I have to say, this writing has me quite stressed out. During the regular work week, I spend my time learning all that I can about vintage Inline 6 engines from father in law, Tom Langdon. Now, Tom is a known expert on the old Stovebolt engines, and from his lengthy experience working in the drivetrain engineering dept at General Motors, he has actual data to back up his claims. I have come to know and love these engines, and although not NEARLY as knowledgeable about these as Tom, I do know my basics. And I do my research.
Here are a quick few background facts to know about before I get into my rant. GM made several versions of the inline 6. The first version, which Tom’s company Langdon’s Stovebolt doesn’t really support is the 194, 181, 207 engine. These were from the 1920’s, and early 30’s and are not anything in which I am well versed in. I do know however that this engine was replaced by the new design of the 216 in the late 1930’s. The 216 had a ‘dip and splash’ oiling system, was never paired with an automatic transmission from the factory, but is still an engine that can be upgraded to a certain point. The 235 is a similar engine, however in 1954 these changed to a full pressure oiling system. In fact, the 1954 engine is called the ‘magic engine’ by us at Stovebolt, because it has the same motor mount pattern as the 216 and will basically bolt right in place. The 1954’s also changed cam material, going from steel to a cast style. This is REALLY important when you purchase a replacement distributor, because if you use the wrong distributor gear for your cam, you will most certainly end up toasting your engine. 1955 changed motor mounts, and the later 261 engine, had more power, stroke etc. The following generation is the 194 (same number as the 1st gen engine, but don’t let that fool you!) 230, 250 and 292. This is the engine that has the same bell housing as the small block Chevy, and will ‘bolt up’ to the ‘modern’ transmissions without an adapter.
The reason I bore you with all this background information is because of an eBay ad I saw today. This is for a distributor for a “194,216,235” engine. Now, this is wrong on so many levels. For one, the same distributor could be used for the entire second generation of engines, in fact, Stovebolt’s famous “Mini HEI” does just that. The Mini is able to go onto a 216, 235, or a 261. However, we do verify which cam gear they have if they have an engine 1954 and older. Because it is THAT important. The price on this 194,216,235 distributor on eBay is about $160. Their claim on their posting, is: NEW HI-PERFORMANCE BLACK EARLY CHEVY INLINE 6 CYLINDER HEI DISTRIBUTOR FOR 1949-1961 194ci, 1941-1962 235ci & 1941-1953(TRUCKS) 216ci.
From the basic information I shared earlier, you can see my issue. There was not a 194 in 1949. The 194 in 1960 would have been a 3rd generation engine which is a COMPLETELY different engine. Tom loves to say that not a single bolt will interchange between the 216,235,261 series and the 194,230,250,292 engines. Nevertheless would a distributor work in this capacity. Then the scary part: Their lifetime warranty is for the part only, not any damage said part could cause to an engine. The price is a huge draw, as our Mini HEI is $195, without wires… but you get what you pay for. There are several “eBayers” selling these distributors, and I suspect most of their customers are not the wiser to whom they are dealing with – idiots.
The moral of the story: make sure you KNOW your vehicles and TRUST whom you are buying parts from. You can get some GREAT deals from folks, but can get scammed as well. Many aftermarket companies have NO CLUE what their products will do, as they are not engineered, not built from the same quality as the original equipment AND they are built as cheaply as possible to maximize profits. I may come back and write more on similar topics. I hope that you read this, and it helps to save you from making a purchase from someone who simply has no clue.