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Ignitions & Distributors

Lets talk about distributors, all nailhead distributors will swap, from 1953 until 1966. If you do this be aware that Buick changed the amount of advance many times during those years so make sure initial timing (idle) matches the distributor you are using, they varied from 2.5 to 12 degrees. Buick also used two distributor gears, the 53-55 and the 56-66, the reason was the camshaft, the early ones were steel and the later were cast iron. You should match up the correct gear with the cam you are using (new 264-322 cams are cast iron). The 53-56 distributors have the advance located below the breaker plate, the 57-66 they are above so much easier to re-curve. The late distributor (57-66) points, condenser, cap, rotor and vacuum advance are available most anywhere. The 61-63 all model and 64-66 2-4 distributor have an excellent timing curve, initial timing is set at 10-12 degrees. We re-curve our distributors to these spec's, we still have an old distributor machine to check them. The late units have a limit bushing made from rubber and many have fallen out causing over advance, the nailhead needs only 30 degrees total advance (larger cams up to 35 degrees), more can damage the engine. We like full advance at about 2500 rpm. This does not include the vacuum advance that does not work on hard acceleration so check with vacuum hose removed. WE LIKE vacuum advances, they give you better gas mileage and cooler running engines, only on an all out race car should you not use one. About electronic breaker less conversions, they work great, we like the cheaper lobe sensing 1181LS Pertronix, the 1181 Pertronix with a magnetic ring is NOT a good one for the late type distributor. The HEI units are just plain ugly and not worthy of the a beautiful Buick engine. I call the HEI the "Elephant Mans Head Distributor" They can also cause firewall clearance problems. Another choice is the MSD, good unit, MUST re-curve before installing. Use the black limit bushing and one heavy silver and one weak silver advance springs. Set timing at 10-12 degrees. Most electronic units should NOT use resistors or resistor wire going to coil. We have had some problems in this area. If you have a point type distributor and having problems with the engine not running right, replace the points and condenser with new high quality ones before blaming the carburetor or anything else! Blue Streak parts are NOT high quality, they are just as bad as FRAM filters.

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