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One of the most over looked item on vintage vehicles 1972 and prior is the Distributor. The ultimate tool for insuring the distributor is performing to its maximum capability is a distributor machine. The Sun Machine is probably one of the most common and the easiest to find, operate and maintain. The last ones of these were built in the sixties and reached their usefulness in the seventies. Modern technology took over and these machines were pushed into the corner and soon forgotten or disposed of. They are now becoming popular with the hobbyist and vintage vehicle restoration shops.
Ignition timing is probably one of the most misunderstood procedures performed during an engine tune up. Most owners of vintage vehicles are aware of initial timing which is set with a timing light. Some timing lights will allow the advance curve to be adjusted in the vehicle. The best way to adjust timing is to remove the distributor and place it in a distributor machine. The vacuum as well as the centrifugal advance can be finely adjusted for peak performance which will increase gas mileage. In addition an engine that is properly timed throughout the advance curve will run cooler.
The Sun Machine pictured is a model 503 it has an RPM gauge, dwell meter and a condenser capacity gauge as well as a vacuum gauge and built in vacuum pump for simulating and adjusting vacuum advance. These machines are disappearing and becoming increasingly hard to find. Occasionally they can be found at swap meets and eBay. Depending on condition they can usually be purchased in the $600.00 to $800.00 range in good working condition. They are simple to operate and easy maintain.
They can also be used to check pertronix ignition with a simple 9V battery supplying voltage to the distributor. Attachments are also available to check full electronic systems which is not needed for most vintage vehicles.