In this installment of our Nova build saga, we finally say goodbye to the terribly loose steering setup for something much tighter. When we were driving the car with the factory power steering last year, the experience was typical of an old car; vague road feel and not very responsive. The early Novas were equipped with a box that took six turns to go lock-to-lock, so it was as if mechanically you were bound to drive like an old lady. Combine the unresponsive box with 50 years of wear and you have a car that can get scary, especially if you're trying to go fast with it.
Unlike other cars that have separate manual and power steering boxes, the early Novas were built and sold with one box. The difference between a Nova with power steering and one without was dependant on a power steering slave cylinder attached to the steering link. If someone wanted manual steering, you'd simply disconnect the slave and remove the pump.
Our 1963 came with a straight-six with power steering and in order to drop in our V8, we'd have to go to with a manual link or remove the ancient power steering slave. This was due to the oil pan design; the steering link traverses through a notch in the pan. The manual link was readily available from Classic Performance Products locally, so to keep things simple, we decided to go with full manual steering instead of adapting a steering rack. We suspect the steering box is lighter, too.
Although converting the car manual steering and dropping the V8 was an easy choice, driving on the street with a stock steering box that takes six turns to steer from end-to-end does, and did sound like a nightmare, so we began to look for steering box options.
Luckily, we found the perfect solution. Flaming River offers a complete kit (PN FR302KT) that includes a quicker ratio box, a cool little tilt steering column, and the u-joints needed to upgrade the 1962-65 Nova steering. The mini column comes either in black or polished with an aluminum mount and when combined with a new manual steering link and tie rods, makes for a complete way to change your steering from unresponsive and loose to quick and tight.
•Quick Ration steering box with 3-1/2 turns lock-to-lock
•Micro tilt column - 5 position with GM wiring (only 17-inch long)
•Eliminates long shaft steering column
•Bolt in Kit - No Welding
1. Here you can see how the stock power steering is set up on an early Nova.
2. The power steering pump provides hydraulic pressure to a charged “shock” that connects to a manifold that assists the driver in steering. It’s a notoriously greasy area we were happy to do away with. This stuff also required removal in order to fit a V8 engine.
3. Disconnecting the tie rods first, we then unbolted the idler arm located on the passenger side. This puts all the weight on the pitman arm side, which will aid in removal.
4. At this point we removed the last castle nut attaching the steering to the car and used a pickle for to remove it totally.
5. As you can see, our new steering setup from CPP is much cleaner and simpler than the stock mess. This setup includes their Deluxe Idler, manual center link, billet aluminum tie rod sleeves, and a new pitman arm and tie rods.
6. The stock steering box is attached with three bolts that go through the frame, but the column is pretty much permanently attached to the box so we had to get creative with the rest of the removal.
9. Back under the hood, we installed the Flaming River steering box bracket before bolting up the new quick ratio box—it’s got 3.5 turns lock-to-lock instead of 6.
7. Since the Flaming River kit comes with a column, we decided to mutilate the stock column shaft with a Sawzall to separate the two components.
10. The Flaming River box comes unpainted, so we sprayed it with some of Eastwood’s Chassis black before bolting it up with grade 8 hardware.
8. Inside the car, once the column shaft was disconnected, removal of the stock column required two bolts under the dash.
16. The steering wheel we chose was Eddie Motorsports’ Racer wheel in black (PN MS-140-50). This piece totally fits the theme of the car and will look wicked in the all-black interior. The horn adapter comes blank too, so we’ll probably end up putting a cool insignia there.
11. Here’s a shot of CPP’s Deluxe Idler Arm (PN 6367 IA-UK), which is a much nicer piece than stock.
12. Back under the car we simply hooked up the pitman arm and made sure to grease all the Zerk fittings.
13. The Flaming River steering column is easily bolted up using an aluminum bracket that attaches under the dash; however, you do need to retain the brake pedal bracket to solidify the whole setup. Without the bracket, the column won’t be sturdy.
14. To connect the column and box, Flaming River includes the appropriate d-shafts and universal joints needed to make a clean and simple install.
15. To install Eddie Motorsports’ “Racer” steering wheel (PN MS-140-50), we first bolted up the aluminum hub adapter, which easily mated to the Flaming River column. We have to point out that the aluminum bracket holding the column actually sits lower and works in conjunction with the factory column support bracket, which we later bolted up.