Mark Houlahan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
January 16, 2014

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.
13. The steering shaft itself needs to be shortened significantly, as it will simply be used as the new input shaft to the electric steering assembly. Following the instructions, we measured nine inches from the splined tip of the steering shaft and cut the shaft with a high-speed cutoff wheel.
14a. Included in the kit are set screws and a bottoming tap to secure the modified steering shaft to the motor’s input shaft via a coupling sleeve.
14b. Take careful measurements to ensure the shaft length provides the proper upper column bearing tension to center the steering shaft, then drill and tap the coupling sleeve per the instructions.
15. The electric steering conversion’s control module can be mounted in any location that allows the wiring to connect between the column and the control module. US Auto Performance recommends the firewall near the fuse box on the ’67-’68 Mustang, but the aftermarket A/C interfered. Merv found this section of firewall worked with a small fabricated bracket to secure the module.
16. The heavy gauge red wire seen in the previous photo connects to a hot-at-all-times battery connection. Due to the size of the wire and the expected load, we routed the wire through the firewall and connected it directly to the battery feed at the alternator. The battery or starter solenoid is also a good location.
17. Included and pre-wired with the control module is this small adjustment knob that allows end user adjustment of the electric assist. You can max the assist out for effortless parking lot use or turn it down for better road feel. We shortened the shaft on the unit for a cleaner install.
18. The electric steering assembly with modified column is now fitted to the Mustang’s under dash. Real estate can be tight, but the unit is 360-degree clockable to aid in clearing under dash obstacles. Although US Auto Performance recommends rotating the motor to the 10-11 o’clock location, it fit best at roughly the 4 o’clock position for this particular install.
19. The Mustang specific firewall mounting plate is bolted to the firewall after the OE self-tapping holes are drilled out to accept the included button head fasteners and nuts. Leave the bearing plate loose for now, as it allows the bearing to pivot as needed for intermediate shaft installation.
20. The intermediate shaft is a simple double-D style male/female assembly to provide a collapsing shaft function. Due to the slightly longer Flaming River steering box input shaft, Merv had to cut 1½-inches out of the assembly for it to fit correctly. This should not be required on standard Ford steering box setups.
21. Once the installation is complete, it is simply a matter of plugging the electric steering assembly and the control module together (two pre-terminated plug in connections), then reconnecting the battery.
22. With a twist of the ignition key to test the system, it only takes a split second to hear the control module relay click on and you’re ready for effortless steering. The electric motor is dead quiet and the owner of the car, who had just about given up driving her ’67 due to the lack of power steering, is all smiles now.


Electric vs. Hydraulic Steering Conversion Costs

Yes, the US Auto Performance EPAS system can feel like a big hit to the budget at $1,350, but if your car has manual steering like our ’67, we wondered what it would be like to compare the cost of converting to factory hydraulic versus the electric. We’re talking about adding a power steering center link with control valve, a hydraulic ram assembly, a power steering pump with mounting bracket, engine pulleys, hoses, and more. CJ Pony Parts’ website makes this comparison easy, as they offer complete hydraulic conversion kits and also now stock the US Auto Performance EPAS systems. Check out these current prices and decide for yourself: do you want to deal with under hood packaging and leaks or just have reliable power assisted steering (and save a few bucks too).

’65-’66 Small-Block Power Steering Conversion $1,547.99
’65-’66 Inline Six Power Steering Conversion $1,547.99
’67-’68 Small-block Power Steering Conversion $1,444.99
’67 390 Big-block Power Steering Conversion $1,547.99
’68 Inline Six Power Steering Conversion $1,447.99
’69 Small-block Power Steering Conversion $1,444.99
’69 390 Big-block Power Steering Conversion $1,547.99
’70 351C Power Steering Conversion $1,444.99
’65-’69 EPAS Conversion for All Engines $1,349.99