87 Dodge Van starting problems

1987 Dodge one ton, B350. 318 CID engine. Mileage is about 160,000. PS/ PB. Used to be a telephone company vehicle. Then it was owned by a rental property guy who badly neglected it.
A couple months ago, my Dodge Van gave me all kinds of trouble, would start and run, and then when I was away from home, it would slow, and die. A couple minutes later, it would restart and run for awhile. I tried all kinds of things, but changing the air filter seemed to help the most. Even once came home by tow truck.
Last week, I decided to put the hand choke kit on. Removed the pull off (bimetal coil) from the side of the carb, and wired a hand choke cable to the side of the carb. Pulled the wire off the bimetal coil. Trashed the bimetal, and screwed the plate back on, to cover the end of the cable. Left the little electrical wire hanging loose. Tried to start the motor, to see how it worked. Started, but just ever so barely. I tried a couple things, like adjusting the timing. Had the motor running, but it was just barely.
The spark was weak at the coil, so I cleaned the low power wires at the coil. Also cleaned the coil bracket that holds the coil to the motor.
Runs, but barely. I could see that the EGR valve was falling apart.
Couple days later. Go get an EGR, and replace that. Two bolts, but oh what rusty bolts. Got em, finally. Install the EGR with the provided gasket, and the little orifice restictor that most closely matched the orifice of the old EGR.
Now, to see if I could get the van running. Won't start. The spark is good at the coil. I pulled a spark wire, and put a spark plug on top of the valve cover. Sparks, but weak, every now and again when cranking. But, it also sparked when I turned the key off. Even though the rotor was pointed some where else. Hmm. Not good.
Went to the parts store, and bought new cap, rotor, wires. Put them all on. Motor still won't start. But, I've got good spark at a plug on top of the valve cover. Turn the distributer here and there while the motor is cranking, and not even a hint of fire. Tried a squirt of ether, and that still doesn't help.
The rotor turns with the starter, so I think that indicates that the timing chain is still connected.
I got the Chilton manual out, and confirmed the spark plug wiring. Read through the troubleshooting section. None of that is doing much good.
Put in a new set of Champion spark plugs, still nothing. Not even a hint of starting.
It's raining today, and I'm not eager to get any wetter than I am already. I'm about at my wits end, can't make much sense of this. What else comes to mind?
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Christopher A. Young
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Ignition computer?

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On the 87, only had the spark module. Which is fine; the plugs spark.
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Christopher A. Young
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I had a 79 Chrysler with a "Lean Burn" module. It would fail on occasion.. Driving along and all of a sudden engine would just die.
All these mechanics would say check everything else except that. I borrowed a Mitchells troubleshooting book which pointed to that.

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Are you getting fuel?
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"Stormin Mormon" <cayoung61-&spamblock*-@hotmail.com> wrote in message
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Think so. In any case, ether didn't help.
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Stormin Mormon wrote:

But do the plugs spark with a white or yellow arc?
JAM
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Closer to white. It was a couple days ago. I've decided to junk the van and get anotehr one.
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On Wed, 21 Mar 2007 18:20:27 -0400, "Stormin Mormon"
wrote:

wire on the cap?
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Havn't checked that.
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Jim, it's dead!
Anyone want an old van, in the western NY area? Make offer -- you come and haul the carcass away.
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