Thanks everyone for your thoughts and help so far. Have you checked / replaced the connection plugs? Yes. Disconnected/connected and jiggled those wires one time when it didn't start. No luck. Although I still can't say it's absolutely not the culprit. Is that bent ground strap attached inside the cap with one of the coil hold down screws clamping on to make good contact? Yes. pickup coil Thought about that but how would lifting/replacing cap make it start if the distributor itself is not disturbed? rotor with the tiniest hole burned through the plastic by the rotor/distributor contact. gonna check that tomorrow. would explain why it only happens occasionally (I wonder what the odds of stopping on that point are). and maybe when I lift/replace the cap I'm moving it just enough to relocate the contact point. rotor bushing. possibility since it would move when I lifted the cap. One other thing I haven't done...Next time it happens I'm gonna carefully remove the coil cover and re-check the primary circuit, and also move each of those wires (red/yellow) without taking the cap off. If it starts then its gotta be a bad wire on the coil or a connection to them. I could just throw a new coil in there, but I'd really like to find the problem first.