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1963 Buick Riviera Replacement Distributor - Ask Marlan

Carr Problem
I have a '63 Buick Riviera with a 401ci nailhead V-8 and a Dynaflow two-speed. Can the factory-type points distributor be replaced with a modern electronic-type ignition or an HEI? I would prefer to replace the whole distributor, as the current vacuum advance is not working properly.

Michael S. Carr
Quincy, MA

Newer Buick V-8 distributors don't fit the nailhead engines, and there are no complete new aftermarket distributors available, as far as we know. Mallory offers both photoelectric-trigger Unilite (PN 501) and magnetic pickup conversion kits (PN 540) for the existing stock distributor. They can be used with stock coils, but the Mallory Promaster (PN 29440) or chrome electronic ignition coil (PN 29216) are recommended for best results. The rectangular-shaped Promaster typically mounts to the firewall or fender; the round chrome coil fits stock coil mounting brackets.

Long Electronics now markets Stinger Products, formerly a product of Midway Industries. The Stinger system comprises an in-distributor high-performance magnetic-impulse trigger that signals a high-performance inductive-discharge external module. Stinger can supply do-it-yourself distributor conversion kits, convert your distributor if you send it to them, or sell you a remanufactured and converted stock GM distributor. This system should be used with Stinger's own coil for best results.

Easily replaced, the Buick vacuum control unit interchanges with most other vacuum units used on "small-cap with window" Delco distributors. The stock replacement vacuum unit for your model year and engine is still available (AC-Delco PN D1328, GM PN 1116163).

Long Electronics
Dept. CC
1721 N. Lime St
Orange, CA 92865-4115

Mallory Inc.
Dept. CC
550 Mallory Way
Carson City, NV 89701-5374

Don't Lean On Me
I have a '76 Chevy Stepside that I've been beefing up and driving for a few years now. It has a Chevy 350 with a better-than-stock cam, a Performer intake, a Carter carb, and Hedman headers. The truck seems to run lean, somewhat missing at the near-idle low end. There is no miss when jamming it or when I put the manual choke on about a quarter of the way. I have replaced the fuel pump (the only thing previously unreplaced) and it still does this. I have done what I can with the idle mixture screws to richen it up, but still can't get it out of the miss.

Also, I have checked the headers for any leaks and bad gaskets. Since I am only 17, the truck has seen its days of traction tests. Anything to go on would be greatly appreciated.

Jonathan Duke
Ankeny, IA

The usual suspects anytime you have a pesky low-speed miss are vacuum leaks at the intake manifold and hoses, bad plug wires, a cracked distributor cap, or corroded distributor cap terminals. For the Carter AFB carb specifically, check the primary-side power pistons: If they're stuck in the down position, or the springs are weak, there'll be insufficient off-idle enrichment. When the secondaries come in they cover up the problem, which is probably why the truck runs OK when you "jam it."

Well-Read Reader Sees Red in Redding
Every article I've read on installing the 906 Mopar heads on '67-and-earlier big-block Mopars says to mill the heads anywhere from 0.030- to 0.050-inch to retain a decent compression ratio. I don't follow this. That's a big cut! The 906 heads I want to install on my '66 383 engine have about 79.5cc chamber volumes. The piston-to-deck height of the engine is about 0.030 inch and I will use a 0.022-inch compressed-thickness head gasket. Running all this through a compression ratio formula gets me about 9.2:1 compression, which seems fine for today's octane. So why bother to mill the heads at all? Am I missing something here?

Doug Polk
Redding, CA

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