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Engine won't start
I recently picked up a 72 coupe with a 302 engine.  The previous owner began repairing the car after an accident.  Damage was pretty much only to the front end (up to the radiator / support).  The car was "running when last moved".  However, I'm not sure exactly how long since that supposedly was.

When I've tried starting it, it will turn over.  I will sometimes hear a popping sound (timing issue?) and other times where it seems to almost start (on a cylinder or two).  There has been a few times where it has actually started for 1-2 seconds.

Since I've had it, I've replaced a majority of the overall mechanicals.  Within the engine bay, I've replaced pretty much everything outside of the block itself and it's internals.  I've replaced the radiator, water pump, thermostat, distributor (plus wires and plugs), fuel pump, carburetor, oil pump, coolant and fuel hoses, starter, alternator, and p.s. pump.  I might be leaving a couple things out.  I've also replace the fuel tank and lines.  All these were replaced due to the condition of the installed ones.

Fuel is definitely getting to the carb.  The distro went from double to single vacuum, so I'm not 100% on the vacuum system.  I found a diagram of a single vacuum on here somewhere, but I can't find it again.  There's also a couple wire connectors coming off a wiring harness near the distro/#5 cylinder.  I'm not sure if they were ever used since nothing is really around the area they can reach.

I also thinking it could be a compression or timing issue.  However, I don't have the proper tools to test either of those.  

I can provide pictures (or wonderful hand drawings) if needed.  Any help is appreciated.


Make sure cyl 1 is at btdc, with compression (no matter how good). align dist (pointer and cap) and check CCW fire order on wires.
Then you really need to get yourself a timing light...

73 modified Grandé 351C. Almost done. 
71 429CJ. In progress
[+] 1 user Likes Fabrice's post
+1 on the timing light and on the distributor alignment and firing order. Very difficult for a novice mechanic to get it running right without a timing light.

Are you getting spark when the engine turns over?

You need to find out what the wires are for. You can download the wiring diagram under the Mustang Data tab at the upper right of this page or post the wire color codes and pictures of the wires so someone on the forum can help you with them.

“If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.”
--Albert Einstein
As mentioned above you will need a timing light to get it running right. It does sounds like is a timing issue. You mentioned that you are getting fuel so the thing to try for now is first see if you are getting a continuous spark. Pull any plug wire and have someone turn the engine over for a few seconds. See if you are getting a repeating spark. If not, then you know you have a electrical issue. This could be anything from the coil to the distributor. If you are getting good repeating spark then move on to finding TDC on number one cylinder.

Do this by removing the #1 spark plug and using your thumb plug the hole. Have someone tap the engine until you feel the compression stroke. Use a breaker bar to finish turning the crank until you get the cylinder dead top. Check the timing marks on the harmonic balancer and make sure the pointer is at the TDC mark. Next, pull the distributor cap and see if the rotor is pointing to #1 on cap.

The rotor turns ccw so it should be a smudge after the contact on the cap with #1 on tdc . If not, loosen the distributor and rotate it until it is at least pointing to #1. If it is way off then you might need to pull the distributor out enough to advance or retard it a tooth on the gear. At this point the engine should fire and try to run. You may need to turn the distributor a little to get it running smooth. You will now definitely need a timing light to finish setting the timing. If still no luck then you may have a timing chain, cam or valve issue among other things. Good luck.


"The only dumb question is the one not asked"
Thank you all for the responses.

I get continuous spark. I’ll try adjusting the cylinder and distributor. The timing blade (not sure correct name) is present on the block. However, the timing marks on the balancer are gone due to rusting. I can feel the piston in #1 when it comes up. If I turn the shaft until it stops moving up on the compression stroke, would that get me close enough before a timing light is needed?

Also, does going from a double to single vacuum affect anything assuming all tubes are routed correctly?
It shouldn't affect anything. However, I wouldn't connect the vacuum until you get it running. Just make sure all the vacuum ports and hoses are plugged.

The timing marks are engraved into the balancer, so it just needs some wire brushing to expose them.

Yes, you can adjust the distributor so the points begin to open when the #1 piston is at TDC (top dead center). Make sure the rotor is pointing at the #1 terminal/spark plug wire. It may be easier to determine TDC with a piece of soft copper wire inserted into the spark plug hole. Do not use something that will scratch the cylinder walls or break off in there.

“If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.”
--Albert Einstein
As Don said, clean the balancer to find the marks.  Not for sure of your knowledge level on this but the are 3 different TC's  There  is BTC "Before Top Dead Center", ATC "After Top Dead Center" and TC " Top Dead Center.  Make sure you are on the TC mark when checking the rotor orientation to #1.

[Image: Firing-order.jpg]


"The only dumb question is the one not asked"
I’ve been trying to get the distributor off and it’s not coming. It’ll still turn with the cam so it’s not bound up that way. Both the distributor and oil pump are new. When I removed the old distributor it only took minor convincing. There wasn’t any issues getting the new distributor in.

I’d prefer not having to go all the way down to the timing cover, but it’s looking like I won’t have a choice. Any ideas?

Pulling the timing cover won't help with pulling the distributor out. You can't change the distributor timing there. The relationship between the crankshaft and camshaft has to remain where it is.

Can you rotate the distributor when the clamp is loose? Will it move up, even a little?

“If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.”
--Albert Einstein
I know timing can’t be adjust under the timing cover. I meant to pull the cover in order to get to the bottom of the distributor shaft.

It will rotate a bit with the clamp loose. Only the housing will lift slightly, maybe 1/8 inch. There is no upwards movement on the shaft. I’ve pulled/pried about as hart as I’m comfortable doing, it being cast aluminum.

Is it possible it somehow got bound/stuck to the oil pump shaft?
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