I had developed a hesitation while driving along at 30 to 35 MPH. New plugs were put in and the problem still was there. Carb is in good shape. Car starts easy. When I changed the condenser, the problem seems have gone away. I always thought the condenser kind of cleaned up the spark and helped the points last longer.
My question is, if the condenser was leaking, will that effect the way the engine runs at speed? I tried to do trouble shooting one item at a time so when I found the problem, I would know what fixed the issue.
PS I know someone is going to say if I was not running a distributor, this would not be a problem. And they would be correct.
The symptom of a bad condenser is points burning quickly. I suspect that you probably changed the point setting slightly when you replaced the condenser, in such a way that you advanced the timing slightly, which is what actually fixed the problem.
Quite often a distributor will give you a "dead zone" through a certain speed range. Above or below that speed will seem to be fine. What happens is that the engine speed creates a certain frequency of vibration that, over the speed range in question, causes the distributor head to vibrate in unison. What's really at issue is a sloppy fit between the dist. head and its mounting but what it does is to cause a poor ground to the distributor and thus a random misfire/hesitation. You can try a small ground strap to the dist. head or rebuilding the distributor housing. This movement can also cause huge variation in your point gap if your dist. shaft bearings are also sloppy.
All that being said, you seem to have the problem licked but, if it returns keep the above thoughts in mind.
Honestly Tom they don't go that often but usually an indication of one going (or an incorrect one for your system), as Royce stated, is burnt points. It stores energy when the points are open and sends it backwards through the coil when they close causing the magnetic field in the coil to reverse generating high voltage. I'm pretty sure that if it took a total c**p you wouldn't be able to start. I believe it's matched to the coil. Not sure.
From very early, well into the '60s, distributor ignition required condensers (capacitors) to operate, and they used a paper wound condenser (the technology at that time). These required replacement often due to the harsh engine environment. It was usually recommended to replace the cap, rotor, points, plugs, and condenser all at some point between three and eight thousand miles. Late in the '60s, a modern material replaced the paper in condensers, making them often last a very long time (manufacturers of course never told you to quit buying new ones often). Most of my life, I have had lots of trouble with new condensers, but rarely with old ones. At first, I would replace them with routine maintenance, then carry the old one "just in case the new one went bad". With my luck, about half of the new ones I bought would fail within a hundred miles, and the old one would go back in.
The point of all that, is that new condensers often are bad. And that I got used to their failure modes. Usually, they do not do their function enough and begin burning the points. They also often begin backfiring, sometimes badly (sometimes "blow the muffler out" badly). Sometimes, the "infant failure" is not so extreme. Sometimes they simply begin to lose out power at higher rpm or load.
Kind of like what you were asking.
And yes, If you used the "proper" T ignition system, you wouldn't have had the problem you did. Instead, a defective condenser would weaken only one cylinder, and be about four times harder to find. My coupe has a distributor. It was on it when I got the car. I may someday make it "right", if I get around to it. My boat-tail speedster has a roller timer and T coils. So will the other speedster I am restoring now.
I had an old '65 Ford pickup that I drove for work for over 17 years. I drove it a lot! Put over a half million miles on it. When I eventually sold it, the condenser had way over 300K miles and was about 15 years old. I had tried to replace it a few times, only to have the new one go bad quickly. I finally just quit replacing it along with the points and it went until the truck did.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
You may have a valid point. There is some slop in the head and I may install the ground strap as indicated. It kind of felt like a loose wire or bad contact all along. There is some float in the shaft meaning you can move the rotor as much as .100 in either direction before contact resistance is felt. I guess this would have a direct variation in when the points break at speed. Almost felt like running in a variable head wind going down the road.
One of these days, I will make the ignition "right", but for now, I am good to go!
Yes, installing the ground strap is a must with most disturbutors. A Pertronix doesn't much care if the rotor is sloppy, as I've verified on my old Allen disturbutor machine.