Now that the custom firewall was welded into Pile House I could work on making the truck finally steer from inside the cab. This is one big step to making Pile House an actual vehicle rather than a piece of "garage art".
Pile House (like many hot rod and customs) is a collection of all sorts of parts. This means that there wasn't going to be a steering column that would be a bolt-in option. One of my favorite things about custom cars and trucks is that there are no real rules and you can use whatever you have the imagination, tools, and skills to make fit. I want to keep the truck looking "old" even though it is sitting on a modern Chevy S-10 chassis so I chose to mix some vintage parts with some universal parts from Speedway Motors. I covered the supplies I got in one of our last posts. The crown jewel for this part of the project is the unique late 40's Packard Column housing that is a flattened oval shape.
I started by taking the bottom half of the S10 steering joint and removing the rag joint and splined portion that mates to the steering box. I will be utilizing the modern S10 power steering so I decided to keep the steering box as well. After I got the rag and slip joint removed I went to my local auto parts store in the "Help!" aisle and got a rag joint repair kit. These little kits are less than $20 and will get rid of the slop in your steering when using this style GM steering damper. I opted to use grade 8 hardware instead of what came with the kit, but otherwise it is just a matter of drilling or grinding the heads off of the studs and reinstalling the new rag joint.
Once I had the joint rebuilt I slipped it onto the Speedway column shaft and tack welded it in place with the MIG 175.
I then marked out the location where the column would go through the new firewall and I used our new prototype Eastwood Hole Saws to make a hole just a little larger than the opening for the column support bearing. I want a clean firewall so I opted to stich weld the column support behind the firewall.
Once the column was run through the firewall I had to use the Speedway Motors double jointed steering knuckle to get it to match the position of the original steering column under the dash. I again opted to put this behind the firewall under the dash to keep the clutter out of the engine bay. I chose to drill holes with the Eastwood Drill Bit Index Set in the ends of the knuckle to install bolts through the column so it could be split for maintenance. This is especially important since the steering column goes through the V8S10 headers.
With the column in place and cut to length, I installed it in the Packard housing. I then temporarily tack welded the original steering wheel to the column so I could set the angle of the wheel and column when sitting in the truck. This was a good excuse for me to sit in it and make engine noises and pretend to shift.. admit it, we all do it in our projects at least once!
Once I found a comfortable angle for the column I used the Eastwood Adjustable Profile Gauges to make a paper template to match the shape of the Packard housing. I wanted to clamp the column from underneath and reuse the original mounting holes under the dash like the original column used. I made up the box and used the Eastwood TIG 200 to weld it all together. I drilled some holes in the pieces to match the ones in the dash already and ran some hardware up through my new column clamp. The result is a sturdy column and Project Pile House steers from inside! I'll be making the final modifications to the column when my steering wheel shows up from ebay. I ended up going with a period correct wheel from another make, it should look pretty cool when mated up to my new column.
Stay tuned I'm moving onto making new floors, kick panels, and repairing more rust. We're still waging war on the rusty demons this truck has!