1953-1960 Classic Car Engines Troubleshooting Guide: Secondary Ignition Checkout
First of all, remove the wire from one of the spark plugs, turn on the ignition and operate the starter. While the engine is cranking, hold the terminal of the spark plug wire about 1/4" away from the engine or spark plug base. If the spark is strong and jumps the gap, the trouble is confined to either the spark plugs or lack of fuel. Before going any further, wipe the outside of the plugs to remove any dirt or dampness which would create an easy path for the current to flow, then try to start the engine again. If it still fails to start, remove one of the spark plugs and if it is wet around the base, it indicates that the fuel system is okay, so it naturally follows that the spark plugs are at fault. Remove all the plugs, clean them and set the gaps. An emergency adjustment of spark plug gaps can be made by folding a piece of newspaper into five layers. When changing the gap, always bend the side (ground) electrode and never the center one as there is danger of breaking the insulation.
If the spark plug that was removed showed no indication of dampness on its base, go to the Fuel System Checkout.
The Complete Guide to Troubleshooting 1953-1960 Era American Classic Car Engines