Chicagoland MG Club
Chicagoland MG Club

Chicagoland MG Club: Driveline
Back to Archives
Submit an article

Intro & Club Officers
The Steering Column
Officer Nominations
October Meeting Report
Welcome New Members
The Driver's Corner
MG Holiday Wish List
Fall Color Tour
Last Gasp Autocross
MGB Slave Cylinder R&R
Halloween Rally
Mercy Home for Boys
Car Stripping Party
Fall Tune Down Party
Changing Doors on MGB
Cruise to the Rock
CMGC Holiday Party
Party Reservations
Regalia Items Available
Regalia Order Form
Just a Simple Wrench
Officer Nominations
MG ZT Tops 225 MPH
CMGC Events
Other Events
Back Cover
  Chicagoland MG Club:Driveline
Ann and Jake Snyder Just a Simple Wrench
by Jake & Ann Snyder

It Was A Dark And Stormy Night

Well, at least it was dark. The storms had passed earlier that day as we sat in the grandstand at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to watch Michael Schumacher win one more time and virtually lock in an unprecedented sixth World Championship. We had parked the 73 BGT just off Crawfordsville Road and were able to make a very easy exit from the vicinity of the Speedway. We opted to avoid another trip on I-65 and so drove west on I-74 to Danville, Illinois, where we exited north onto Illinois Route 1. We had chosen this only on the basis of its direct route north to Chicagoland, and we found it to be a well-maintained rural highway with little traffic. The few towns were a pleasant diversion and many houses were already decorated with orange lights for Halloween. As the sun was setting we saw some impressive clouds to the north, and it was dark as we passed Balmoral Park. We drove west to Monee to pick up I-57. By that time traffic was light, so even the construction zone presented no real problems, and we were soon northbound on the Dan Ryan.

The MG missed about three or four beats in a row on the long curve south of the Loop that has heavy traffic and no shoulders. But the motor picked up again and neither of us said anything. We drove past the Loop and continued northwest, and then around Belmont the car began to loose power. Rather, it had power in erratic bursts, and it did not respond to the choke at all. The tachometer pointed erratically at any reading between 500 and 6000 rpm, not even close to the engine’s speed. So we knew there was a major electrical storm inside the distributor.

We got the car off the throughway near Irving Park Road, a part of the city we knew well from many years’ ballroom dance lessons in the area. The motor gave power most of the way on to a large concrete apron, and we immediately looked for the problem. There was no spark from the high tension wire when one of us removed it from the distributor cap and held it a half-inch from the block while the other of us cranked the engine. Removing the distributor cap showed why: there were obviously a lot of loose wires flailing about inside. Specifically, the nut that should have secured the condenser lead and the low tension lead to the points was missing. That accounted for the strange tachometer movement - when the lead from the condenser and the low tension lead both touched the hot side of the points at the same time, we got a little burst of power, but most of the time not everything got together to give the spark. We had probably over-tightened the nut on the plastic bolt when installing the points several months before, and it simply broke off. The quick fix was to slip in the spare, run-tested distributor, pointing the vacuum advance to about 1 o’clock where the original had pointed. The engine started and revved without missing, and within a period of about half an hour from the time we stopped, we had re-packed tools and flashlights and were back on the road.

Don’t automatically blame this on The Prince of Darkness, because one of us was apparently his helper by overtightening the nut. In fact, authentic Lucas points would not have failed in this dramatic manner. In the photo, the failed Echlin points, which we opt to use for greater point surface area, are on the right. For comparison, a set of Lucas points on the left have a steel bolt, which we would not expect to break as did the plastic one.
Good points and broken points
The Echlin points (NAPA CS207-A), which we have used for twenty years on several MGBs, have never failed this way before, and, due to the plastic bolt, have never resulted in grounded points as can easily happen with the standard set if the plastic insulators are installed incorrectly. The final answer to what is best to use may well be the Pertronix Igniter replacement for points. But we will still carry a run-tested point-type spare distributor for the next stormy night.

©2003 Chicagoland MG Club, All rights reserved.