Vette-Rod/Resto-Mod Corvette builds are on fire today. As many people are discovering, you can have the best of both worlds with these Corvettes. The current trend is to have the look of a classic Corvette with all the creature comforts of the late-models, while blending in the performance and handling of a C4/C5 caliber car. The result is cool, early-Corvette styling with 21st century drivability.
We're currently building a Resto-Mod '68 Corvette that has plenty of power, anti-lock brakes with BAER six-piston calipers, Vintage Air A/C, and plenty of suspension upgrades. One important upgrade to the car was rack-and-pinion steering, which requires new steering linkage to connect to the steering column for our Resto-Mod. When we got to that part of the job, the original '68 non-tilt column was in rough shape and was either ready for a rebuild or to be replaced.
The simple solution was to replace the column with a new Flaming River tilt column that is ready to go with four-way flashers and new turn-signal switch technology. Flaming River offers tilt columns with the correct diameter tube to fit correctly in the dash of any '63-'68 Corvette. Their tilt columns are a nice addition to the early Corvettes, especially when you're entering and exiting the cockpit. in the past, there wasn't a new tilt column available, and we had to retro-fit a difficult-to-find, used one from another GM vehicle.
There are also adapters available to reinstall your original steering wheel or one of the many new Flaming River steering wheels that are offered. Once installed, the column looks like it was installed on the assembly line. Flaming River also has highly polished, 304-grade stainless steel column assemblies if you're looking to add some "bling" to your ride.
In our installation, we went for the mill-finish stainless steel tilt column so we could paint it the interior color and then top it off with a cool-looking Flaming River steering wheel. The steering wheel we picked had bright-silver carbon-fiber material with a red leather covering. We liked the carbon-fiber silver on the steering wheel so much we replaced the custom seat inserts with the same material.
To begin the install, we face...
To begin the install, we face our first dilemma: do we cut the plate off the original column and most likely destroy it or fabricate a new plate? We decided to fabricate a new plate because it is hard to find a good, repairable, original column for a '68 Corvette today. We started with a piece of .080 flat steel and cut the center smaller than necessary to allow us to have the tabs for welding the plate to the column.
The .080 steel forms easily...
The .080 steel forms easily and makes the column fit tightly to the firewall. We placed the fabricated plate on the column, then put the column in position before tack welding it in place. An original firewall seal can be used since we duplicated the original firewall plate, plus the steering column can be adjusted accordingly.
Our next dilemma was the column-to-dash...
Our next dilemma was the column-to-dash support. after some thought, we found a piece of 2x.125-inch-thickness square tube would work well for the support. The center was cut with a 111/42-inch hole saw, while the rest of the bracket was plasma cut.
Before we start the install, here are a few tips to consider. Before the first bracket or support is welded to the column, make sure of the steering-column alignment. We found that placing the steering column further away from the dash allows more wiggle room with the steering-shaft installation. The steering angles aren't as drastic when the steering column doesn't protrude as much through the firewall, so keep that in mind during the installation. We found the best policy is to mock-up the complete steering column and shaft assembly together or you might be surprised by a crooked steering column rubbing hard on one side of the dash. The steering-column support has a plate that can be moved side-to-side as well as fore and aft. This effects column placement. The support plate also raises or lowers the column at the dash.
From time to time in the past, we would see factory-installed steering columns that were placed at an angle and tight against the dash with the owners complaining that it didn't look right. When they checked with their mechanic, they were told that's just the way it is. But there is a fix. The support plate just needs some adjustment, and the column can be moved where it needs to be.
Once the column fits well and the linkage turns without binding the column, supports can be welded in place. Make sure each mounting bolt is tight before any tack welds are performed. Once the supports are in place, final welding can proceed; be careful to weld small sections and cool the area with a wet cloth to avoid overheating the stainless steel that could damage the nylon bearing supports in the column.
Assembling a correct steering linkage is very important. Make sure all the steering shafts are fully seated in the coupling properly. A collapsible steering shaft should be used when the steering shaft has a straight shot to the steering column; angled steering shafts will fold away absorbing impact in a crash, whereas a straight column can be deadly as it is driven towards you.
This is our finished column...
This is our finished column support ready to be tack welded in place. To provide crash protection, original aluminum wedges were used to allow the column to slide away from the driver in a crash. The auto manufacturers spent millions of dollars on safety items, and they should be incorporated in any installation if possible.
We had to fabricate a similar...
We had to fabricate a similar bracket for the additional column support. We mimicked the first fabricated bracket with the exception of omitting a support tab. The aluminum wedge was also used to allow column slide if necessary.
Both support brackets were...
Both support brackets were tack welded with the column bracket in place for alignment. We measured the approximate location of the original supports from the original column, then final welding takes place after the column is installed and positioned properly. Proper column position will be determined when the dash panel is in place.
We have the speedo/tachometer...
We have the speedo/tachometer cluster panel in place again to align the steering column to make sure the column goes in the center of the dash. There is a lot of movement available side-to-side and up-and-down. Make sure you check the alignment before you tighten all the bolts down.
Now that the column is in...
Now that the column is in close proximity, we'll install the linkage that Flaming River provided. We used a Flaming River Vibration Resistor right off the column to absorb vibrations and prevent fatigue cracks and failures from road vibrations. Notice that we also fabricated a heat shield on the header tube to avoid overheating the coupling that could cause premature failure.
We also put another heat shield...
We also put another heat shield where the middle U-joint is supported by a rod end. The steering column must be supported when three or more U-joints are used. Rotate the steering shaft from lock-to-lock position while checking the U-joint for binding against the steering shaft. The U-joint trunions should never touch each other while turning.
Once the steering-column shaft...
Once the steering-column shaft length is determined, the set screws are tightened down to make an impression on the shaft. Once the set screw makes an impression, a 51/416-inch drill bit can be used to drill a recess in the shaft. This allows the set screw to tighten the coupling fully to the shaft. each coupling has two set screws that require the drill treatment.
The shaft has the depression...
The shaft has the depression drilled into it, then it is slid into the coupling. Once the shaft is in place, the set screw should have Loc-Tite applied to the threads to prevent a loose set screw. the cinch nuts require tightening. Just remember, this is the steering of your car and any error may cost a life.
The Flaming River Vibration...
The Flaming River Vibration Resistor steering coupler is installed on the new Flaming River column, aligning the set screw with the flat on the steering-column shaft. We can move the firewall plate on the inside to position the steering shaft properly. The whole install takes some finagling to have a smooth-operating steering linkage, but with patience it can be done without too much aggravation.
Flaming River has a billet...
Flaming River has a billet turn-signal and tilt-lever kit to add a clean look to the install. Don't forget that the turn-signal lever must be installed before the steering-wheel hub is installed. If you prefer, the original-style levers can be used to keep an OE look.
There is a little wiring required...
There is a little wiring required to connect the new style turn-signal switch wiring to the original, but Flaming River has an understandable instruction sheet along with the necessary connectors. The flasher is added and incorporated into the wiring connector to provide four-way flashers on all '63-'68 applications.
| DIFFICULTY INDEX ::: NNNN |
|ANYONE'S PROJECT | no tools required || |
|BEGINNER | basic tools || |
|EXPERIENCED | special tools || |
|ACCOMPLISHED | special tools and outside help || |
|PROFESSIONALS ONLY | send this work out || |
Flaming River steering columnPN FR2001VTA
Shorty dress-up kit tilt & turn-signal leverPN FR20112CU
Meg-A-Force three-spoke steering wheelPN FR20126RE
31/44-36-spline Double-D vibration resistorPN FR1887
17 mm to 31/44 DD steering rack coupling to shaft PN FR1759DD
31/44 DD to 31/44 DD center U-jointPN FR1716DD
S/S steering shaft, mill-finish,18-inches longPN FR1850SS
S/S steering-shaft support bearingPN FR1811