THE SHOP

February '20

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10 THE SHOP FEBRUARY 2020 From the 1930s to the '70s, Sun Electric Corp. of Chicago developed sophisticated testing equipment for the auto repair industry. Today, these machines often sit unused because affordable handheld testers work fine on modern ignition systems. That's why old Sun Engine Analyzers sell for as little as $25. If you see one on eBay at over $150, keep looking. Collectors buy them to dress-up their garages. Good ones do a fine job of tuning up old cars; later ones can be upgraded to work with new cars. Since auto repair shops come in all sizes, Sun offered individual instruments designed to be mounted together in a head- frame on top of a rolling steel cabinet. This buy-one-piece-at-a-time approach allowed small-garage owners to afford a tester. By the late '60s, an EET-820 electronic engine tester sold for $1,480. By 1969, the 820 was superseded by EET-920 and EET- 1120 machines. The 920 incorporated all the Sun testers on a single-width rolling cabinet. The 1120 had the same features in a larger size on a double-width cabinet. The 1120 cost $2,635. By 1980, a Sun Infra-Red Engine Analyzer cost four times as much and new computer-powered ver- sions were $49,995! Sun engine testers aren't hard to operate. Most of the individual testers work much like modern handheld engine analyzers. It does take a while to learn how to hook the machine up to different cars for different tests and to learn how to interpret and use various oscilloscope readings. In 1969, Sun had 33 sales service and training centers across the country and a staff of 610 to teach mechanics to use the machines. In his book Collector Car Restoration Bible, automotive radio host Matt Joseph described the Sun 920 as a useful machine for gathering a lot of information quickly and accurately. "It has a terrific ignition scope and an accurate dwell/tachometer and vacuum gauge," he said. "It also has a meter that measures cylinder leak-down, an advance timing light, an ohmmeter and circuits for measuring coil leakage and capacitance. If you see one of these in good condition at a reasonable price, you won't regret buying it." Engine testers aren't as hard to find as other Sun testers. Robert Masters of Kentucky specializes in servicing and selling old garage equipment. He says Sun distributor analyzers are more popular with collectors. Part of this has to do with the size of engine analyzers. Even the small cabinet was 27 inches wide, 20 inches deep and 36 inches high. When you add the height of the console, a 920 is well over 5 feet high. Because the machines are big, they don't fit in many garages. Their size and weight make them hard to ship. Large- scope double-width cabinet machines of the mid-'70s were twice as big and heavy. Masters says they're hard to sell and bring low prices. Sun Electronic Distributor machines are harder to find and more desirable to own. Until recently, there was no comparable device on the market to tune-up breaker point distributors. Jeff Schlemmer, of Shakopee, Minnesota, has been restoring vintage contact point- style car distributors for nearly 15 years. Today his company, Advanced Distributors (www.advanceddistributors.com) rebuilds about 1,500 per year for hobbyists and res- toration shops across the country. The specialty of the house at Advanced Distributors is returning British-made Lucas distributors to better-than-new con- dition. However, Schlemmer has redone electrical distributors for everything from farm tractors to forklifts. When you send him your old distributor, a short time later it will come back looking like new and free of any slop in the mecha- nism. And depending on what you want, you'll have a car that runs smoother, goes faster or gets better fuel economy. He also re-curves every distributor to its original advance curve—or, if the car owner prefers, to performance or economy specifi- cations. He uses a Sun 680 Distrib-U-Scope tester to dial the proper adjustments in. Schlemmer has four distributor machines in his shop. They're smaller than engine analyzers, but they are also in higher demand and worth more. Prices start at around $450 for older units from the 1930s and '40s that are fairly beat-up and prob- ably good only for decorative use. Dis- tributor machines in good condition with undetermined functionality bring prices in the $700 range. Those that look good and work well will fetch up to $1,500. Online classifieds and auctions are the easiest places to find the machines, but many times they are sold at swap meets where the buyer doesn't have to transport the old machine so far. When it comes time to get parts to repair them, the man to con- tact is Robert Masters. His full-time busi- ness is involved with buying, selling and repairing parts for vintage garage equip- ment, most of it made by Sun Electric Co. If you'd like a new Sun Engine Analyzer for your shop, they're still being made and sold. Snap-on Corp. owns the trade name. Though the modern machines somewhat resemble the old ones with wire leads sprouting out of a revolving arm, the two have little in common and the company no longer makes or sells parts for older machines. —John Gunnell Our Sun's Still Shining This unit could be mounted in a head- frame on top of a rolling steel cabinet. A Sun 600 Electronic Distributor tester complete with Sun's roll-around cabinet. 10 THE SHOP FEBRUARY 2020 Opening Up the Custom Shop Toolbox

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