View Full Version : New member with new 59 J-Bird

07-17-2008, 10:46 PM
Hello everyone. I'm brand new to this site and a brand new owner of a '59 T-bird coupe with the 430 engine. Many, Many years ago, pre-kids, I played with cars out of necessity. Now I'm post-kids and decided to play with cars for fun. As I drove down a road I frequent for a month I noticed this T-bird sitting next to the road calling to me. I finally couldn't take it any more and stopped by. The crazy thing followed me home.

I'm sure I will ask a lot of stupid questions, so here's the first couple:

My test drive showed an engine in need of a tune up, but was otherwise unremarkable. The temperature gage stayed in the lower 25% of the normal operating range. My drive home with the new toy was different. The engine was heating up as I drove and running rougher as it heated up. Finally at one stop light it died as soon as I hit the accelerator. The engine started right up, but again stalled when put in drive. I tried this about 8 times with differing levels of engine rpm before putting it in drive with the same result every time. The last third of the trip was by tow truck. After it was home and cooled down it started and ran fine. Today I repeated the process. Same results. The temperature gage was at the high end of the normal range (at the P in temp) when the engine would stall when put in gear. I have two issues. First is overheating. The coolant is 1/2 way up in the expansion tank and a nice bright green. The expansion tank does leak (seepage) around the seam, but that wouldn't seem to be enough to cause the overheating. Need to get that fixed, but is there anything exlse I should look at? Second issue is stalling. I believe this is a fuel issue. There is a see through filter in the fuel pump inlet line and that quickly drains to empty when the engine is stopped. When the engine is running it is no more than 1/3 full. Is this normal? I will test the fuel pump pressure and flow rate. Is there anything else I should look at?


07-18-2008, 01:10 AM
Hi Vern!

Welcome to the forum! You will find a lot of help here. Although I am far from being an expert, I have learned some things about my own '59 Bird. I had similar problems. Not with overheating though. That could be a bad thermostat. As for it stalling on you, I ran into two issues with mine. Rough idling/running and stalling at red lights, stop signs, slow take off. The rough idling/running problem was fixed when the spark plug wires were tested with a timing gun and the piece that fits around the spark plug wires. One wire in particular had bad connectors on it, and two others were marginal. As soon as a new set of spark plug wires was put on, that fixed that problem.

The stalling, and slow take off was another thing. After having the timing checked and set several times, something else was found. It was determined that the distributor was off one notch. Over the years it had slipped one gear tooth or someone had taken it out and put it back in wrong. When piston #1 is at Top Dead Center, the rotor in the distributor is supposed to be pointing to where the connector for plug #1 would be if you still had the distributor cap on. We marked the inside of the cap as to where connector #1 for plug #1 would be. The rotor was pointing one position off, to the left, as I recall. The distributor had to be pulled up a bit and re-positioned so that the rotor was pointing to the #1 plug wire position and not somewhere else. Once we had that set, and it took a bit to do, and re-timed it, that problem went away.

Now the other part of that was this. It appears that while timing it, it was determined that the two pieces of the harmonic balancer had slipped over the years and the timing marks are no longer in the right position. There is rubber between them and it dries out. That can cause slippage. So we were trying to time it using the original timing marks and they were off. Eventually, the best timing position was determined and a new timing mark was made. With those problems fixed, she runs like a scared rabbit now.

I hope this helps, and I hope others will add to this to help you get your Bird squared away. As for it overheating, it could be bad hoses, bad thermostat, or there might be a problem inside the radiator. Hopefully, someone far more experienced than I am can advise you on what to check regarding that problem or the ones discussed above.

Good Birding!

07-18-2008, 07:39 AM
Welcome Vern... nice to see another New Yorker. I'm about 3 hrs from you near Binghamton.

Bob M
07-18-2008, 08:28 AM
Welcome Vernz you will find alot of good floks on this site who will be glad to help with any questions you might have,I know I have ask some very dumb things but I have found out that there is never a dumb question
Bob M

07-18-2008, 09:07 AM
Thanks for the welcome aboard everyone!

YellowRose - You threw a few things on the plate to look at that I would not have thought of. Also, starting simple with the overheating problem (thermostat) is the way to go.

fomoco59 - I'm actually in Wilton, about 5 miles North of Saratoga Springs. I found the car in Ballston Spa.

Can someone tell me how to post a picture in my post or where to find instruction on doing this? I've seen the term 20 footer applied to cars (look good from 20 feet). Mine is probably a 30 footer :>). Still, I wouldn't mind showing it off.


07-18-2008, 09:37 AM
Good morning, Vern,

Probably the easiest way to post pictures is to create your own account on some website like Photobucket.com www.photobucket.com (http://www.photobucket.com) as I recall. There you can upload your pictures and then put the link to them here. Then anyone here can click on the link and see your pictures.

There is a way to post pictures here, but I think you have to be a dues paying member to do so. When you are creating a post here, look down under Submit Reply and Preview Post. You should find Additional Options. Down under that you should see Attach Files and in that Manage Attachments. Click on that, and up will come a box that allows you to browse, and select, and upload your images.. But, as I said, that might be a feature that only us members who pay dues have. But I might be wrong.

You can also add a picture as your signature, as I have done, by going to User CP and doing it there. Select a picture of your Bird and make it part of your signature..

Another thing, I hope that other, more experienced members will give you some advice on checking out the problems you detailed on your first post. The answers I gave you were based on what we did to fix similar problems with my Bird and might not be the same with yours. But they are worth checking out. We have some of the greatest minds here when it comes to troubleshooting and fixing about any problem with a Tbird you might have:D Good Luck with yours!

07-19-2008, 09:06 AM
I would replace the thermostat & have ur radiator flushed for starters. Have u done the "full-blown" tune up yet? That might fix ur hesitating problem. Either way pull #1 spark plug and establish TDC (use ur finger to make sure ur find the EXHAUST pressure stroke), then see what the timming mark on ur harmonic balance says (it may be wrong). Ur 430's base timing should be 6 degress.

Good luck & Report back 2 us...

07-19-2008, 01:53 PM
Thanks tbird, I will definitely make that the next step as I evaluate the problem. I tested the accuracy of my temperature gauge by inserting the probe of a digital thermometer in the open expansion tank and running it at idle. Results were:
dot at low end of scale 130
vertical stalk of T 150
left vertical stalk of E 162
center of M 185
vertical stalk of P 204

My previous stalls occurred when the temperature needle was at the P. During this test it suddenly started running rough at about 204, which seemed to be the temperature it was stabilizing at, then briefly touched 205 and suddenly quit running. This has been a very repeatable sequence, so something is happening at about 204 degrees. What I've read is that this temperature is not out of line with what would be expected (outside temperature in the upper 80's). I will still get the radiator flushed and hopefully be able to repair the minor leaks in the expansion tank. 204 is triggering some action, I believe with the fuel system, that is creating the difficulty but my next step will still be a good tune up and probably installation of the pertronix electronic ignition that I got, uninstalled, with the car. The ignition wiring (not plug wires) is also in pretty sad shape, so I'll replace it as well.