Dave Stribling
September 27, 2006
Photos By: David Stribling/DVS Restorations

Faithful followers of Mustang and Fords know that a rack-and-pinion conversion is one of the best things they can do to modernize their classic Ford. But maybe you've found sometimes all is not as it seems-word of mouth complaints, swap-meet conversations, and countless Internet chat-room rants surrounding the conversion have made you squeamish about taking the leap to better steering and handling. Our goal is to show you how and why things work, along with the right way to get your car handling properly.

There are typically four phobias about a rack-and-pinion conversion:

  • Will the rack fit?
  • Will my headers fit the rack?
  • Power-steering pump issues.
  • Bumpsteer? More like bum steer.

We'll discuss each of these as we go through our conversion. Our guinea pig is a '70 Mustang convertible that's already had a complete frontend rebuild. The conversion rack system has been provided by Randall's Rack. After installing several different rack systems on different cars, we really like the way Randall's has thought through the complete system, and the company is constantly improving its product. In fact, while writing this article, we got several new toys from Randall's, demonstrating its continuous improvement mindset. Those are the kind of guys we like working with.

Our rack-and-pinion conversion was performed at DVS Restorations in Crawfordsville, Indiana.

Phobia #1: Will the rack fit?
There are several reasons why people run into fitment issues:

Forty years of twists, rust, wrecks, and Dukes of Hazzard-style driving are not kind to these cars. Not only that, but we've seen cars with as much as 11/44 inch of fitment slop from the factory. We've had to beat rack-mounting brackets into cars in the past-not because the bracket was bad, but because the cars were poorly made.

Aftermarket parts are another problem. Big, deep, oil pans are usually the culprit, but other items, such as headers (an entirely separate phobia), braking upgrades, and so on can all cause fitment issues. As enthusiasts, we have to give the rack guys some latitude and understand that it is impossible to design for every aftermarket parts combination, but they should get a decent majority of them.

Poor design. OK, time to put the manufacturers on the line here. We've had stuff that had us shaking our heads trying to figure out what the engineer was thinking. If you've ever installed any aftermarket parts on your car, you have thought this at one time or another.

The Randall's Rack system addresses all the above issues. It uses an adjust-able mounting bracket to adapt to 40 years of frame twisting. The hybrid style of tie-rod system reduces the footprint for parts clearance, and all but the biggest aftermarket parts typically clear. Existing bolt holes are used for the steering gear, idler arm, and crossmember, so there are no conflicts connecting to the suspension or adding additional holes. The only modification to our car was to grind about a 1/4-inch notch on the driver-side engine mount support, which took about 30 seconds. No notching frames, no welding, and it's fully adjustable.

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