Advancements in technology allow us to do nearly unlimited things in our daily lives compared to even just a few years ago. From computers you wear as eye glasses to self-driving cars, we should be thankful that these technologies allow us to live fuller lives and provide us with more time and ability to enjoy family, hobbies, and more. It wasn’t that long ago that the term "time shift television viewing" would have people staring at you funny. Now, thanks to devices like TIVO, you can spend that time in the garage on your Mustang project, take your wife to dinner, or watch the kid’s ball game and still catch your favorite show later when it is convenient for you to watch. Yes, technology can make our lives easier.
When it comes to vintage Mustangs, there has certainly been a lot of technology growth since the first generation Mustangs passed from used car status into collector status. From something as simple as a PerTronix Ignitor points replacement ignition kit to more advanced technology like self-learning fuel injection, a lot of vintage Mustangs are seeing more time on the road these days thanks to such advancements. Other areas we’ve seen technology improve our vintage driving experiences include braking (hydraulic assist conversions, aka hydroboost), interior/exterior illumination (LED lighting), and comfort and convenience (electronic A/C, power windows, remote door locks, etc.). Now modern OEM technology has "trickled down" to our vintage Mustangs in the form of electric power assisted steering, or EPAS.
EPAS technology will be familiar to owners of ’11 or newer Mustangs. EPAS is used by OEMs to reduce packaging, eliminate leaks/hoses/reservoirs, and most of all retain that nice power-assisted steering feel without using belt-driven power from the engine, which ultimately increases fuel economy. EPAS is one reason why the ’11 and up V-6 Mustang can achieve 31 mpg highway, besting a lot of so-called fuel efficient cars.
Upgrading a vintage Mustang with an EPAS system is a viable solution for all of the same reasons. Instead of spending your hard-earned cash on stock power steering components that can create packaging issues, hose routing nightmares, and fluid leaks, an EPAS conversion can give you the same assist feel without the headaches.
US Auto Performance’s EPAS system is somewhat universal in nature, but due to the popularity of the vintage Mustang, and the fact one of their demo cars is a Mustang, the company offers the right hardware to fit one of its EPAS systems to ’65-’70 Mustangs, including firewall mounting plates, steering column bushings, intermediate shafts, and more. Intrigued by the system and knowing how well OEM setups work, we just had to snag a system and install it to see if it is really worth the installation effort. While we won’t spoil the ending, we can say with affirmation that the US Auto Performance EPAS system is something seriously worth considering if your vintage Mustang is sans power steering and you want or need the assist function to better enjoy your Mustang on today’s roads.
1. Our ‘67’s interior is stock, save for an aftermarket steering wheel and clamp-on column mounted tachometer. Adding the electric power steering conversion shouldn’t impact the Mustang’s classic interior styling.
2. Whether long or short shaft steering setup, the Mustang’s column needs to come out. Here, Cody Phillips of Classic Creations of Central Florida gets the job started by disconnecting the battery, removing the steering wheel, and unbolting the column support bracket so the column tube can be slid off of the steering box shaft.
3. Steering box removal is required to modify the steering box in long shaft applications (’65-’67). Cody separates the pitman arm from the Mustang’s center link in preparation for removal of the box.
4. Three bolts secure the steering gear box to the driver’s side frame rail. Depending upon engine size, engine mount style, and type of exhaust, further work will be required to extricate the box. For this ’67, that included removing the driver’s side long-tube header and jacking up the engine a couple of inches.
5. Once we started working on the ’67, we discovered that the car had been upgraded with a Flaming River steering box. Flaming River uses a short shaft/rag joint style box with a shaft extension for the earlier cars. Merv Rego of Classic Creations removed the two roll pins and separated the shaft adapter from the steering box so we could use the steering box as a later splined/rag joint setup.
6. Grabbing some cores/spares from Classic Creations’ stash, we’ve lined up (left to right) the ’65-’67 long shaft box, ’68 and up (and ’67 big-block) short shaft box with rag joint, and the Flaming River box with shaft removed. The US Auto Performance EPAS kit is designed to work with a cut-down long shaft box or a standard short shaft box, but we’re confident the Flaming River box can be used as well.
7. Shown here is the US Auto Performance main steering assembly with attached electric motor and the motor controller with wiring. Also shown are the custom pieces US Auto Performance includes to adapt the Mustang’s steering column tube and steering shaft to the unit.
8. Also included in the EPAS system is the correct steering shaft assembly for your year of Mustang and steering box. The ’65-’66 shaft and firewall mount is shown on the left with the ’67 and up on the right.
9. You will reuse your existing column tube, but it must be modified to fit over the electric steering assembly. Measure from the steering wheel end of the column down 13½-inches and scribe a cut line. Remove the turn signal switch and wiring harness, then cut completely through the column tube at the cut line. Remove the column head and use a small chisel and hammer to break the spot welds on the internal wire channel and remove the channel from the column tube.
10. The steering column tube adapter needs to be installed over the steering assembly so measurements can be made to modify and reinstall the wiring channel for the turn signal wiring. A few light taps with a brass or plastic hammer will help it seat.
11. With the column tube temporarily installed over the steering assembly and column tube adapter, a measurement can be taken from the existing wire opening (revealed once the column head is removed) to a location just above the column tube adapter. Cut and re-weld the wire channel to this measurement, as we’re displaying here. Drill a new wire exit hole (the square we’ve drawn on the column tube) and then tack weld the channel into place.
12. Reassemble the modified column tube by reinstalling the column head and turn signal switch. At this point, the column tube modifications are complete and you can set it aside for reinstallation later. US Auto Performance tells us they are currently working to offer pre-modified, ready-to-install steering column kits to make this project easier for the DIY owners out there.