Inserting the Distributor

I hate to admit this but I am having difficulty re-installing the distributor into the engine. Really! Not an alignment for timing issue, just physically putting it into the hole. I have two distributors. One just set up on a distributor machine by Dick Maury. Dick has been a tremendous help on my project. I had the other distributor in the engine. I pulled it out to put the refurbished one in and I cannot get it to drop into the slots. I simply offer up the distributor to the engine with the two dogs aligned and then slightly twist the shaft and I can feel it align. Then I attempt to push it down into place. It stops with 1/8" to go. This is a hard stop, like metal to metal. tap, tap, tap, nothing doing.
So I tried with the distributor I had just removed and, oh no, the same thing! It’s hitting something hard with 1/8" to go. There is nothing in the bottom of the drive shaft, there’s no protrusions on the shaft, the dogs appear to be perfect. But both distributors come up against something hard with 1/8" to go.

What foolish thing am I doing wrong!?

You did try turning it 180°? The dog is offset. I‘m sure you know but that is the most likely reason…
Or the clamp hits the block which you could see.

Hi David. I did try turning turning it 180. At least with the old dizzy I took out. Same problem. The clamp is not yet coming in contact with the block. The dizzy goes in to just where the cork gasket sits and then stops. I only have one clamp, so that is off the old dizzy and I also took its cork gasket off.
I cannot understand how a distributor I slipped easily into the hole a few months ago and tightened done with its screw is now stuck proud of seating. The only thing I’ve done on that part of the engine (before I took the dizzy out) was to fiddle with the timing cover bolts and that engine mount bolt that causes the need for a short pan bolt. Then I unscrewed the bolt securing the clamp to the block and removed the dist. It is like something dropped in and I’m hitting it. Or that I’m hitting an increased radius on the dist. housing. But it’s not that as I’m only down to where the cork gasket should slip into the hole.

I think maybe I’ll take the old distributor apart and get down to the shaft so I can see what’s interfering.

What length is the shaft of the distributor, lets start with that. My spare dist shaft length is 2.5 inches. this is a 150. measured from the body to the very end.

Been in the shop. I am able to insert the old dist. I simply had it turned 180. It clicks right in, wiggle the shaft a bit and it drops down to full seat. No clamp and no cork seal on this old one.

So I have one that goes in and one that does not. The “new” one is a 40888D, date 6/64. (9 deg adv) It was in better shape so I sent it to Dick so I can use it for the start-up. The other one is a 40886D, date 12/63. (12 deg adv as I recall.) Pics here

On the rebuilt one, I have compared the two distributors. They both measure 2.-16/32" length going into the hole. They both have the same measurement in the end part of the shaft where the dogs are to its end. The only difference I can see is the new dog appear to be a bit thicker. But I can’t measure any difference with a machinists ruler. I probably could with a mic.
I closely inspected the slots for any burr. None noticeable. I’ve looked at the dogs for a burr…none. The shafts appear to be the same, but I shall go measure them. The chamfer on the end of the shaft is more pronounced on the one that goes in. I think I will also chamfer the edges of the dogs on the new one and see if that helps.

Morris, you’re out there near Victoria. Says hello to Rhys Kent and the Owens for me.

Well…still no joy. I talked to Dick and he says the distributor machine uses a drive from the engine and it fit there just fine. I has to be something I am missing. I chamfered the dog edges and the end of the shaft. There was a “ridge” on one dog I could feel with my finger nail. No longer. I measured the shafts on both dizzys and the old one is 0.002" larger. I measured the dog’s width: new one is 0.129" and old one is 0.127" I measured across the dogs, both are 1" within a few 0.001". None of that can matter, but I chamfered the bottom corner of the dogs anyway. The slots are clean and clear. I guess I’ll now measure them with a feeler gauge.
I can insert the distributor and “feel” for the slots, find them and it drops in a bit and stops just before the cork seal would enter the hole. I feel like taking my sledge hammer to it!

Well Joy! Success!! This was a bugger and it only took me 9 hours. I’m beginning to understand that’s about the right ration for a normal 15 minute job. In this case the dogs were simply fat and the edges were sharp. I didn’t measure carefully the first time, but the “new” distributor measured 0.129" on both dogs whereas the “old” distributor measured 0.125" on one and 0.123" on the other and the chamfer was more pronounced. So I filed the new one on edges, ends, and corners of the dogs. Not much, but I tried it each time and after the third filing and burnishing with a wire wheel (Dremel) it went in. It is still very tight, but it is all the way in.

Now another question. The clamp that came with one of these distributors has a step up when mounted so as to reach the holding bolt into the block. I think it should step down. I am guessing the sedans had a different arrangement than the XKE? Look at my Pic #6 to see what I’m talking about.

Clamps from the same era should be the same for all XK engines regardless of car model.
However, mine from '51 is flat and the threaded hole in the block is directly in line with the distributor.

Be aware that the driving dog is offset to go into the shaft in the block only one way, but the top cam shaft can be assembled onto the bottom dog shaft two ways, so your rotor could be 180 off from the previous one. It happened to me.

Rob, I didn’t assemble this motor, but I am checking everything I can as I go. I did have this timed previously, so I believe it is okay as regards to cam timing.
But my clamp is a bit different from your pic. It is obvious where the nut goes on the clamp so the screw goes in only one way. With the head of the screw pointing to the rear of the engine MOL, your clamp has a step-down for the bolt ear. I.e., the clamp is flat on the bottom. Mine is opposite. With the screw head pointing to the rear, the bolt ear steps up. I.e., my clamp is flat on top. So I’ll have to use a spacer under my clamp in order for the bolt to not bend the clamp’s bolt ear. Perhaps my clamp came from another marque using this distributor? I’ll start looking for a correct one. (I don’t want to take it off to get a pic.)

Sorry I didn’t mean to add confusion to the discussion. My clamping plate is the 1951 version for XK120 and Mark VII.

By your icon I am assuming you are working on a 3.8 E-Type, and thus you should have one of these two distributors, depending on your engine number.

They both have the same clamping plate, Lucas 423605.
Looks like it is flat, and what’s more, has the square nut on the other side, so it will be easier to get a wrench on the hex head to loosen and tighten, compared to mine.

Funny we’ve just been discussing this part on the XK forum and somebody suggested a modification to my version that makes it look like this one.

Thank you Rob. It is always amazing what comes out from discussions on J-L. The distributor I have is incorrect for my '63 E-type FHC. (I should have stated that at the beginning.) It is 40888D. My first goal is to get the engine running. It was rebuilt in the mid 1990s and many parts on it and the whole car are incorrect, missing or otherwise questionable. The distributor is one of them and the clamp is another.
The clamp you show above is precisely what I need. Is shouldn’t be too difficult to find one I suppose, but it wasn’t anything I gave attention to until I tried to install it. Thank you for the help.

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