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Hagerty Employee

What I learned from testing the limits of an “idiot-proof” design

After my Austin-Healey's BMC A-series engine had left me stranded two times in as many weeks, I discovered that the points were more charred than a well-done steak at Golden Corral. So I sat down and ordered some parts and prepared myself for the task of playing with the ignition timing. That meant reading every manual I could find—I even dove into YouTube and absorbed everything I could regarding how to properly set up a new distributor.

 

I know what you are thinking, dear reader: Why is he replacing the entire distributor when all he needs is a set of points? Also, didn't Rob Siegel talk about this like two weeks ago? You are correct on both fronts, but hear me out. This article isn't an explanation of my choice to upgrade to an electronic distributor, or the exact how and why of the install. No, these are my thoughts about a word I used to describe the design of the BMC A-series distributor drive—“idiot-proof—and how it came back to bite me.

 

Read the full article on Hagerty.com: https://www.hagerty.com/media/maintenance-and-tech/what-i-learned-from-testing-the-limits-of-an-idio...

57 REPLIES 57
Intermediate Driver

I realized years ago, & it's true for myself also, that when somebody is referred to as an Expert or Experienced in whatever, it basically means "I won't make that mistake again" 

New Driver

As I have said for many years, "If you try to build an idiot-proof system, the universe will inevitably build a better idiot."

Pit Crew

I'd love to say I haven't done the same thing, or on a less idiot proof design (American motors), stabbed it on a tooth off, and wondered why it ran poorly, or forget to hook up a wire inside the distributor in an old Bentley that requires an afternoon to get to again.. Or a million and one other dumb things.

 

Only points system you can't screw up is the one on my 2CV. Literally. Impossible if you hook up the wires. Oh, wait, I did that didn't I.... 🙂 

Pit Crew

Nothing is foolproof, as Fools are so ingenious...

New Driver

Had the distributor of my MGA replaced with a Pertronix unit before the Amelia Island or Bust tour in late February of 2020. I had quite a few problems, especially when it came to running at moderate revs under a light load. If I ran the car harder it did a bit better. I never liked it, though and when it came out when I got home I just benched it. It was not money well-spent and I won't do that again. 

Intermediate Driver

The saying at IBM is that you can idiot-proof anything, but you can't user-proof it.

New Driver

I routinely see idiots driving around in the pitch dark with their lights off. They are driving newer vehicles that have an "Auto Mode" option for the lights, but for some reason they don't use it or are too much of an idiot to even know what it does. 

Pit Crew

The one area I have learned never to touch on my '68 Cutlass is the ignition and especially the points, after long and painful experience of trying to service them always ended in failure. It amazes me how something that was in use for decades can be so troublesome (to me) and so intimidating. This is from someone who removed a GM HEI distributor to replace a failed internal part and then reinstalled it with no difficulty whatsoever after the engine started on the first try. Just keep me away from a points ignition.

Pit Crew

Think twice (maybe 3 times) do once! Duh.