Cars and trucks are a necessary evil. With that said, if you’ve gotta have one (and motorcycles were my sole transportation in life until a few years ago) you might as well have a cool one that can haul motorcycles if necessary. I’ve had a ’59 Chevy Apache for about five years now. It was pretty raw, but evolves slowly as I make incremental improvements. This latest round had me adding a vacuum advance and rebuilding the stock AC/Delco distributor to house a much more recent vintage HEI ignition. The idea and motivation came from Young Dan, who had done it to his ’59 Ford. Thanks Dan.
Per my usual approach, I did my best to hide these modifications and to use as many original or factory parts as possible. It’s not like you can’t tell it’s there, but I didn’t want some big honking red MSD box hanging off the motor either. Wouldn’t seem right. So about two weeks ago we were hanging around the shop and I dug in. Ripped the distributor out after marking some reference points and started taking things apart. Up until that point I had been running fixed timing as I’d previously welded the two timing clamp pieces together due to a shot advance can. A little surgical grinding and they were free again and ready for reuse.
Without getting too much into it, here’s a little background on what changes were made. You can lookup the benefits of vacuum advance elsewhere. The HEI controller is a contact-less pickup and coil controller (makes the coil fire the plugs at the right time) that costs about $20 at any auto parts store. Dime a dozen. Easy to replace. These means no more setting points, more stable ignition, smoother idle and no regular adjustments of any sort required.
Parts used were the stock Delco distributor, a new advance can, a Chrysler slant-six reluctor and pickup and an aftermarket HEI controller and heat sink. I think the whole project cost around $60.
It came out great. Starts right up and runs like a whole new truck. Details in the pictures.