Forget the distributor and harmonic balancer!! Bring your number one cylinder up to fire then look at the distributor then check balancer. Remove diistributor if necessary in order to point it at the position in your cap to fire the number one cylinder. Check the firing order and try to start your motor.If you've got it close it should start and you can do final timing at that point. Any backfiring indicates something is not correct.
Skunk, I have the 351w. I thought my TDC mark was way off too. Set the motor to TDC, doesn't matter exhaust or compression, look for a timing mark on the balancer. You may have to sand off paint right down to bare metal to see it. I know that I did.
After that, the balancer may have slipped but check the easy first.
I am checking two ways. First I am Using the thumb technique to make sure I am in compression phase. Also I am confirming by placing a plastic rod in the plug opening and watching it go up and down as I rotate the balancer. My balancer has a grove on it and when I am at TDC it is 180 off my marker,
Skunk, The numbers on my 351 were impossible to see. I was looking at a groove on the balancer that was about 1/8" wide and 1/8" deep. This WAS NOT the timing mark. It really messed me up until I figured it out.
Use the method I said above to find TDC with your plastic rod. Look at where the pointer lines up with the balancer and start sanding off any paint on the balancer at that point. You should see the marks. If not then you can start checking all the other stuff like timing chain and stuff. But first, don't mess with the complicated. I bet the numbers are just almost impossible to see.
This is my balancer after I sanded off the paint and the marks are still very faint but readable. I put a degree tape on the balancer so the marks are real easy to see now.
What you probably have are two sets of timing marks on the harmonic balancer,which is pretty common for 302/351 with Ford balancer.
Use the method where you place a rod in the spark plug hole and when it reaches the highest point you should see corresponding timing marks on your balancer.
If not go around one more time and check again.
You'll get it !
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