I'm installing a new distributor, the old distributor has been out of the car for some time. How should I get the cam lined up with the distributor pointing the right way so it fire when the valve is open?
It sounds like you forgot to mark the way the dizzy rotor was pointing on your old one before you pulled it out.
You can get it into the ballpark this way.
Pull your passenger valve cover off.
Bump the motor with the starter (or by hand if you want) until the valve for the intake draw on cylynder #1 is compressed. Then slide your dizzy in with the rotor pointing to the 1 oclock position if you are standing at the hood latch looking straight towards the carb.
Then once you get seated, wire the cap, resinstall the valve cover and start it up. The timing will be way out and it might not fire the first time, or backfire through the carb, but continue to rotate the dizzy until the car fires up and stays running, then set your timing. Doing it this way will get you close. You may end up being off 1 tooth either direction, but when you time it you will know and can re-adjust it then.
Take plug wires off the old cap and put them on the new cap in the same order. Take out the number one spark plug. Put your finger in the hole. Turn the motor over by hand and when you start to feel air pushing past your finger you are on the compression stroke. Go very slowly and when the air stops blowing past your finger your at top dead center. Now put your distributor in with the rotor pointing at the spark plug wire for the # one spark plug. Start car and time with timing light.