When we last left our '64 Ranchero, the B-50 short-block-based engine inside was moving along toward completion. One area of this project we hadn't discussed was the ignition. Our old Ford point-type distributor was all we had on hand, but this wouldn't work unless we changed the distributor drive gear to steel to be compatible with the new roller-cam-equipped engine. All new Ford short-blocks, and any '85 or newer 302 engine you're liable to find in a boneyard, will be roller-cam-equipped. The steel cam in these engines will chew up your stock distributor's iron gear in short order, so any of you going over to a newer engine will face this problem.
Initially, we simply installed a steel gear on our point-and-condenser distributor from a 289 and installed the unit. It wasn't long before we decided that a brand new roller engine deserved better than the headaches you're bound to encounter with an old-style mechanical distributor. Wandering dwell readings and fried points were just two of the headaches we wished to avoid. After some serious searching, we came up with an '85 one-year-only Ford distributor made for the only year the roller engine was carburetor-equipped. All later Ford distributors were made to work on EFI engines. The '85 unit we found looked well worn. With its own electronic control box, we wondered if we might be trading one set of problems for another.
We finally decided to give the folks at MSD a call to see what they could recommend. The perfect answer for our needs came in the form of the MSD Billet stand-alone distributor for 289-302 Ford engines, PN 8352. For solid-state reliability, ease of installation, and great looks, the MSD Billet unit was a perfect choice. Built to work without an auxiliary ignition box and still provide the super-strong spark, the MSD Billet distributor is equipped with both a mechanical and vacuum advance for complete adjustability.
When you order your distributor, be sure to tell them which type of distributor drive gear you need, and your new unit will be equipped with the correct type of gear before shipping. This way, you won't have to chance damaging your distributor before you get it into the engine. To see how easy it was to get our new engine MSD-equipped, join us at the shop of J.P. Pretto of Apple Valley, California, and we'll show you how.