Jim Smart
January 25, 2011
Contributers: Classic Inlines Photos By: Classic Inlines

Ignition problems are easier to understand and solve than fuel system woes. Rule of thumb is to never trust new parts right out of the box; just because an ignition wire set is new doesn't mean it's going to function properly. The same can be said for distributor caps and ignition kits. In fact, most ignition kits are manufactured offshore these days and not the same caliber they used to be. If you must use points and condenser, opt for a Motorcraft tune-up kit because they're still manufactured to the same high standards you expect from Ford. We're talking phenolic rubbing blocks and vented contact points, not the cheesy nylon stuff you find at discount stores. Spend the money to buy the best.

MCE Engines in Los Angeles has a strict regiment when it comes to the finite details of engine tuning. Marvin McAfee shows us time and again why you must never trust anything right out of the box. Marvin checks quality (material condition) and continuity (resistance or an open circuit) of every ignition part he installs. Ignition wires sometimes have breaks you cannot see. New spark plugs sometimes suffer from zero continuity (no spark) and must be discarded. And sometimes, it's as simple as a bad ground between engine and chassis, which creates all kinds of electrical gremlins.

When engines develop a misfire, it's easy to assume the worst. Instead, Marvin suggests going after the simplest things first. Most of the time, misfire comes from faulty ignition components. Marvin stresses the use of genuine Motorcraft or Autolite spark plugs and ignition components, advice that comes from experience with a wide variety of ignition parts.

Three For Six
When the compact Ford sixes were introduced 50 years ago, aftermarket companies like Offenhauser got on board with performance products designed to improve performance. The three one-barrel carburetor setup was one approach using Holley or Autolite carburetors. Those classic Holley 1904, 1908, and 1909 one-barrel carburetors look sharp and perform well when you can find them. Pony Carburetors is the first stop in your search because they have a huge inventory of cores and access to a vast network of sources if it isn't in stock.

The Holley 1904 carburetor, introduced in 1952, was used primarily on the 223, 240, and 300ci sixes. The 144 and 170 got the Holley 1908 carburetor with a glass bowl. The 1909 carburetor was introduced in 1962 atop the 144 and 170 with an automatic choke. You also have the option of three Autolite 1100 series carburetors for the Offy induction system.

The Offenhauser 3/1 induction system doesn't necessarily deliver trailblazing performance. It does improve fuel/air distribution, placing two carburetors toward each end of the log-style intake manifold to improve drivability while offering crisp response and a steady application of torque under acceleration.

Summit Racing Equipment has the classic Offenhauser induction system for vintage Ford sixes, part number OFY-5205, which includes the three one-barrel manifold, attachment hardware, gaskets, and progressive linkage. It does not include the carburetors, which can be sourced from Pony Carburetors or Mustangs Etc.

Cooling System
We don't hear much about overheating with six-cylinder Mustangs because they had adequate cooling systems from the factory, unlike their V-8 counterparts. Still, if factory cooling is adequate, you can do even better with a three or four-row core radiator, high-flow water pump, and proper cooling fan configuration.

Mustangs Plus offers a nice array of three and four-row core copper/brass radiators for six-cylinder Mustangs. They also have Scott Drake high-capacity, aluminum radiators for six-cylinder Mustangs. We've also worked with Redline Cooling, which offers custom and mass-production aluminum radiators for classic Mustangs. Redline's cooling capacity is unequalled, offering enthusiasts outstanding radiators at reasonable prices.

When you're planning your Mustang six's cooling system, plan for extreme conditions at each end of the heat spectrum. Although some opt for a 160-degree thermostat, we recommend a 180-degree thermostat because you want your six to operate warmer rather than cooler. Cold engines aren't as efficient for one thing. For another, lubrication doesn't perform as well in a cold engine. Replace your Mustang's thermostat every two years, which is when cooling system service (flush, fresh antifreeze) is suggested. Replace hoses every four years, and always use an anti-collapse spring in the lower hose.

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