Last night, to celebrate getting the top to open and close, I took the family out to dinner in the car. On the ride, I confirmed that there isn’t a single working gauge in the dash including the add-on oil pressure gauge – clearly not original equipment and perhaps indicative of other problems? The lights in the dash are also non-functioning. I guess you don’t need the gauges if you can’t see them anyway. Does a tree falling in the forest make any noise?
The car rode great. Very cushy and Lincoln-esque. The brakes, unfortunately, were equally as soft. The lack of seat belts and the loose steering column made me pray that those squishy brakes wouldn’t fail. Otherwise, I was going to be impaled by the pointy steering column and crushed by the big, skinny steering wheel. Everything went fine, although getting home in the dark – the headlights did work in there old incandescent way – was a bit interesting.
This morning, I went to work on the car. When I tried to start it, it cranked just fine, but would not turn over. Not even a brief catch. I put a spark plug tester in line and found there was no spark. What? The car ran fine just 12 hours before. I pulled the distributor cap and everything looked good. New, in fact – new points and rotor, new cap and even new sparkplug wires. I tested the starter solenoid and and was getting power to and from all the right places. I went to check the coil . . . hold on, where is the coil? After following the wires from the solenoid, I found it next to the radiator (passenger side) under the radiator expansion tank. Of course, with about 75 cubic feet of space in the engine compartment, why not tuck it up in a place that requires removing other components to it?
When I finally got the coil out of its tight perch, it looked pretty bad. As you can see to the left, it was leaking what looks like a solidified version of the oil (the black beard on the right of the coil) used in older ignition coils to help keep them cool. The coil certainly looks original. I tested the resistance between the coil’s positive and negative terminals and the meter read zero. This means that there is a short in the coil (just for reference, a really high/infinite resistance would indicate an open circuit – a break in the winding). I took it to a local auto parts store where they also tested it and got the same results. The guy from the store said, “at least you got over 50 years out of it.” I responded, “I got one hour out of it.”
I picked up another coil while at the auto parts store, one without an internal resistor. Ford vehicles of this era used a resistor wire (about 1.4 ohms) to reduce the voltage to coil during normal operation – while the car is running. This wire was bypassed during starting so that the coil could get full voltage while cranking the engine over. The resistance wire connects the ignition switch with the coil.
When I popped the new coil in, I got spark, but the engine was struggling to keep running. Now this was weird. Assuming the original coil was bad, which it surely was, a replacement should have been plug-and-chug. I started a more thorough diagnosis and noticed that several wires near the starter solenoid were disconnected (see the brown and red/blue wires on the left, below). Poking around even more led me to discover that the taped blue and red wires (behind the unattached wires in the photo), went through the firewall and under the dash, replacing the original ignition wires for the car. You just can’t cut into a resistor wire like that. The original coil likely just overheated as a result. And the new coil, who knows? It certainly had the same basic problem expecting a lower voltage. Neither were getting the higher bypass voltage they needed during cranking so it’s surprising the car started at all.
So, the bottom line is that I have a mess with the ignition wiring. I’m going to have to diagnose further to figure out how to approach the problem. Future posts will have a solution or will describe the process I went through to resell the car . . . Kidding!