Jim Smart
February 28, 2007

A lot of energy has gone into making small-block Fords perform better during the past 44 years. Those first small-block Fords-the 221 and the 260 Fairlane V-8s from 1962-were fairly tame with an Autolite 2100 two-barrel carburetor and simple point-triggered ignition. Four-barrel carburetion didn't come until 1963 and only on the 289 High Performance. Each passing model year produced better small-block Fords: the 289-4V of 1964, 302 for 1968, the Boss 302 and 351W for 1969, a close cousin called the 351C for 1970, 400M for 1972, 351M for 1975, hydraulic roller tappet 5.0L (302ci) High Output in 1985, and the fuel-injected 5.0L High Output for 1986. In the late '90s, Ford eliminated the distributor completely in 5.0L Explorers.

Great engines need solid, reliable ignition systems to become legendary. The small-block Ford is no exception and neither are other Ford engines such as the FE-series 390/428 and the 385-series 429. They all need ignitions that will reliably fire the mixture for thousands of miles. But running these old Autolite and Motorcraft point-triggered distributors is like taking a slingshot into a nuclear war. You don't stand a chance because it's a woefully inadequate design, especially when compared to today's technologically advanced ignition systems.

Our subject is a '66 Autolite single-point distributor from a 289-2V Mustang. What we're about to teach you applies to any Autolite or Motorcraft V-8 point-triggered distributor from 1962-1974.

What makes these old Ford ignitions inadequate is poor shaft support, insufficient and limited point-function, and a crummy breaker plate. Sloppy breaker-plate movement, shaft oscillation, and point bounce all keep a tuner guessing about dwell and precise ignition timing. We're going to show you how to keep the old Ford distributor and gain a reliable ignition system at the same time.

Marvin McAfee from MCE Engines will walk us through the blueprinting of an old Ford distributor. He stresses a process that leaves no stone unturned. His message is basic: You can't trust mass-produced remanufactured components from typical discount auto-parts stores, especially for your Mustang's ignition system. Because Marvin is a diehard Ford enthusiast with a deep racing history, you can trust his judgment and expertise.