One of the last suggestions for troubleshooting my points distributor setup was to connect a test light between ground and the negative terminal. Cranking the engine should result in a pulsing test light bulb. No dice, my test light dimmed a bit, but was solid.
Luckly, that very afternoon, Jason Gray's care package arrived. Inside was a known-good set of EI dizzy guts, including pickup coil, breaker plate, stator, reluctor, and Nissan OE module. I yanked the points out of my SR distributor body and installed the known-good parts.
Engine runs. Timing advanced with revs. Engine misses a bit, and engine won't run well under load with the vac advance hose hooked up. I pull off the hose and go for a drive. The miss is still there and seemed to get slightly worse over my two miles of driving. I had assumed I fouled at least one of the plugs with all the cranking attempts during the previous diagnosis sessions, and pulling the #4 showed a pretty fouled piece, but new plugs didn't clear it.
In any case, problem solved, right? Engine runs. Well, Jason's care package was more of a loan than a gift, and the real question remained - what was bad that would cause the issue?
So, I set about making my car not run, which was hard, mentally, to do. I replaced the module with one of my Nissan OE modules. Car still ran, engine advanced timing with revs. I replaced the pickup coil with the part that came with my rebuilt dizzy. Car still ran, engine advanced timing with revs. I replaced the breaker plate assembly. Car still ran, engine advanced timing with revs. I replaced the reluctor (the star wheel) - engine would cough, but not start. I removed and replaced the reluctor with Jason's part to verify, car ran, engine advanced timing with revs. I kept Jason's reluctor on there and replaced the final piece, the stator (the four-pronged ring that attaches to the breaker plate). Car ran, however, timing was retarded 25° and sat, solidly, at 5°ATDC. I did not rev this combo.
I removed the "rebuild" stator and compared it with Jason's known-good item. The are the same, the prongs are in the same location relative to the screw holes, and it even has the same number markings along the top. At the same time I compared the reluctors, only to find that the "rebuild" reluctor was offset 45°. Jason had mentioned this as a possibility, but actually talked about rotated distributor caps (or, more likely, that's just what I read). I'd think you'd have to have an offset reluctor and an offset dizzy cap for things to work correctly.
So, to summarize, my rebuild reluctor is 45° offset, which could be adjusted out by moving the distributor assembly over a few teeth. The bigger mystery is the stator, with it inducing 25° of static ignition retard right from the get-go.
Because when you spend a silly amount of money on a silly, trivial thing that will help you not one jot, you are demonstrating that you have a soul and a heart and that you are the sort of person who has no time for Which? magazine. – Jeremy Clarkson