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Verify timing first. For the most part, you will only need a 10mm wrench and some various 10mm sockets or various extensions.

Valvecover off, then the upper timing belt cover. All 10mm.

Then manually turn the engine over until the TDC red or white marking is shown on the crank pulley. Turn it COUNTER clockwise, the same direction these engines spin.

Then you simply look at the exposed camgear and see if it also indicates TDC via the "UP" marking, and the two side slash markings on the gear that indicate lined up with the head, where the valvecover touches it.

Unless the distributor is aftermarket, an OEM distributor should never need to be maxxed out in any direction if you are trying to run it as stock as possible.

While I say an OEM distributor SHOULD never have to be maxed, I have seen a couple, though that likely could have been aftermarket distirbutor with OEM guts swapped in (the housings do crack with slipped tools sometimes or overtightened bolts)

For now, I would highly recommend loosening the distributor, centering it, and seeing if it runs okay.

Check valve lash while the valvecover is off.

Check the camshaft itself for odd wear and tear, indicating oil starvation at some point in its life.
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