Better to install a big block with out w/o distributor in place? - Team Camaro Tech
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old Apr 29th, 15, 01:35 PM Thread Starter
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Red face Better to install a big block with out w/o distributor in place?

Going in with my first ever 396. I imagine the space against the firewall is very limited, so am thinking it might be better to install the distributor after the motor is installed. Then I worried that the distributor might not go in at all once the firewall had a say in matters. Nightmares took over from there.

What say ye.....
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old Apr 29th, 15, 01:41 PM
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Re: Better to install a big block with out w/o distributor in place?

I don't know about an HEI but a stock style (and sized) distributor presents no obstruction to installing the engine, nor is it a problem to remove and reinstall with the engine in place.

Mind you, you need to be using the correct frame stands and engine mounts for it to work properly...

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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old Apr 29th, 15, 01:44 PM
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Re: Better to install a big block with out w/o distributor in place?

Install the distributor once the engine is in the car. As long as you are not using a big cap HEI you will not have any issues installing the distributer with the engine installed.
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old Apr 29th, 15, 01:54 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Better to install a big block with out w/o distributor in place?

I do want to use an electronic ignition distributor, but am trying to keep a factory look.

I'll try to look at the height differences in online pics between original style and HEI caps on my home computer tonight.
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old Apr 29th, 15, 02:13 PM
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Re: Better to install a big block with out w/o distributor in place?

If you want HEI and don't have room for a big cap, you essentially have two options - have a points distributor converted by Dave's small body HEIs or buy the GM Tri-power distributor from Davis Unified Ignition. I did the latter because Dave's has a reputation for stellar work but less-than-stellar timeliness and communication, and I was on a tight timetable. Granted I have a small-block, but same setup. It runs markedly better than with points, no regrets. Plus, if the module dies on the side of the road (unlikely as they're pretty reliable) it'll work with any standard parts store 4-pin HEI module.

Both options are pricier than just running a large-body HEI out of a junkyard, but that wasn't an option since I don't like the idea of dimpling the firewall. Clearly many other electronic ignition options out there, but this is it for GM HEI setups.

1967 RS driver with a 327/210... but now with an M20, HEI, AAW harness w/ halogens and relays, Dakota Digital, Moto-Lita, TMI interior, and a few other toys
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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old Apr 29th, 15, 02:47 PM
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Re: Better to install a big block with out w/o distributor in place?

I don't have a big block, but on my small block car, I tried the large cap HEI. There was not enough clearance between the cap, wires and the firewall.

Instead, I am now running a pertronix module in the factory points distributor. So far I am very pleased with it. I chose the pertronix because I liked the idea of keeping the stock distributor because I knew for sure it would fit with no problems. My dad put a pertronix conversion in his 1966 Ford truck over 20 years ago, and it still works great with no issues. That is reliability enough for me!

For my engine installs, you can leave the distributor in place if you do not want to have to re-set the timing, but would I definitely remove at least the cap & maybe the rotor too, just so it doesn't get in the way, and there is no risk of damage.

The important thing here is that you ask me what kind of car I've got. "I've got a BITCHIN' CAMARO"
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old Apr 29th, 15, 08:51 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Better to install a big block with out w/o distributor in place?

I'll look into that Tri-power Ignition you wrote about. Sounds promising.

As far as Pertronix goes, I bought one of those kits years ago and never installed it. A (reputable) friend of mine told me that tiny pertronix unit wasn't actually giving yielding the full 100% benefit of an HEI ignition. I never actually found out what he meant. Everyone who has them seems to like them though......
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old Apr 29th, 15, 09:17 PM
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Smile Re: Better to install a big block with out w/o distributor in place?

I put the engine in with the distributor installed, but the cap and wires off. It is to easy to bump the cap as you drop it in.

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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old Apr 29th, 15, 09:24 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Better to install a big block with out w/o distributor in place?

What type of distributor did you have TJS69? Points or HEI?
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old Apr 29th, 15, 09:47 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Better to install a big block with out w/o distributor in place?

I found a pic of a 69 with what appears to be a large cap HEI distributor. Based on the inputs from this forum makes me think the firewall could have been "massaged" a bit or some other creative solution happened?

What do you think?


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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old Apr 29th, 15, 10:52 PM
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Re: Better to install a big block with out w/o distributor in place?

I have a big block in my factory bigblock 69. My firewall isn't massaged and my HEI with a big cap fits no problem. I wouldn't and didn't install the engine in the car with the distributor in. It ain't roomy but it fits no problem. I even have that bigger coil on top than stock and no problem.
Nothing like a big block in a Camaro.

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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old Apr 30th, 15, 12:15 AM
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Smile Re: Better to install a big block with out w/o distributor in place?

Quote:
Originally Posted by martinezr View Post
What type of distributor did you have TJS69? Points or HEI?
I have an HEI that required some firewall denting. I think a lot of it depends on your transmission mount thickness.

The engine pivots on its mounts. This can make more or less room at the firewall. It will also affect your fan blade clearance with your shroud.

69 Camaro -originally a LM1 car. 327, Edelbrock E-streets, hooker, DUI performance distributors, ultradyne cam, stewart, TRW etc. Vintage Air, AGR steering, Corbeau GTSII seats, 700R4 transmission, 12-bolt w/Eaton 4.11:1
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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old Apr 30th, 15, 12:21 AM
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Smile Re: Better to install a big block with out w/o distributor in place?

A big block actually has more room at the firewall as the engine is mounted 3/4's of an inch forward of what a small block is. Yes, the big block is bigger, but the mating surface of the engine and bell housing is farther forward.

69 Camaro -originally a LM1 car. 327, Edelbrock E-streets, hooker, DUI performance distributors, ultradyne cam, stewart, TRW etc. Vintage Air, AGR steering, Corbeau GTSII seats, 700R4 transmission, 12-bolt w/Eaton 4.11:1
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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old Apr 30th, 15, 07:28 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Better to install a big block with out w/o distributor in place?

Between TJS69 and AKWOLF I think my path is clear now. I will try the HEI first. The only difference is that I'm doing this on a 67, and you guys did it on a 69.
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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old Apr 30th, 15, 08:01 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Better to install a big block with out w/o distributor in place?

I was on a different forum and someone advised me to use the specific "big block engine brackets" (not motor mounts, I'm talking about the brackets that mount to the subframe). He said the big block-specific ones actually move the block forward just a bit, and that's what allows the bigger distributors to fit. So I bought a pair today from Rick's Camaro. I did compare the photos between the SBC and BBC engine brackets, and there does seem to be a small difference. Maybe 3/8" or so? I'll try to get the block in as soon as possible and report back for everyone.
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