1961 Chevrolet Corvette - Something Old, Something New

Tommy Vinciguerra's Pro Street '61 Blends Modern Performance In A Classic Package

Richard Prince Jul 1, 2008 0 Comment(s)
Vemp_0807_09_z 1961_chevrolet_corvette Steering_column 1/16

The Jim Meyer suspension is designed to work with a modern rack-and-pinion steering setup. As a further upgrade, Tommy V. decided to add a new column and a leather-wrapped wheel from Flaming River Industries.

Steering
Perhaps the weakest link in a solid axle's chassis is its steering system. One of the many benefits of the Jim Meyer Racing Products front-suspension kit is that it's designed to work with a modern rack-and-pinion steering setup. The steering rack mounts to tabs at the front of the crossmember with a total of four bolts. A Cobra manual steering rack is standard with the kit, and a power-assist rack is available as an option.

The stock steering column does not interface with the new rack-and-pinion system, so you'll have to either modify your original column or install a new one. In keeping with his desire to upgrade every component in the steering system to today's technology, Tommy V. opted to go with a new column from Flaming River Industries.

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The Flaming River steering wheel gets prominent placement in the Vette's cabin. A full, custom-leather interior is currently in the works.

Installation is pretty straightforward, with the most difficult part being removal of the original column. After pulling off the steering wheel and hub, you'll need to remove the turn-signal lever and mast jacket housing. Next, take the bezel off where the column goes under the instrument housing and unscrew the two bolts holding the column support bracket in the area beneath the housing. Remove the bezel from the firewall where the column passes through.

The steering box is held to the chassis by three bolts. When you take these bolts out, a spacer between the box and chassis rail will fall out, and a pitman-arm stop bracket on the inside of the framerail will also drop free. Remove the driver-side exhaust manifold and engine-mount bracket to gain added clearance, and then manipulate the column/steering box away from the frame and pull it out of the firewall.

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A Hurst shifter handles gear selection atop a G-Force GF-5R five-speed transmission. The G-Force unit is significantly stronger than the stock trans, and its extra cog makes the car much more usable on the street.

The new Flaming River column easily slipped into position and bolted into place with new hardware. It mounted to the firewall with a universal swivel-ball mount, and Tommy V. connected it to the steering rack with a stainless-steel intermediate shaft and universal joint made by Flaming River for that purpose. The steering system was completed with a beautifully crafted, leather-wrapped steering wheel, also from Flaming River. The wheel features stainless spokes similar to those of an original C1 wheel, but the outer rim has a smaller diameter. While Tommy V. mounted his to a new Flaming River column, bear in mind that this wheel will also bolt right up to a stock C1 steering column.

Brakes
The Jim Meyer kit is designed to work with '70-'81 Camaro spindles. Although these aren't included in the kit, they are readily available. In Tommy V.'s case, one call to Ken Roth at On-Time Auto Parts landed the needed spindles and ball joints. Corresponding Camaro brake calipers will bolt right up, but you can also utilize a number of aftermarket high-performance brake systems. Tommy V. chose to install a Wilwood four-wheel-disc system that offers far better stopping power than the stock setup, courtesy of 6-piston front and 4-piston rear calipers clamping down on 13-inch rotors.

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The stock master cylinder got the hook in favor of this Wilwood master, which is designed to work with four-wheel discs.

The Wilwood system utilizes fabricated caliper-mounting brackets, which means that the original GM caliper-mount tabs had to be cut off of the spindles. Also, the original caliper-mount holes needed to be enlarged by drilling them with a 0.332-inch diameter bit and then threading the holes with a 3/8-16 tap.

The Wilwood kit comes with aluminum front hubs that have been machined for two different five-lug patterns (5x4.50- and 5x4.75-inch). All C1 Corvettes used a 5x4.75-inch lug pattern from the factory, so unless it's been changed along the way, this is the one you'll be using. After installing new wheel studs into the appropriate holes, Tommy V. installed the rotor onto the hub. The rotor bolts are drilled for safety wire, and it's important that they be correctly wired.

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