Classic car doctor: Clock issues and breaker-less ignition systems

1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1

1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1 (Credit: © 2012 FORD MOTOR COMPANY)

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Question: The clock in my 1972 Corvette doesn’t work. I’m told that if I get it repaired, it will only work for a short time. Is there a solution?

Answer:  If you have the clock repaired, chances are it will only work for a few years at best, just like when the car was new. A better alternative is to have it converted to a quartz movement, which will last longer than the car. You can find any number of shops online that can perform this service. The only time that this may be problematic is if you’re having the car judged at the highest levels, because on an original clock the second hand will “tick”, while on one converted to quartz it will “sweep.” You can actually lose points for this.


Question: I have a 1972 Ford Gran Torino Sport with a 351 Cleveland engine. How would installing an electronic breaker-less ignition benefit the car other than doing away with points? How difficult is it to install and do I also need to upgrade my ignition coil? Would this upgrade the performance of the car? Is there any downside to this other than compromising some originality?

Answer: In my opinion, the only advantage to installing a breaker-less ignition system in a stock engine is that you eliminate the points and other parts of the original system, thus eliminating the need to adjust and/or replace these parts as a matter of routine maintenance or failure. But keep in mind that the breaker-less ignition system can also fail.

The most common system is that made by Pertronix. It’s called The Ignitor, and it’s no more difficult to install than a set of points. It fits right inside of your distributor and once installed, it’s invisible unless the distributor cap is removed. It can be used with your stock coil, but most people choose to upgrade to the Flame-Thrower coil that’s also manufactured by Pertronix. 

The installation of a breaker-less ignition system does not improve the performance of the engine directly. But if you install the Flame-Thrower coil, the “hotter” spark allows you to set a larger gap in your spark plugs which should in theory add a little bit of power and increase fuel mileage. I’ve never seen a noticeable difference in power or fuel mileage. However, it is nice to eliminate the replacement of the points and condenser as part of a tune-up so I don’t see any downside to installing one of these systems. Another advantage to the Pertronix system is that there are no modifications to the distributor that are needed for installation. This means that if you keep a set of points and a condenser in your glove box, you can always install them if the Pertronix system fails.

Question: I bought a 1973 Mustang that has several small holes in the center of the trunk floor. The rest of the trunk floor is solid. Is it better to repair the holes, or should I have the entire trunk floor replaced?

Answer: This is a common conundrum that many classic car owners eventually face. It’s probably best to replace the entire trunk floor, but it’s also more difficult and more expensive. Replacing the entire trunk floor would require welding very close to the quarter panels which can easily damage them resulting in additional repairs. Replacement of the entire trunk floor would also require duplicating factory spot welds as well as sealing the seams.

If you don’t plan to show the car at very high levels, I would recommend that you put a patch in the trunk floor. This is not particularly difficult, but it will be time consuming. The fuel tank will need to be removed to for obvious reasons. With the tank removed you’ll be able to see if the rust has extended to any other area such as the floor brace, gas tank strap mounts, or the body mount brace. Parts for these cars are readily available, and if they are rusted they should be replaced. 
You can make a patch out of sheet metal, but the repair will look much better if you buy a reproduction trunk pan and cut the area that you need out of this panel. A good welder will be able to keep the work localized and make it practically invisible.

Keep it as simple as possible and you’ll be pleased with the results.


Tip Of The Week
Hard as it may be to believe, people are already starting to put their collector cars away for the winter. It’s a good idea to put a desiccant inside of the car. Desiccants absorb moisture, and can then be dried out or discarded. Once they are saturated, they will begin dripping excess moisture, so make sure to hang the desiccant over a pan or place it in a pan. 

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