Rack 'Em Up! - A Classic Ford Upgrade With TCP's Rack-And-Pinion Steering Installation
Ditch Your Ford's Ancient Steering Setup For The Precision Of TCP's Modern Rack-And-Pinion Steering System
From the January, 2011 issue of Modified Mustangs & Fords
By Mark Houlahan
Photography by Courtesy Total Control Products
We love a good project around here and while we're constantly building or modifying our Fords, oftentimes delays and the real world get in the way of timely completion. We're often quite jealous of the owners we talk to who tell us they restored and modified their classic Mustang or Ford in a scant eight months. OK, jealous might be too light a word here, but we've had cars sit for eight months waiting on parts or to be painted and this guy got his whole car done in that time? Ouch! Of course, in these cases, said owner is usually a "jack of all trades" and handled his own paint and bodywork, engine build, fabrication, wiring, and more, so that really cuts out a lot of middle men. Often these projects come to a timely finale because the owner has the time and the wallet to go along with the skill set, making us all the more jealous! So when we got a call from Chris Alston, head honcho of Chassisworks, VariShock, and Total Control Products (TCP) about the transformation of a '65 Mustang coupe into a handling, turning, and stopping sensation, our interest was piqued.
The '65 he found happened to be right outside the front door, as it is owned by Patti Rieger, Chassisworks' general manager. Patti has been upgrading the car for a while now, including a fresh paintjob, a new Ford Racing 351 crate engine, and some 16-inch wheels. To put that new power to the ground and bring the handling, steering, and braking up to the level that will make the car's new found power safe to use, as well as make the car more enjoyable to drive, a full complement of TCP products are being installed on the car in-house. Over the course of the next several issues we'll be following along as the TCP shop takes Patti's coupe from stocker to rocker with rack-and-pinion steering, coilover suspension at all four corners, frame reinforcements, and more. TCP is also going to give Patti some help in the braking department with Wilwood binders all around and a Strange 9-inch out back will be added with the rear four-link. We'll start off with the rack-and-pinion upgrade this month and continue through the suspension and brake upgrades, all the while discussing the benefits of said upgrades and their cost outlay.
As noted, our first installment this month is the TCP rack-and-pinion upgrade. We've all discussed rack-and-pinion kits, be it here in the magazine or on a website/forum, and there are several choices for classic Mustang owners. The TCP rack kit has a lot of thought and engineering built into it and if you shop completely by price, you might just miss out. Yes, the TCP kit is a little north of some other racks available, but the TCP rack is designed from the ground up for a classic Mustang's chassis. It's not a modified GM center-steer rack, but a completely engineered solution that bolts in, does not reduce front chassis strength and does not increase turning radius (matter of fact, the radius is exactly the same as stock by copying the stock steering box's 63/8 inches of travel). The TCP rack also does not change steering geometry, so there's no bumpsteer, excessive tire wear, or Ackerman issues.
With some rack kits, you play hell finding a header to fit, but the TCP rack improves exhaust manifold/header clearance or ground clearance with its tight-to-the-body mounting position and the rack's servo position close to the left framerail for maximum exhaust clearance. Best of all, the rack's effort and power steering pump's output are completely tunable for road feel, driving style, and tire size. It's a quality unit you won't regret opening your wallet for. Check out the photos and you'll agree. Stay tuned for more on the TCP '65 Mustang project.
The TCP rack kit includes...
The TCP rack kit includes the necessary parts to modify your steering column to work with the new rack (or you can purchase an aftermarket tilt column). Remove the horn button or center cap of your wheel and then remove the wheel's retaining nut so that a proper steering wheel puller can be utilized to remove the wheel, as shown here.
Disconnect the turn signal...
Disconnect the turn signal harness and unbolt the column tube's retaining clamp at the base of the dash. Due to age, the column tube might be a bit stuck on the dash base or even the steering gearbox itself, but with a little pulling and twisting you'll get the column tube free of its grip on the car, and then it can be removed from the steering shaft.
There are some modifications...
There are some modifications that need to be done to the column tube, but we're going to finish pulling all of the old parts off of our Mustang first. Next to get the heave-ho is the complete steering linkage and non-integral power steering setup. Remove the cotter pins and castle nuts at the outer tie-rod ends, the ball stud at the pitman arm, and unbolt the idler arm from the right front framerail. Since we're not reusing these parts, a simple pickle fork and hammer will get everything separated and removed.
Of course the steering gearbox...
Of course the steering gearbox will be joining the other old parts in the scrap pile as well. Remove the three bolts retaining the gearbox to the left front framerail and carefully snake the box down out of the car. Having someone inside to guide the shaft out helps prevent any damage to the dash. The driver-side exhaust usually has to be removed for access as well.
Lastly, the tubular number...
Lastly, the tubular number two crossmember is unbolted from the car, as the new TCP rack bolts to the Mustang in place of said crossmember.
As noted earlier, the stock...
As noted earlier, the stock column requires some modifications to work with the TCP rack setup. For '65 through early '67 Mustangs that use the long shaft steering box, the column tube itself needs to be shortened to 295/16 inches. This can be accomplished with a bandsaw (as seen here) or even with a hacksaw or cut-off wheel. For the latter two, use a hose clamp as a cutting guide.
Once you've made the cut to...
Once you've made the cut to the column tube, slide the new steering shaft into the column and slip the supplied lower bearing retainer over it. The firewall support clamp is slipped onto the column tube and aligned with the mounting bracket tab's slot and wiring harness opening.
The new steering shaft features...
The new steering shaft features a double-D 3/4-inch end that accepts a "DD" universal joint. The groove just above this area gets a small snap-ring retainer installed. This prevents the shaft from pulling up through the column tube when the steering wheel is reinstalled.
Reinstall the original upper...
Reinstall the original upper bearing support, spring, and steering wheel on the column shaft and secure with the original steering wheel nut. This puts tension on the steering shaft so the bearing retainer can be secured by drilling three 9/64-inch holes and adding the three supplied screws. After drilling the holes, it is recommended to disassemble the column and vacuum or blow out any metal shavings from drilling the three holes and then reassemble.
Installing the modified column...
Installing the modified column back in the car is a simple process. First, mount the column support bracket on the firewall and slide the column through the firewall. Secure the floor mounting ring loosely to the firewall bracket and then secure the original under dash bracket to the dash. Finally, go back and tighten the set screws on the column support and reconnect all column wiring.
Moving on to the rack install,...
Moving on to the rack install, we first replace the original lower control arm bolts with the kit-supplied longer grade-8 hardware. The easiest way to do this is to carefully drive out the old bolts with the new bolts using a small plastic face or non-marring mallet. This will keep the lower control arm from shifting.
The reason the longer bolts...
The reason the longer bolts are used is to give a place for the inner rack brackets to mount to. The driver-side bracket is shown installed here. The brackets are slotted to allow adjustment of the rack.
The outer rack brackets will...
The outer rack brackets will bolt to the original tubular crossmember mounting holes. Shims are supplied (if needed) to adjust the rack here as well. The driver-side bracket is actually integral to the rack housing and is seen being loosely installed here.
With the driver-side bracket...
With the driver-side bracket loosely installed, the outer clamp halves are installed and tightened in gradual steps to secure the rack. Finally, the remaining bracket hardware is tightened to finalize the rack installation. The original or new tie-rod ends can be installed at this time, but we're holding off since new suspension will be joining this project shortly.
TCP supplies the correct universal...
TCP supplies the correct universal joints for the column and rack fittings, as well as a length of DD shaft. The shaft length is measured per the included instructions and installed with the joints. Be sure to follow all directions for securing the joint's set screws. While there are no headers on this engine yet, you can see that the rack's pinion gear housing is very close to the framerail, offering the most header clearance possible.
The final piece of the puzzle...
The final piece of the puzzle is the power steering pump and mounting bracket. Every engine has its own challenges (pulleys, A/C, and so on), but we were lucky in that this engine doesn't have A/C on it since it is a northern California car. The machined bracket is bolted directly to the cylinder head for our installation using the aluminum spacers. Note the spacers are designed to be adjustable for pulley alignment by either cutting them shorter or adding shims to lengthen-that's trick!
The supplied power steering...
The supplied power steering pump is an aluminum casting with AN pressure and return fittings already installed. The blue pressure fitting can be replaced with different flow rate fittings to adjust the pump's pressure. The included hardware makes the installation a simple job.
To determine your belt length,...
To determine your belt length, a section of rope can be quickly wrapped around the pulleys and measured for overall length, just be sure your pump is situated in the middle of its adjustment travel to give you room to tighten the belt.
The included remote mount...
The included remote mount reservoir is one sweet piece. Not only is it fully polished to show quality, but it features a multi-port return flow path to prevent pump starvation as well as a vented cap with splash shield.
TCP designed the mounting...
TCP designed the mounting bracket with hidden fasteners for a clean underhood appearance. It also offers an optional 14-degree adapter for the reservoir's mount that is designed for the inner fender panel on classic Mustangs to give the reservoir a perfectly vertical mounting setup when bolted to the Mustang's inner fender.
We positioned the reservoir...
We positioned the reservoir at the left front inner fender apron where the original windshield washer bag and bracket was located. We simply moved the windshield washer bag bracket rearward and drilled new mounting holes for the power steering reservoir.
All that's left is to make...
All that's left is to make up our power steering hoses and we'll be done! The base TCP pump kit uses blue fiber braided hoses, but for this build we've stepped up to the braided hose option to go with the polished pump pulley and polished reservoir. Install and clock your line fittings per the instructions and then measure your hose length needed. Wrap the hose tightly with tape where it needs to be cut and use braided hose cutters, a fine tooth hacksaw, or a cut-off wheel to cut the hose to length.
To assemble the hoses, the...
To assemble the hoses, the outer threaded nut is slipped over the hose first, then the braided outer sleeve is gently spread open to allow the ferrule to be installed between the inner Teflon hose and the braided sleeve. Press the end fitting into the Teflon hose and thread the outer nut onto the fitting. Ensure the fitting is clocked in the direction needed before tightening the outer nut. Clean out all hose assemblies with hot water and then compressed air to dry them.
After you've assembled your...
After you've assembled your pressure and return hoses (three total), you can install them between the reservoir, pump, and rack. The rack fittings are clearly marked-P-for pump and T-for tank/reservoir. The large -10 hose will route from the reservoir to the red AN fitting on the pump, while the two -6 hoses will connect between the blue pump fitting and the rack, and the rack and the reservoir respectively.
Routing of the rack hoses...
Routing of the rack hoses can be made easier by picking up one of these TCP hose brackets. The simple affair allows for a clean routing and keeps hoses away from hot exhaust or moving parts that can damage the hoses.
Since this is the first in a series of upgrades for this car, we figured instead of listing product pricing throughout the story, as we normally do, we'd keep a running tally at the end of each story to see the cumulative cost of building a capable classic Mustang for spirited driving that you can live with and drive on the street every day.
|TCP Power Steering Pump
|Polished Pulley Option
|Braided Hose Upgrade
|14-degree Reservoir Adapter
|(*when purchased with kit)
Personalizing Your TCP Steering Setup
Three elements of the TCP power steering system enable the level of assist to be varied to meet individual driver needs. The system can be adjusted to have low effort at the steering wheel for easy maneuvering in mostly low-speed conditions. For high-speed driving and racing, the steering effort can be increased to give the driver improved road feel through increased feedback. Initially set at the middle of the required range, the power steering pump output flow valve (1) can be easily changed to provide eight additional assist levels. Settings outside the range of the flow valves can be accomplished by changing the internal torsion bar (2), shifting the base point of the tuning range. Many vehicles have a tendency to drift right or left while going straight. The causes for this are numerous and many cannot be resolved. To solve this problem, steering bias can be adjusted to perfectly center itself with a simple adjustment on the servo (3).