Sounds like a plan.
Is this engine a known good used engine? Or a rebuilt one?
As your father says, "cold timing" is the best place to start. Remove #1 plug, insert finger, have someone bump the starter till your finger gets blown out. Stop cranking. Manually rotate the engine until the mark on the balancer is lined up with "0" on the timing tab. Pull cap and see if the rotor is pointing to the #1 tower in the cap.