to the driver’s seat. Apparently the mechanic never went back to tighten things up after running it a few times. The passenger side is tight, couldn’t budge a thing there. That one sticky bolt though (not surprising right?) was a mystery. It came out of the block with a smashed/pointy front end. Huh I thought. I dropped in the new gasket and discovered that I too could not get that last bolt in. In fact both bolts for cyl #5 really weren’t going to work. No amount of swearing and knuckle bleeding was going to fix this without intervention.
I took everything off and put it on the bench. I lined the gasket up to the header flanges and guess what? The headers are warped and the #5 cyl bolt holes are about a ¼ inch off when paired to the gasket. Well this isn’t going to work, I thought. I had to sleep on this a couple of nights. I got some steel pipes and put them inside the header tubes. Figured I couldn’t really mess it up any more. I have a small floor jack that I used to force the pipes apart. They did spread and I was able to match the gasket holes very well. At least well enough that I could lay the gasket on top of the headers and drop a bolt through the gasket and it would fall easily through both holes.
One win, two fails. The holes match up now. Unfortunately the mating surfaces of the flanges are not planar and the headers actually split at the collector. Torn metal, gah! Dig out the mig welder and patch up the splits best I can. For lack of a bench mill I used a belt sander with 80 grit to improve the planar mismatch. Not perfect though. I doubled up the exhaust gaskets on #5 and #8 and bolted it all back together. Well at least I can start it and drive it now without the tick-tick.
I live in New Hampshire and “winter is coming” (GOT reference). I really wanted to sort this out soon as my ability to put it on the road is a fast closing window. Not knowing the status of the engine would create many sleepless nights if I just covered it and stored it for the winter. I just had to dig into it. Over the next two days I did take it for two short drives. 3 miles each. I kept an eye on the temperature and tachometer. Went through the gears. Once warmed up it ran better and would hold an idle. The ticking exhaust went away - yay. Then after parking it back in my garage it would not start again. Ugh! Lots of cranking and gas smell. No joy.
None of the plugs would spark. She’s dead now. I tested the MSD ignition using the test procedure - coil output to ground, but no spark there either. The wiring appeared to be accurate and the red light on the 6AL flashes when turned on. I was suspicious of the crimped on blade connectors, especially the trigger wire from the distributor. I also discovered that the previous owner had hidden a small toggle switch next to the driver’s seat to ground the signal wire - disabling the ignition if it is closed. After removing the kill switch (anti-theft?) symptoms still persisted.
I tore out the whole electronic ignition; MSD 6AL and 8920 Tach adapter. I followed the trigger wire to the distributor and popped the top off. Looking inside I saw that it was a dual points distributor (original?) and it was full of corrosion. What a shame that the previous owner would install a digital ignition and keep a neglected distributor in the loop. The weakest link in the chain comes to mind. I am surprised she ran at all. At least I didn’t have to add a flat-bed tow to my list of receipts.
The good news is that the MSD components bench tested just fine. As a replacement distributor I ordered the MSD Pro Billet small cap HEI with cast iron gear (pn 8577) and a set of HEI plug wires (pn 35383). I also needed a 6 ft pulse cable (pn 8860). As part of my reinstall I also added a relay to create switched power from the always hot side of the starter solenoid, instead of through the ignition. Makes sense to me. http://www.panteraplace.com/page223.htm
To set up the distributor I chose to use the silver bushing (limits the distributor to 25 deg advance) and two light blue springs which allows full advance at 3500 rpm according to the MSD published advance curves. I set the idle advance to 10 deg. This setup produces 35 deg total advance (10 + 25) at 3500 rpm. This baby fires right up now. My wife helped with the timing of course. She got to sit on the floor and rev 'er up.
Unfortunately all of this has taken me 4 weeks and we are expecting 4-6” of snow and freezing rain today. Winter is now here. I was able to start and drive the car out of my wife’s parking spot (where my tools and small heater are kept). I backed it out last night and it is officially put up for the winter now. I can sleep soundly knowing that I’ve got a real champ waiting for me in the spring. I'll have plenty of questions for you all when the snow melts.
Backing out for storage https://youtu.be/92LPE0Ef-cg