Mustang MSD Distributor Upgrade

Category: Auto Tuning

mustang engine

Upgrading an old points type distributor to a hei which stands for high energy ignition can be a rewarding upgrade. This distributor is on a 1966 ford mustang with a 289 v-8 engine. The upgrade distributor is a msd unit made specifically for this engine, some people may use a distributor off of a newer model ford engine. Unlike points you will never need to adjust a high energy ignition because it will never degrade. The engine will run smoother due to the higher energy spark sent to the spark plug. The cylinder combustion will be much more complete due to the increased ignition spark energy of the new distributor.

mustang points distributor

The first thing you should do is rotate the engine to top dead cylinder of cylinder #1. You can do this by checking for the zero or tdc on the engine harmonic balancer. ThenĀ remove the spark plug and look in that cylinder to assure the piston is up, if not rotate once more to the same timing spot. ThisĀ is the origional ford points distributor located on the front of the engine intake. You will need to unclip the distributor cap. You may want to keep the wires on the cap and maybe even label them so that you know where they run to. Mark the position of the rotor, the grey plastic piece in the center of the distributor so you will know where cylinder #1 position is located.

mustang distributor

The wires and vacuum advance hose will also need to be removed. Next the distributor hold down will need to be removed, or at least loosened up and rotated. The distributor will now pull straight up and out of the hole.

distributor hold down

This is the lock down tab that holds the distributor in place in order to set the engine timing.

distributor ignition coil

This is the ignition coil which is used by points type distributors. It will not be needed on a newer style distributor because they are self contained. The coil on the msd unit below is the black part located on the top. When inserting the new distributor you will see that it will not go straight down and will rotate before reaching the bottom. This is normal as it meshes with the gear below. Just try to get the rotor button aimed in the same direction that the last one was in. One other difficulty you may experience is that there is a small slot that has to fit for the distributor to seat all the was down. Look down the hole and try to line it up with the bottom of the shaft. Once everything is lined up and it’s sitting down flush, tighten it down and put the cap back on the distributor. Now you can transfer the spark plug wire positions to the new cap. The new msd should get new wires that will fit the new style better. Hook the vacuum advance back up and you will need to hook the 12+ and – wires up to the new hei. Don’t forget to reset the timing to the correct setting for that engine and enjoy your new performance.