Bonjour from France,

I'm trying to solve the last remaining mystery of my Pantera (1571 from 1971). When I bought the car it came with an MSD distributor which sticks out significantly thus preventing the installation of the engine cover (see photo). Does anybody has a clue what is different on my car compared to other Panteras equipped with the same type of MSD distributor?  I have the original engine mounts installed and the engine has no ignition issue (engine runs perfectly since years). Thanks for any thought you might have.



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Original Post

Nothing wrong. That expensive distributor likely never did fit properly, and due to factory build tolerances, some Panteras have more (or less) space than others. Sometimes, the 2 piece motormounts are mis-assembled during an engine change so NO dizzy will fit with good clearance. Basically, there's only enough for stock 1970-era small cap distributors. Big cap (or 'crab-cap') distributors have always been a problem on stock Panteras (which is what I think you have; can't quite see in the photo). So in the mid- '80s when Ford began installing big cap e-distributors in front engine cars for stronger ignition and ozone suppression, the aftermarket followed but there were clearance issues in most Panteras.

What happens is, after installing the distributor in the restricted space, usually after laboriously moving wires around to fit, you'll find barely enough space for it to fit and the engine will run. But while driving under load the whole engine moves around slightly on the rubber motor mounts. This allows the dizzy cap to hit the firewall, dislodging it and breaking the rotor, which means you get to meet a tow truck driver unless you happen to have spare parts on board. 

To make the MSD dizzy fit fairly easily, you can slot or redrill both the motor mount bolt holes back toward the tail lights a bit, which shifts the block and ZF backward (must also re-shim the ZF in its mounts). This can be done without pulling the engine/ZF or modifying anything else- exhausts, lines, wires & hoses  and the shift-shaft can often stay like they are now. I moved our engine almost an inch back and another inch down, without having to remove or readjust anything. This helped remove the firewall bulge in the cabin for more seat clearance and a flat-firewall mod.

Beyond an inch, the step in the oil pan will hit the rear crossmember, the shift rod's rear u-joint will hit the left inner fender and a bunch of other things will interfere. The halfshaft u-joints can absorb far more than an inch of relocation without issues. Big block conversions move back a full 4 inches without problems! I don't recommend pounding a dent in the firewall as it's very easy to break the rear glass or make R & R later more difficult.

Or you can use a rebuilt stock dizzy with a small cap, use a stock or drop-in electronic kit  for most of the upgrade benefits, and sell the MSD to a Mustang owner. Good luck, Sig.

Not sure if it fits under a flat engine cover or not, but an MSD 8577 ready to run distributor uses a small cap and usually fits without issue on the later cars.

 As Jack mentioned it is hard to get a clear idea of what is happening from your single photograph. Jack’s information is pertinent in many cases where the cap and wires are contacting the firewall but in your case it appears your distributor is not too large a diameter but is in fact somehow too tall to allow the engine screen to fit.

 If your distributor is in fact too tall, I have never heard of this problem with any of the distributors commonly installed in a Cleveland engine.  Do you know the part number of the distributor? 

 Perhaps someone else has prior experience with this but I think to better understand what might be going on some better pictures are called for. What would really be best is to remove the engine firewall upholstery panel and steel hatch and take photos from that viewpoint. 


Hmm... I've run into late model 351-W distributors that are somewhat taller than 351-Cs for no known reason. With most Ford V8 distributors 1957-1985, the gears and most of the insides interchange, so it's possible what you have is a MSD 351-Windsor distributor with a 351Cleveland gear on the shaft.

The combination will work fine in a Pantera with a 351-C using a Cleveland gear, except for rubbing the wires on some engine screens. The Cleveland gear is noticably larger in OD than a Windsor. Do NOT try running a Windsor gear in a Cleveland as only the very tips of Windsor gear teeth will touch the Cleveland cam gear, and will start up but will ruin both cam and dizzy drive gears in a very few miles!

Note also that  some Aussie Clevelands used in Panteras assembled outside of the U.S, had a smaller OD distributor shaft and those blocks also have a smaller bore hole for the oil pump extension driveshaft so the gear interchange will not fit without machine work. Hope this is what happened.

Thanks very much for all the interesting comments

My car has the MSD 8477 installed which is equipped with vacuum advance and it is stated that it is for the 351C.

Above it was mentioned that MSD 8577 fits without problems. From the pictures it seems that this distributor is shorter since it does not contain the vacuum advance installation. The difference in length could be a bit more than one inch which could make a big difference. I was told that for fuel economy I should stick with a vacuum advance (fuel price in France is now at about 8 US$/US gallon and increasing)

I have attached another photo. You can see that the screw of the distributor cap is just below the rail into which the engine cover slides into. The cap has a distance of a bit less than half an inch to the firewall (hope that is enough to cope for engine movement).

I tried to find a distributor cap that fits on the MSD 8477 and is shorter, but there seems to be none... 

Thanks again for your comments






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Hi sig,

I think the distributor screw is too close to the firewall, to remedy the problem it is necessary to turn the distributor few degrees (20 - 30 ° or more....) so that the boss of the screw is far from the firewall and thus recover space between the distributor and the firewall. Be careful, it is important to check that the spark wires are in the correct order on the cap and to set the advance.

je pense que la vis du distributeur est trop proche de la cloison pare-feu, pour remédier au problème il faut tourner le distributeur de quelques degrés (20 - 30 ° ou plus) pour que le bossage de la vis soit loin de la cloison et ainsi récupérer de l'espace entre le distributeur et la cloison. Attention cela nécessite de verifier que les fils de bougies soient dans le bon ordre sur le distributeur et de recaler l'avance.


Call Jegs, give them the part number of your dist., tell them you want to order the shorter version. NP.

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