We know that many Ford enthusiasts own a new Ford car or truck as well as a vintage one. One of the things many really enjoy about the late-model cars is the first-rate handling characteristics and precise steering. After climbing out of the new car and into the older one, one of the first things many will notice is the significant contrast between the steering on the vintage car compared to the late-model one.
While an older car with a good alignment tracks adequately, the on-center spot is likely vague and the steering wheel will move from side to side for an inch or two before any change in vehicle direction occurs.
Many vintage Ford cars also have power steering, so both the slack and time lag in the control-valve function, combine with the worn steering box to create imprecise steering. This factor is often magnified as vehicle speed increases. The time lag caused by the power-steering control valve between input and response can be disconcerting at higher speed and maintaining lane position can be a challenge as the driver tries to compensate for the inherent problem.
Shedding extra weight and the problems that go along with the factory steering and power steering in particular is something many want to do. They would also like a vintage car to steer with the same composure and confidence as a newer Mustang. And while this is plenty to ask, the Total Control Products division of Chris Alston Chassisworks offers both power and manual power rack and pinion steering for early Ford cars that makes this goal possible.
The TCP setup offers top-quality components and a sturdy mounting arrangement. Because most cars are primarily for street use we decided to show the installation of a TCP power rack-and-pinion steering system. Steering effort is easier at low speeds and while parking, but during highway driving, TCP’s power rack-and-pinion steering will essentially provide new-car-like steering dynamics.
This is the complete power rack-and-pinion setup from Total Control Products. In addition to the rack itself, the kit is all inclusive with the power steering pump and mounting bracket, pressure hoses and remote-mounted fluid reservoir. TCP offers applications for its rack-and-pinion steering systems (both power and manual) for several models including Comet, Cougar, Falcon, Mustang and Ranchero in model years ranging from 1960-1970.
1. Here’s our ’69 Mustang subject car on jackstands. We raised only the front axle for the job and chocked the rear wheels for the duration of the project. Initially we were a little apprehensive about not having a vehicle hoist and a complete shop at hand but after reviewing the instructions we felt confident that we wouldn’t run up against anything we couldn’t handle on jackstands. We also had a small air compressor on hand with a 3/8-inch impact and an air ratchet. Beyond these things and hand tools, the only special tool needed was a cut-off wheel.
2. The TCP steering rack mounts to the car in place of the factory crossmember that’s mounted under the oil pan. The rack is a stronger assembly that’s easily up to the task of taking the loads usually handled by the factory part. Here the driver’s side fastener is removed.
3. Here, the crossmember comes away from the framerails. It’s just a bent tube with crimped ends – not pretty but functional. Although we don’t plan on removing the new steering system, saving the old parts is probably still a good idea, which we plan to do.
4. Because the entire steering linkage on this car had recently been replaced, we didn’t have any problem getting the tie rods to separate from the steering horn on the spindle or from the drag link. You may need to use a pickle fork or other persuasive tool but try not to damage the grease boots because they will be reused along with the tie rods themselves.
5. Here we begin the process of separating the drag link from the pitman arm on the steering box. Neither the drag link nor pitman arm are reused. Here again you may need to use a pickle fork or two-jawed puller to accomplish the separation.
6. At the other end of the drag link don’t bother disconnecting the idler arm. Simply unbolt it from the car and it will come away along with the whole steering linkage as shown here.
7. Under hood we disconnected the steering column from the steering box at the rag joint. Here, we are inside the car removing the four bolts that affix the column to the floor.
8. Next, the column support fasteners were removed from underneath the instrument panel and the whole steering column is removed from the car and set aside.
9. Up inside the driver-side wheelhouse, the three steering-box retaining bolts are removed. The steering box is now free of the framerail but it was snagging on both the car’s full-length headers and the clutch cross shaft. It wouldn’t go out the bottom of the car either.
10. Here the OE steering box is removed from the engine bay. We had to drop the header on the driver’s side and also remove the clutch pushrod. We were able to get the steering box past the clutch cross-shaft without having to remove it. Before going on we reinstalled the headers and clutch linkage.
11. At this juncture the main instruction sheet refers you to a separate sheet detailing the preparation of the steering column. By 1968, most Ford cars were equipped with a collapsible steering column as a safety feature. This actually made our job easier. Instead of having to cut the long steering shaft found on earlier cars, the lower portion of the collapsible steering shaft is simply removed from the column tube. Grab it with a pair of pliers and tap on the pliers with a hammer. The lower portion of the shaft will easily separate from the upper half and come out of the column tube.
12. Next, the lower shaft is simply replaced with the Total Control part by slipping it into the column tube where it will join the OE upper shaft by going into it. The lower shaft is the male component while the upper is female. The depth of insertion is determined by the amount of lower shaft needed to protrude from the column so don’t sink the new lower shaft into the upper all the way.
13. Here the TCP lower bearing retainer is installed over the lower steering shaft. It needs to seat on the end of the column tube completely while allowing approximately an inch of the lower shaft to extend beyond the bearing.
14. With the bearing retainer in place we drilled three holes to receive the furnished screws and secure the retainer in place on the end of the column tube. There is empty distance or slack remaining in the upper steering shaft as the lower shaft isn’t inserted the whole way. Thus, the collapsible nature of the steering column is retained. This completes the required modifications to the steering column.
15. Reinstall the modified column back into the car. However, the fasteners at the floor and under the instrument panel are not tightened the whole way just yet. We will want to be able to slightly slide the column back and forth to achieve installation of the column to steering-rack shaft and to later make final adjustments.
16. Back underneath the car, remove the attachment bolts for the lower control arms. They will be replaced with longer bolts thus providing two additional mounting points for the steering rack. With the suspension hanging freely you should be able to remove the bolts and alignment eccentrics without moving the control arms.
17. The eccentrics will be eliminated from the suspension and replaced with these adjustment plates supplied with the kit. They are drilled with three holes each and provide many different alignment adjustments. As long as the lower control arms haven’t moved, you can eyeball the correct placement of the plates lining them up with the holes in the control arm bushings and this aspect of the front end alignment won’t be changed. At the end of the job, alignment should still be checked, but only toe-in should require adjustment.
18. With the alignment adjustment plates in the correct position it’s a simple matter to install the new longer bolts. Gently tap them all the way through from front to rear with a hammer as shown.
19. The rack mounting brackets are then installed on the new bolts. Don’t tighten down the fasteners all the way yet because you will need to be able to shift the rack around during the installation process.
20. The heavy mounting brackets at either end of the rack attach to the car using the factory crossmember mounting holes. The driver’s side bracket is a permanent part of the rack assembly while the passenger side bracket must be prepared as shown here. First is the lock washer, next is the flat washer and then the bolt goes through the mounting bracket. It’s then equipped with the ¼-inch spacer as shown. The permanently affixed bracket will also require this spacer.
21. Here the passenger side bracket is installed into the crossmember mounting point. Also visible is a mounting bracket attached at the lower control arm. There are a total of four mounting points for the steering rack.
22. The steering rack is next installed into position. The rack is fairly heavy so it’s nice to have two people on hand. A person doing the installation alone would need a floor jack to support the weight of the rack while the fasteners are installed.
23. At the other end of the rack, you can see how this mounting bracket is welded to the steering rack itself. As the fastener is installed notice also that the required spacer between the mounting bracket and framerail has not been overlooked.
24. These machined bushings are used to adapt the OE tie rods to the steering rack. They are required because the studs are tapered and the flat piece of steel that is the steering-rack output is too thin to accommodate a tapered bore.
25. Here a tie rod end goes into place on the rack output. It will be retained on the other side by the OE style castle nut and cotter pin.
26. At the spindle end of the tie rod, the attachment is accomplished. Remember, the rack is still loose in the car and once the installation is completed, a trip to the alignment shop will be required.
27. This is the completed rack installation underneath the car. However, there is still plenty of work left to do under the hood.
28. This is the situation underneath the hood relative to connecting the TCP rack to the car’s original steering column. Note that we had to dimple one header tube to provide clearance for the rack input. We felt lucky that this was all that was necessary and clearly TCP cannot be expected to anticipate every possible header and clutch combination. Initially, we were a little concerned about clearance for the clutch shaft but in the end the steering connection shaft cleared the cross shaft with plenty of room to spare.
29. The next step was to install both universal joints needed to make the connection between steering wheel and steering rack. This one is splined to accept the rack input shaft while the others were designed with flat sided circles to fit the furnished shafts. Each U-joint has two set screws at either end and when the final assembly is made they are secured with a thread locking compound such as Loctite.
30. Here the crucial measurement is made for the connecting shaft. The instructions say that the shaft must extend into the U-joints for a distance of one inch, all the way up to the shoulder of the U-joint but no further. The maximum connecting distance is desired while using a shaft cut too long would cause binding. Our measurement came out to exactly 3¾-inches.
31. Using the provided stock, our measurement mark was made using a laundry marker and the shaft secured in a bench vise. We fitted a circular saw with a carbide cut-off blade which made short work of the job.
32. In order to install the connecting shaft we had to slide the steering column back a little and the new piece fit right in. Here the Allen set screws are being tightened down snug.
33. With the final connection made, the steering column was permanently installed at both the column base and underneath the dash. All fasteners for the steering rack underneath the car were also tightened for the final time.
34. Take a look at our final column to rack connection. It’s a slick looking and bulletproof arrangement that clears everything nicely.
35. Here the KRC power steering pump is mounted to the engine using the supplied bracket and spacers. Since this car didn’t have power steering or A/C, the pulleys are all single groove. We might switch to double groove pulleys because we don’t want to run the alternator, water pump and power steering pump off of only one belt.
36. Included in the kit were these top quality power-steering lines which can be assembled at home without any special crimping tools. The main thing to be concerned with about the lines is cleanliness. Any foreign mater such as rubber particles or dirt will destroy the pump in short order. TCP recommends cleaning them with a rifle bore brush followed by soap and water and compressed air.
37. Our car had plenty of space available for mounting the power-steering fluid reservoir. Just make sure that a location above the power-steering pump is selected. Be sure the reservoir is filled before fire up because running the pump dry for even a short time will ruin it.
Total Control Products