Several years ago I wrote an article about King Electronics, a company in California that had purchased the name of the original, but out of business, King Company of Cleveland. Their aim was to bring back the King distributor testers many of us remember from years gone by. Sun and King were the big names of the machines found in garages and speed shops decades ago, (actually, I remember Sun machines, but King not so much) and the new King Electronics began offering new machines (shown above) that looked great and did everything those old machines did, and probably did it a lot better, too. They even stopped by Jay Leno's Garage and showed off their testers. Nice stuff.
Unfortunately, it looks like the business didn't last. I checked up on them to see how things were going and they seem to have disappeared. Their website is gone and there's nothing I found anywhere to indicate when they closed up shop. I dug up an old press release for the company, so I called the number on the off chance it might still be connected to someone involved with the business, but no luck. This is disappointing and puzzling, too.
There's a market ... I think
There are still a huge number of cars and trucks out there with old distributors, I would think there's still a need for these machines to provide service, though it's certainly far less than in years past. Some company, somewhere, with another source of revenue could offer these machines as a sideline. Maybe Snap-On or another one of the big tool companies would be the logical choice, but any company that made the effort could most likely get a small, but steady, stream of customers.
Think of all of the guys putting huge bucks into their garages filled with old muscle cars, you don't think they would grab one of these if it was available? When someone drops $50,000 or $75,000 each or more on a car or three, a tester like this would be a perfect shop tool, especially if he was part of a group of guys with similar vintage machinery.
Am I missing some obvious machines that are out there? Is someone doing this already? The only ones I could find are old Sun machines on eBay, though there are probably lots of vintage models around the country in old garages. Where do you find a good distributor tester today?
Here's the press release just to give you an idea of what these things could do:
MOORPARK, CA – Accurate ignition timing is the real key to obtaining maximum horsepower and efficiency out of an internal combustion engine. But virtually no one knows how accurate his engine’s timing is, and if the mechanical and vacuum advance curves are functioning properly, or if the breaker points or electronic ignition module is providing the correct dwell for a hot spark. Now, with a King Electronics D16 or D16-T distributor machine you can quit guessing and actually test these components including the complete ignition system to see if your ignition is performing properly, and if there are any hidden problems like distributor shaft run-out causing erratic cylinder-to-cylinder firing.
King’s all-new distributor machines are a blend of the latest electronics and innovative mechanical features. The 1hp motor is capable of smoothly spinning a distributor or magneto to 11,000rpm, and the digital tachometer is accurate to 1rpm. Whereas the older machines attempted to grasp the distributor shaft with a three-jaw chuck, King uses an ER-40 collet system that totally eliminates slippage. The distributor tester’s housing is machined out of billet aluminum that is black anodized with laser-etched symbols. An internal tubular frame is TIG-welded, as is the roll-around stand (standard on the Premium D16, optional on the Pro D16-T).
Even more impressive is what these machines can do. You can test complete ignition systems from distributor to individual spark plugs. They accept all types of distributors and magnetos including breaker points, magnetic pickups, optical sensors, electronic modules, and they even include a high-tension inductive pickup for magnetos. An optional 1.5hp motor will spin even the largest Top Fuel magnetos. Analog and digital ignition boxes can be checked for output and rpm activated switches for delaying advance curves, setting rev limiters and nitrous oxide timers within 1 rpm accuracy.
OK, who's going to pick up the challenge? What company out there will start making these again? If someone is already doing it, please let me know and I'll write them up and get the word out.