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Old 02-11-2016, 02:51 PM   #1
Grumpy Rick
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Default '55 T-bird distributor

New old guy here, with a twist on a common question.

I have had several 54-55-56 Fords, and am aware of the Loadomatic distributor/carb problems.

I recently bought a 55 T-Bird, with the original 292 motor. It is rebuilt pretty much original. Converted to 12V and an alternator, he put an Edelbrock 600 cfm carb on it, but left the original distributor on because he did not want to lose the original tach.

I would choose runability over the tach, and was ready to get a 59-64 distributor from NAPA, but I ran across ads on e-bay for HEI distributors with wiring and 50K coil for about $275. I assume these are Chinese copies of the MSD setup, which is about $600.

Question is.....Anybody have experience with one of these e-bay ignition systems??

Question 2: Any ideas on an electric tach that would look pretty original?

I just want to end up with a car that is a dependable driver.

Thanks,
Rick
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Old 02-11-2016, 04:21 PM   #2
dmsfrr
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Default Re: '55 T-bird distributor

Correct, the stock '55 distributor won't function properly with an Edelbrock 600.

Have you looked for a '57 T-Bird distributor?
That would solve the problem, except for how to pay for one.

Mallory used to sell a tach drive dist that looks compatible but it's been out of stock / no longer made(?) for a while now.
http://www.amazon.com/Mallory-USA-38...ype=automotive

I've heard of 55/57 T-Birds converted to an elect tach but don't know which ones fit.
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Old 02-12-2016, 02:27 AM   #3
Grumpy Rick
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Default Re: '55 T-bird distributor

I thought about a '57 Bird distributor, but as you say, too much money, then it needs going through, and I still don't have electronic ignition.

That is why I am asking about the E-bay MSD clones. There seem to be two companies handling them.

Anyone with knowledge of them?

The 59-64 distributor from NAPA is my fallback. If I go this way, I will go with a Pertronix setup.
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Old 02-12-2016, 09:33 AM   #4
Dominic Hide
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Default Re: '55 T-bird distributor

My choice would be the '59-'64 and convert tach to electric. Auto Meter have a mini tach that is center sweep 0 to 5000 rpm, the same layout as original. (there may be others but beware, most are for diesel application and require more parts to use). I would then fit the electronic unit behind the original face into the stripped out tach cup.
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Old 02-12-2016, 11:23 AM   #5
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Default Re: '55 T-bird distributor

Here is an article on converting your "Loadamatic" distributor from the YBlockforever forum. It may be helpful to you, rather than spending all that money on something that you may not be happy with. Hopefully, it could be done with a Tach drive unit
Hope it helps you
Jim

THE LOAD-O-MATIC DISTRIBUTOR

By Gerry Dubois


The Load-o-Matic distributor is essentially the same from the bowl up on all modern Ford units. Take a '57 or later distributor, remove the breaker plate and upper shaft assembly. Replace these with the beaker plate and upper shaft assembly from any '75 or later Ford V-8 distributor. Install a new stator and reluctor. You will have to notch the distributor housing to fit the stators wire harness. This is as simple as extending the existing hole up to the rim of the bowl. The old style cap can be retained for an old time look or the new style two-piece cap can be used with modern 8mm wires for best performance. You will also need a module and a Duraspark unique coil. You could fab up a harness on your own or purchase one from a Ford industrial dealer.(Part number D7JL-12A200-CA) This harness will plug directly into the distributor, module and coil. It has two wires to power it. Luckily the brown wire and the red wire that now go to the resistor and the positive side of the coil are the correct input for the job. Make the two connections and turn the key. You may have to disconnect the brown wire from the starter relay to avoid a feed back that will cause the starter to run on after you release the key. You will want to regap the plugs to about .045" to take advantage of the much stronger spark. You can also use an MSD 6AL type of module with the Ford distributor, if you wish.

MSD offers a harness (#8869) that plugs into the Duraspark distributor plug while the other end plugs into their module. Follow the MSD instructions for the rest of the wiring requirements. If you decide to go this route, be sure to use one of the MSD Blaster coils. An upgraded vacuum advance could give even more power. The local auto parts store usually carries these. I've used the '85 Mustang 5.0 replacement to great success. These are adjustable for the amount of vacuum it takes to bring in full vacuum advance using an 1/8" Allen wrench through the vacuum port. This particular unit offers 20 degrees of advance at the crank. The arm is marked with a "10". The fuel economy improvement is enormous.
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Old 02-12-2016, 11:37 AM   #6
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Default Re: '55 T-bird distributor

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kahuna View Post
Here is an article on converting your "Loadamatic" distributor from the YBlockforever forum. It may be helpful to you, rather than spending all that money on something that you may not be happy with. Hopefully, it could be done with a Tach drive unit
Hope it helps you
Jim

THE LOAD-O-MATIC DISTRIBUTOR


Take a '57 or later distributor, remove the breaker plate and upper shaft assembly. Replace these with the beaker plate and upper shaft assembly from any '75 or later Ford V-8 distributor.
If I'm reading this correctly all your doing here is replacing the load-o distributor with a "57 or later distributor" and installing a Dura-Spark, which is fine except Grumpy Rick will still NOT HAVE THE TACH DRIVE.

I forget what size the Tach is on the 'Birds (2 1/16"??) but I've seen quite a few with electronic tachs.
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Old 02-12-2016, 12:20 PM   #7
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Default Re: '55 T-bird distributor

I have an old 9000rpm SW mechanical tach in my 55 bird. 31/2" nominal dia. By carefully removing the bezel, and girding down the edge of the case, it slipped right in to the bird dash bezel. I think the electric ones use the same case, it would be worth a look.

I also ran the Loadomatic dist with a Edelbrock carb for several years. Used an MSD timing computer to provide "mechanical" advance. (It's really low rpm retard). Used a modern vacumn can to provide adjustable vacumn advance. It was a lot of fooling around, but it worked. Used a Pertroix to trigger the MSD 6AL. The timing retard computers are used by the bracket racers, I think several companies make them now.
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Old 03-04-2018, 03:27 PM   #8
Grumpy Rick
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Default Re: '55 T-bird distributor

Update:

I ended up using a Cardone rebuilt later model 292 distributor, with a Pertronix system. Works fine. I plan to later fit that AutoMeter 5000 RPM tach in the dash.

Thanks for the helpfull advice.
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Old 03-04-2018, 06:05 PM   #9
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Question Re: '55 T-bird distributor

Quote:

THE LOAD-O-MATIC DISTRIBUTOR

By Gerry Dubois

The Load-o-Matic distributor is essentially the same from the bowl up on all modern Ford units. Take a '57 or later distributor, remove the breaker plate and upper shaft assembly. Replace these with the beaker plate and upper shaft assembly from any '75 or later Ford V-8 distributor.


The author is starting off on the wrong foot...
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Old 03-04-2018, 06:15 PM   #10
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Default Re: '55 T-bird distributor

Quote:
Originally Posted by Grumpy Rick View Post
Update:
I ended up using a Cardone rebuilt later model 292 distributor, with a Pertronix system. Works fine. I plan to later fit that AutoMeter 5000 RPM tach in the dash.
Thanks for the helpfull advice.
Great news! Good luck with the rest of it!

Quote:
Originally Posted by KULTULZ View Post
The author is starting off on the wrong foot...
Makes perfect sense to me.
You can change a '55/'56 distributor to a '57 distributor by getting a '57 distributor.

Perhaps the intent of the original author was to explain the installation of factory 'late-model' electronic ignition into a '57+ points style distributor.

.

Last edited by dmsfrr; 03-04-2018 at 06:46 PM.
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Old 03-28-2020, 05:55 PM   #11
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Default Re: '55 T-bird distributor

Quote:
Originally Posted by KULTULZ View Post




The author is starting off on the wrong foot...
Quote:
Originally Posted by dmsfrr View Post

Makes perfect sense to me.

You see nothing wrong with the authors opening statement?
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Old 03-28-2020, 07:23 PM   #12
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Default Re: '55 T-bird distributor

Quote:
Originally Posted by KULTULZ View Post
You see nothing wrong with the authors opening statement?
You're asking me?
Did you see the "eye roll" / sarcastic emoji?

The author has a poor understanding of the various Y-block distributors.
He claims "The Load-o-Matic distributor is essentially the same from the bowl up on all modern Ford units." This is not true.

The Y-block Loadomatic distributors were only used from '54 to '56. Their primary limitations are that they advance the ignition timing based only on a low level vacuum signal from the original year matching '54/'56 carburetors. They do not have centrifugal weights for timing advance, or room to put them in.

He continues with his 'fix' of a *Loadomatic* distributor by taking even later model parts and putting them in a (wait for it) '57+ distributor.

The '57+ Y-block distributor is not a Loadomatic, it has centrifugal timing advance weights under the points mounting plate and a deeper housing they fit into. If the owner of a '54/'56 Loadomatic distributor wants to somehow alter or convert it to a newer setup and has a '57+ Y-block distributor in his other hand... he's already got the solution.
(except for the solid state bits and tach drive)
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 55 dist, arrows.jpg (70.3 KB, 3 views)
File Type: jpg 55 tach drive dist c2.jpg (42.1 KB, 2 views)
File Type: jpg 57-59 dist, straight arm advance.jpg (75.9 KB, 3 views)
File Type: jpg 57 t-bird dist c.jpg (77.1 KB, 3 views)
File Type: jpg 57 dist weights c.jpg (88.2 KB, 2 views)

Last edited by dmsfrr; 04-04-2020 at 01:01 PM. Reason: add photos
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Old 03-28-2020, 08:10 PM   #13
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Default Re: '55 T-bird distributor

Speaking of Tach drive...
Back to Grumpy Ricks 4 yr old *lack of tach drive when updating a '55/'56 T-Bird* problem...

I hesitate a bit to post this link or have anyone think too highly of these aftermarket Y-block Tach drive distributors because I'm pretty sure we know where they're made.... but if someone wants to go this route, here they are. They started showing up on ebay a few weeks ago.

https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_sop...&ul_noapp=true
.

Last edited by dmsfrr; 03-29-2020 at 09:30 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old 03-29-2020, 07:26 AM   #14
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Thumbs up Re: '55 T-bird distributor

Quote:
Originally Posted by dmsfrr View Post

You're asking me? Did you see the "eye roll" / sarcastic emoji?

The author has a very poor understanding of the various Y-block distributors.
Not beating on you, but how many may have been mislead by the TECH ARTICLE?. You passed with flying colors ...
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Old 03-29-2020, 09:22 AM   #15
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Default Re: '55 T-bird distributor

Quote:
Originally Posted by KULTULZ View Post
... how many may have been mislead by the TECH ARTICLE? ...
Hopefully not too many folks.
The article is actually about converting a '57+ Y-block distributor to electronic ignition.
(which I don't have enough info to comment on)
Quote:
Originally Posted by KULTULZ View Post
... You passed with flying colors ...
Now if I could just spend more time in the garage instead of at this keyboard.....
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Last edited by dmsfrr; 03-29-2020 at 05:23 PM.
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Old 03-29-2020, 11:11 AM   #16
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Default Re: '55 T-bird distributor

Yes, I also noticed the author didn't seem to know the details of what he was talking about.


Sal
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Old 03-29-2020, 04:12 PM   #17
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Default Re: '55 T-bird distributor

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kahuna View Post
By Gerry Dubois
The Load-o-Matic distributor is essentially the same from the bowl up on all modern Ford units.

Well, yes, I blew that off.
It would be correct to say either; The load-o-matic distributor is the same from the bowl up on '54-56 Y-blocks (in fact the only difference at all is the '54 has different camshaft mating gear), or, you could say; the mechanical advance distributors are all EXACTLY the same on all '57-64 Y-blocks (except the T-Bird has provision for mechanical tachometer).
The latter statement would have been more relevant for this thread.
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Old 03-29-2020, 05:28 PM   #18
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Default Re: '55 T-bird distributor

Examples of two differences between the '57/'59 Y-block distributors and the '59+ versions. There may be other/later versions but I haven't looked into it.

The '57/'59 distributors use a vacuum diaphragm with a straight actuating arm. The points & condenser are mounted on a round plate that rotates on small ball bearings in a groove around its perimeter.

The '59+ distributors have a curved arm from the vacuum canister. The points & condenser mount to a smaller plate that pivots on a pin opposite the wiper of the points. (photo 3, red arrow)
.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 57-59 dist, straight arm advance.jpg (75.9 KB, 11 views)
File Type: jpg 57-59 dist, ball bearing points plate.jpg (41.0 KB, 13 views)
File Type: jpg 59+ dist pivot plate, curved adv arm c.jpg (61.9 KB, 15 views)

Last edited by dmsfrr; 03-29-2020 at 11:44 PM.
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Old 04-04-2020, 06:29 AM   #19
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Default Re: '55 T-bird distributor

I just bought a 56 Thunderbird and a 63 Split Window coupe from my Brother in law and Sister. They have not been run for 12 years. I bought them as is? They are in very nice shape, been covered up to protect them. They are home in my garage being cleanup.
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Old 04-04-2020, 06:51 AM   #20
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Thumbs up Re: '55 T-bird distributor

Quote:
Originally Posted by Old Redneck View Post

I just bought a 56 Thunderbird and a 63 Split Window coupe from my Brother in law and Sister. They have not been run for 12 years. I bought them as is? They are in very nice shape, been covered up to protect them.

They are home in my garage being cleanup.
... show-off ...
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