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Differences in Flathead Distributors

Differences in Flathead Distributors

Stories and Photos by Zac Parks

Check out more from Zac on his Instagram Account:

The Ford Flathead V8 will live in the history books as the first affordable V8, but to us it is one of the motors that shaped early hot rodding. I am Zac Parks from Wired Customs, and I would love to share with you my passion for the Ford Flathead and key you in on some Flathead Ford Facts!

This time I am going to show you the different Distributors and explain what year they came out, so next time when you’re on an outing and see one of these motors in its natural habit, you can hold your own with traditional Hot Rodders.   

Helmet Style Distributor 1932-1941

There are two different styles of the Helmet, one has two bolts for the coil and one has three, there were various style coils for these years so don’t let that confuse you.



The Crab Style Distributor 1942-1945

The cars that sported these originally, were considered “War Rations.” In February 1942 Ford stopped supplying the public with vehicles and started making bombers for the war effort. Today the Crab is one of the most common distributors.


The Round Type Distributor 1946-1948. 

This was the last distributor made for the Early Ford engines with the bell housing casted into the block. The cover splits the spark plug wires to keep it out of the fan blades, but underneath we see something that looks similar to a more modern distributor.


Last but not least, is the final form of the Flathead Ford Distributors. The 8BA style distributor looks the most like a more modern style and sits just in front of the passenger side head.


All the distributors run off of the front of the camshaft, and on a Ford Flathead the camshaft spins in the opposite direction of the crankshaft! Pretty cool how they used to do it! 

Thanks for reading and see you next time!


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jack montanaro - October 29, 2023

Het Zac i have a 1943 flat head with a 3 bolt distribiter when i mount it the slot on the cam is too deep in the engine and the mail part of the distributor will not reach ,Please if you have any suggestions if you could let me know i would really appreciate Thank you

John Bobeda - July 4, 2023

Can the “helmet” distributer from 85 hp Ford Flathead or the later "crab distributer interchange with a v8 60 ? I have a V8 60 block that I am rebuilding and would like to upgrade to a better ignition system . Is there an aftermarket electronic option available that will fit the 60? Thanks in advance jb

Daniel Bonilla - March 6, 2023

I have a 36 Ford that has a helmet type distributor and the coil is one of the modern sort that connects to the wire on the top of the distributor. I inadvertently left the ignition on one evening when I left in a hurry and the next day when I came to turn the truck on it would not start I was having some popping the day before so I was assuming that Maybe the condenser was going out. Now I cannot get it started it all got plenty of juice in the battery and gasoline, Spac is coming out of the coil but no spark coming out of the spark plugs. My question is when I remove the distributor to replace the points do I have to worry about timing when I replace the distributor back on?

William Morath - October 19, 2022

What holds the distributor in on a 1950 flathead

Zac Parks - January 20, 2022

Let me know what you would want to see next!

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