The Build – Installing a Distributor into a 396 Big Block

Are you in the midst of installing a distributor into a big block Chevy engine? The team at American Modern currently has the 396 big block bolted up and almost ready to turn over. Watch the episode now:

Rick Drewry and the American Modern team begin by turning the crankshaft in order to get the engine to Top Dead Center (TDC). Initially, the block will be set to 10 degrees advanced when they install the distributor. Rick uses the oil prime tool to spin the oil pump shaft and get the oil flowing.

The team chose to go with an HEI setup for the distributor, which includes an electronic ignition with a coil pack mounted on the distributor. It is one of the easiest and most popular distributors to use on older GM V8 engines. With the engine set to 10 degrees advanced of Top Dead Center, they line up the rotor button so it is pointing at the #1 cylinder.

HEI distributor setup

If you find that there’s a gap between the distributor and the engine block, here’s the solution on how to make it flush:

1.   You can detach the distributor and turn the oil pump shaft a bit until it falls into place and locks in flush with the block.

2.   Or, you can rotate the engine until it drops completely into place. With the rotor button in place, the electrode is pointing at the #1 cylinder. Now you can install the distributor cap and align the distributor so the rotor button is touching the #1 cylinder contact on the cap.

You need to gap your spark plugs to 40 thousands before you install them into the engine block.

spark plug

Meticulously we continue to restore the 1965 Chevelle Malibu SS classic car on The Build. Be sure to stay up with The Build on our YouTube Channel, to see what else is restored. Also, continue to follow along with the collector vehicle on our Facebook page.

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Rick Drewry

Collector Car Senior Specialist at American Modern Insurance Group
Rick Drewry is the senior claims specialist, Collector Vehicle & Motorcycle, at American Modern Insurance Group. He has been passionate about collector cars since he was a kid. He has owned and restored collector cars for 30 years.

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