It takes more than the standard replacement of the spark plugs and the cap and rotor to get your mill firing correctly. The moving parts of an HEI wear over time, so just swapping out for a new cap and rotor could still leave you with a lazy distributor. Plus, HEI distributors are more than abundant today and gaining popularity among enthusiasts because of their ease of use and bulletproof design. Yep, they're that good, and if you recall our budget big-block ("Budget Stomper," Feb. '08), the one on our bullet had no problem supplying sufficient spark up to 6,300 rpm.
You may or may not know that an HEI distributor is relatively cheap to rebuild, costing as little as $120. So if you've got an old one lying around, blow the dust off of it. If you don't, hit up your local junkyard and you may find a complete HEI unit for around $40 bucks-or you can do what we did and gaffle one from a friend. Either way, it's a steal when you factor in the cost of a new HEI unit, which could run upwards of $250.
The worn GM HEI unit we started the upgrade with was in desperate need of a rebuild. Aesthetically, the distributor looked like it had been through a war, and simply judging by its appearance, it wasn't hard to imagine without taking off the rotor that the springs were shot, as well as the bushings-exactly what we wanted. The next step was to contact PerTronix Performance Products and order up a complete rebuild kit for a vacuum-advance distributor to get the old piece up and running again.
The kit came complete with a new vacuum canister, a Flame-Thrower module, a capacitor harness, bushings, weights, and springs. And if you've never built one before, don't sweat it, because even a novice can get the job done with a few common handtools. It's cheap, it works, and it only takes about two hours. Who could ask for more?