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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Triumph Spitfire Engine Rebuild #12 - Distributor

I've never taken a distributor apart before, so it was going to be an adventure! Like with other posts, I'll be referring to some pieces and will provide the corresponding number from the picture below. The picture isn't of the exact same distributor as I have (this is the D202 from a Vitesse instead of the D200 from the Spitfire), but it's close enough for the discussion.

I have two distributors. The one that was on the car and a spare. The spare does not have the tachometer gear (24) but is complete in every other way. I figured I'd start with this one and learn any lessons since I wasn't planning on using it. The pictures are a mashup of the two distributors so you may notice some inconsistencies.

After removing all of the "stuff" (condenser, points, rotor, etc) three external screws, two of which are numbered above (29, 30), release the contact base plate (11) which then can be lifted out of the distributor body. The vacuum advance unit (13) also came out with these two screws.

Top view of the contact base plate after removal.

The contact base plate is two separate parts with a piece of felt in between to retain oil for lubrication. I circlip and stacked washer/clip assembly sandwich them together.

Bottom view. The circlip and clip/stack assembly to its left come off to separate the two plates.

One the contact base plate is removed, the centrifugal weights and springs are revealed. I had no desire to take these apart as they operated freely and I didn't want to risk damage.

The centrifugal weight assembly (12).

Separating the base and contact plate reveals the felt pad that accepts lubricating oil for the distributor. I replaced this.

The felt pad and felt "dot" in the bottom right corner. Not bad for being so old.

After tracing and cut out. It should work, though some of the holes are off a bit. I used a hole punch to make the interior holes.

Once the contact base plate was out, I removed the distributor pedestal with a gear puller as it wouldn't come off by hand.

Came right off with no problem...just couldn't do it by hand.

With the pedestal came the clamp plate (22). And that was as taken apart as it was going to get. So, I cleaned it all up and shot it with the two coats of primer and two coats of low gloss black, per the normal plan.

Pedestal, clamp plate, vacuum advance unit and bolts ready for cleaning.

Post-clean and -paint. Everything all nice and pretty.

I got everything put back together referring to pictures I took during disassembly (not shown here) and with the workshop manual. I will need to replace the low tension (LT) wire as its insulation was cracked in several places and previous repairs were not well done.

Not pretty.

The LT wire runs through a rubber grommet on its way out of the distributor. Both of them that I have are quite hard and brittle, so I'm going to soften them up. I still have some research to do on the best way, but I've seen a lot on rubbing alcohol and wintergreen oil. Whatever works, I guess.

Several more stages of assembly. The blue thing is that rubber grommet.

A bit blury, but all back together except that LT lead. I need to get a 90-degree flag spade terminal for it, too.

And that was it. All back together, nice and pretty.

All done!

I did test the vacuum advance mechanism as well to ensure that the rubber diaphragm wasn't torn or damaged. I used a highly technical method that you can see in the slightly blurry video below.


  1. Looks great! I noticed in your video that it looked recently painted and was wondering if it was. Did you have to use high-temp paint?

    1. Thanks. I did use the hi-temp paint but mainly to maintain the same gloss level. I don't think the thing will get that hot on that side of the engine (e.g., opposite the manifolds). But, better safe than sorry, too.

  2. More dumb questions:
    1. What were the specs of the "felt"?
    2. Were you able to soften the grommet?

    1. I used regular craft felt...whatever the kids had laying around, frankly. Hopefully it wasn't anything more important than that. As for the grommet, I did not try to soften it. Britishwiring.com does sell it, however for under $2 so I'll probably get a new one when I do an electrical order through them at some point in the future.