It sounds a lot like you're not very familiar with diagnosing problems and you need to learn how to do that. A great place to start is with a shop manual. The factory shop manuals are excellent. If you don't already have a factory manual, either original or reprint, get one. And do what Tedster says to learn about stuff.
Charlie, you are right, I don't know too much about diagnosing problems. Once I know what the problem is, I consult my manual and I can mostly follow the steps and get it done. I rebuilt all of the brakes, replaced the rear axle seals, replaced the clutch, replaced the timing chain and gears, replaced the rocker arm assemblies. I know my engine pretty well after 6 years, but this has me pretty confused.
I am pretty pleased with how it runs when it is hot, and I guess I could just leave the choke engaged until the engine gets up to temp. That would solve it. I wish I had one of you guys around to come and listen to it and take it for a test drive. I am guessing for someone who knows these engines and how they should sound and perform, the answer would be obvious.
I am not really sure what is "normal" for this truck. It seems to me that I should get much more power out of this engine. When the truck is empty, I think it should jump out of my hands and fly, but maybe they aren't set up to do that and never did. Maybe I expect too much. But I also have a '32 Ford Model B with a 4 cylinder engine that just purrs. I can't understand why this sweet V8 should not have its own throaty purr, not just at idle, but as I roll out and onto the highway. It should accelerate smoothly and then push me back into my seat.
If you have driven a new F-150 with a 302, they should have comparable performance. Your truck is likely lighter, but the 292 is a smidge smaller. It should move well, and if you press the gas pedal, you should get pushed back into the seat a little by acceleration.
Have you checked the timing advance mechanism? You should set the timing at hot idle with the vacuum line disconnected. Leave it off, start the engine, and watch the timing marks as you raise the rpm. If the centrifugal advance works, the timing should advance. Re-connect the vacuum advance, and it should also advance as the rpms increase. Your distributor may not be working properly. Have you checked the thermostat for working properly and getting the engine up to working temperature?
A '64 292 is not even remotely any kind of performance engine to begin with. Further, it's 50 years old and most definitely has a problem because even if the acceleration is not brutal, it should not hesitate and stall so you're certainly not experiencing what you should.
I've never experienced a '64 292 but with the low compression, small cam, typical factory advance curve and single exhaust, I don't think you should expect much. Those things can be overcome and it can be made into a very strong performer, though.
...I am not really sure what is "normal" for this truck. It seems to me that I should get much more power out of this engine ... I can't understand why this sweet V8 should not have its own throaty purr, not just at idle, but as I roll out and onto the highway. It should accelerate smoothly and then push me back into my seat. Shouldn't it?
^ This. If nothing else to compare, it's tough to get a baseline. Very important.
Drove my truck for years with it all kinds of whacked out. (Frugal is good. Cheap is expensive? Something like that. Used a junkbox carb and dizzy and golly knows what for timing because the crank dampers on these engines are trashed by now.) Here's how to fix that kind of thing.. Get yourself a manual, no way around that if you want to own stuff like this. Motors" manual, 1950 is a real good one for these vintage engines, next a vacuum gauge, and then a timing light and a tach.
Usually even if you haven't done a procedure before by reading through these forum archives will set you up just fine. Another problem If the truck isn't driven much like many "classics"; the battery will sulfate up, wiring connections and grounds will corrode and eventually fail, ignition and lighting and everything else won't work right. Brakes will start to stick, leak at seals. Tires and belts and hoses start to take a set, etc. Fuel starts to sour and gum up in the carb, valves tend to stick. Read the manuals and webpages that apply to these engines, YT videos and the gazillion web pages - esp. for oddball stuff. Y block 292s have low compression in stock form and allows for substandard fuels.
This is not a bad thing necessarily these days because they can have a lot of advance dialed in without detonation or pinging. If you want to run better octane fuel timing can be advanced some more. Take the time with your truck and you will be very happy with your Y block. I can see by your photos that your distributor is right in there where it needs to be (or clocked correctly). Just a smidge in one direction is 1-2 degrees, a vacuum gauge works great for timing but have to use a light to see what's what from 500 rpm to 3500 or 4000. Mine is at ~ 14 deg. initial or so, and have deduced the weights are on the 10L slot. That means there is about 34-36 degrees of "total timing" brought in, before the engine exceeds 3000 RPM. The vacuum advance will add another 10 or 15 degrees at steady freeway cruise for a grand total of about 50 degrees BTDC, that's what you want to verify.
I guess I titled this thread incorrectly. I should have asked is matching the timing in the specs critical. I have gone back and rotated the distributor as far as it will go clockwise, and it runs much better. I have not gone back to check to see what the number of degrees before TDC is, but it has to far exceed the 6 degrees in the manual or even the plus 5 more mentioned in the manual. But it does not hesitate and does not ping. But why does this adjustment work when the spec is 6 deg.? I am thinking there must be something else not to spec, something else out of wack for a much higher that expected advance to work.
Any ideas as to what causes this?
I know I should leave well enough alone, but I want this to run more or less as it did when it rolled off the line. Am I crazy?
Unless you have a shop nearby that specializes in older and antique vehicles and are willing to pay for that service, you are going to have to acquire tools and knowledge in order to keep your truck in good order. Or maybe find some local clubs so you can meet people who can help and teach.
After 50 years, any number of things can be worn enough that the factory timing setting does not work. One of the most common problems with timing has been mentioned 3 times already. The crankshaft damper ring slips which renders the timing marks useless. If this has happened, you simply cannot know where your timing is
Matching to the spec in the manual is not critical and many people actually do alter the timing because it does make the engine run better, even on a freshly rebuilt, like new engine. Factory settings are safe and guarantee a reliable engine but at the sacrifice of performance and economy.
You're not crazy to want it to run as it did off the line but it will take willingness on your part to learn how to diagnose and fix problems. Asking questions on a forum like this is great and does help to get to the bottom of a problem but at the end of the day, you are the one looking at diagnostic tools, making decisions and making adjustments.
I'm not being mean so don't take it that way. I'm just being sincere. When suggestions are made, don't say "I don't have this" or "I don't know how to do that." You need to learn how to fix your truck. Get a vacuum gauge, learn how to tune all aspects of the carb. Learn how to tune and diagnose ignition advance. etc. If you aren't willing to follow through with suggestions, then that is where our ability to help ends. Ultimately, only you can fix your truck.