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Rover V8 Distributor Upgrade

Upgrade Guide Rover V8 Distributor Upgrade

In this article we will show how you swap out and upgrade your distributor on the Rover V8 to a fully electronic 35DLM8 unit sourced from SimonBBC at Powerspark Ignition Ltd.

First we need a point on reference in case it all goes horribly wrong. Find the TDC (Top Dead Centre) mark on you crankshaft pulley and put a dab of tipex on there so it shows up nicely on your timing light. Don't worry if you have no timing light you can set it by ear and I will explain that later.


It is wise to check what your timing is set to before you disturb anything so you have a base setting. To do this, unplug the vacuum advance pipe, start the engine and check the timing with a strobe, mine was set too 12 degrees BTDC (before top dead centre). Once the new distributor is installed set it to 12 degrees BTDC and you should be good to go.


Now turn the engine over by hand until the tipex TDC mark is aligned with the timing pointer on the crankshaft pulley. Pop the distributor cap off (leave the leads connected) and the rotor arm should be aligned with #1 ignition lead more or less. At this time mark #1 lead on the cap with tipex. Number 1 cylinder is on the right hand bank at the front as you look at the engine from the front. If the rotor arm is nowhere near then turn the crankshaft through one full revolution and check again, and it should be lined up.


Again for a reference mark the rotor arm position on the body of the distributor so you can always go back to it if needed. Also scribe the base of the distributor against the timing case. Leave the leads connected to the cap and lift it out of the way.

Remove the distributor retaining clamp and pull the distributor out of the timing housing, it sits on a rubber O-ring so may require a bit of a tug. Slot the new distributor into the hole ensuring the orientation of the vacuum advance is the same. Before pushing the distributor all the way down spin the rotor arm to the approx position of the old one and slot the distributor onto the oil pump drive.


Please note that as the distributor engages in the cams shaft gear it will rotate clockwise a little, take this into account and ensure once fully home the rotor arm is in approximately the same position, if not pull it out a little and rotate the rotor arm and try again. It will probably take a few tries. Pop the cap back on and ensure the rotor arm aligns with #1 on the cap. Use the old cap as reference.


Ensure that with #1 aligned with the rotor arm there is enough movement to rotate the distributor both ways to set the ignition timing later on. Once you are happy refit the retaining clamp and loosely tighten the bolt so the distributor body still moves with a little resistance.

Pop on the new distributor cap and swap the leads one by one from the old cap. Even if you are changing the leads over to new ones I would recommend doing this first just to check everything is hunky dorey.

Now assuming like me you are upgrading your distributor you will have to change your coil, they may look the same but the internal resistances are different and to take advantage of your new distributor you will want a matched coil. I bought mine as a kit to make sure everything was perfect.


The kit comes with a lead to connect the ignition module on the side of the distributor to the new coil. This is very simple too connect, the red lead goes to the positive terminal on your coil ( along with an 12v ignition feed) and the other wire goes to the negative terminal. You may need to crimp some terminals on to the supplied wiring.



Now all being well, and with your coil now connected to your distributor you can start the engine. It will probably run a little poorly as the timing will not be spot on. With your timing right adjust the ignition timing by rotating the distributor with the engine running and watch for your tipex mark, set it to be the same as the old timing (12d btdc for me). And tighten the clamp. Plug back in the vacuum advance pipe.


Take it for a spin and enjoy.

Here is a before and after picture, if you have done everything right then the distributor should be pretty much in the same position as the old one. Have a brew or a beer and congratulate yourself on a good job.


For further adjustment and tuning by ear follow this procedure.

1. With the Distributor clamp loosened and vaccum advance disconnected start the engine and allow to idle
2. Turn the distributor until a steady idle is reached
3. To get optimum idle advance rotate the distributor clockwise (advance) until the highest idle is achieved and then knock it back a touch.
4. Take the car for a drive and accelerate in a high gear, if pinking is heard jump out and turn the distributor anti clockwise a touch (retard).
5. Repeat step 4 until no pinking is heard.
6. Fully tighten the clamp
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Excellent review / how-to - this is my next job and it makes it seem a lot less 'black magic' than other walk-through's I've read! Thanks :)
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