There are three basic functions we expect from any car: go, stop and steer; with the latter two at the top of the safety list. Let’s face it, if you can’t stop and steer you’re going to be in serious trouble. With that thought in mind we decided to upgrade both systems on our 1960 Corvette project.
In past articles we addressed changing the front and rear suspension and that included Wilwood disc brakes mounted to our Martz front suspension and the Currie rear. That was a serious upgrade over the old, outdated drum brakes but now that we have the body back on the frame it was time to make the final connection from the brake pedal to the aforementioned disc brakes. Since we had routed all the chassis brake lines prior to reuniting the body with the frame it was a simple matter of installing the factory brake pedal and using a master cylinder adapter from Martz Chassis to mount the new Wilwood master cylinder and proportioning valve. This proved to be a very straightforward procedure and everything bolted in place and fit properly.
We had been made aware of a common problem on C1 Corvettes concerning firewall flex when applying hard pressure to the brake pedal. While we didn’t test our own car to see if this would occur, we did take the time to make an additional support bracket that mounts to the master cylinder adapter. This brace made our master cylinder mount very rigid and we felt it was worth the effort during the initial installation. Having said that, we have seen many C1 Corvettes with the same master cylinder adapter and no additional brace, with no problems reported by the owners. We just tend to go toward “overkill” when it comes to stopping and steering.
Speaking of steering, the old steering box is long gone, replaced by a manual rack-and-pinion as part of our new IFS installation. Once again, after the body was installed it was time to make the final connection from the steering wheel to the rack. We ordered a new steering column from ididit and some Borgeson D-shaft, splined shaft and universals from Martz Chassis. While the ididit steering column was a perfect fit, it took a bit of fabrication to make the connection from the steering column to the rack and pinion. This was complicated a bit because of our engine choice. With the 348ci big-block under the hood we had to put a small notch in the upper framerail to provide clearance for the D-shaft going down to the rack. Cutting the notch and welding in the recess was a test due to a very tight work area. We were able to use just two universals so no support bearings were required. It should be noted that with a small-block under the hood the shaft connection would be easier. In the end, making the connection from column to rack was not a real problem. Just remember to work slowly and carefully, measure twice and cut once.
The final pieces of the steering installation involved dressing the steering column inside the car and installing a VIN tag on the column. Inside the car was simple since ididit supplied the proper steering wheel adapter to run a stock-style Corvette wheel. The column looks absolutely stock but with much improved mechanicals. We opted to run a Con2R steering wheel that we designed in red and black. This wheel is smaller diameter (15-inch) and has a thicker, more comfortable grip. The Corvette-style spokes are perfect for the car and we topped the wheel off with a new reproduction horn button from Corvette Central.
We also wanted to have the factory-style turn signal lever in the car. We had a reproduction lever and the attractive stainless steel and aluminum knob piece from ididit. As it turns out, it was a simple affair to combine the two so we now have a completely new steering column and turn signal switch operated with a stock-appearing lever. The final piece attached to the steering column was the new VIN tag. In 1960, Chevrolet attached the VIN tag to the bottom of the steering column. The VIN number is also stamped into the chassis. Since our car was last used as a drag car with a 427 under the hood the steering column had been replaced with a later-model column and the VIN tag was lost in process. We sourced a new reproduction VIN tag online and considered stamping the numbers into the tag using a typical number die set. New reproduction tags are available in stainless steel and aluminum and in 1960 the steering column tag was stainless steel.
After some research we came across a company called Boxweed that embosses VIN tags, that means raised letters like the factory with perfect spacing. Of course, substantial proof of ownership is required before the tag will be stamped but when we got our tag back it looked like a perfect factory tag. The factory tag was spot-welded to the steering column but we opted to rivet our tag in place with stainless steel rivets. You may wonder why we took the time to attach the VIN tag to the column rather than just install it in the doorjamb or somewhere else on the chassis. In many states when you register a vintage car an inspector comes out to check the VIN number. They have a book that instructs them where to look for the VIN tag and so they will expect to see one on the steering column of a 1960 Corvette.
That completed our stopping and steering and we are pleased to report both systems work flawlessly and look great. From the steering wheel to the rack-and-pinion and from the brake pedal to the master cylinder and four-wheel disc brakes everything is brand new and improved, which should make driving our Corvette a safe and pleasurable experience.
01. We used standard bodywork preparation on the new ididit steering column before painting it to match our gauge cluster. We used single-stage PPG products for the final finish.
02. Sometime in the past the steering column had been changed in our car and this outside plate (far left) was used to hold the non-stock steering column in place. We decided to reuse the plate with a new foam gasket. Next, we fabricated an interior plate from aluminum (center) and used a Corvette Central rubber firewall grommet to seal the mast.
03. We placed rags in the steering column U-bracket to protect our new paint and then carefully slid the new steering column in place.
04. We used the exterior grommet on the inside of our fabricated plate to seal the opening around the steering column mast. Two bolts hold the aluminum plate to the firewall. Two 10-24 button head bolts hold the grommet in place. Use of the original C1 floor plate will work with the ididit column, too.
05. On the outside of the firewall we used the plate that held the later model column in the car. The two bolts hold the plate to the firewall and through our fabricated aluminum plate inside the car. A hose clamp secures the steering column mast to the bracket. We installed the VIN tag after the mast was in place.
06. Speaking of the VIN tag, we purchased a blank reproduction VIN tag and had our number embossed on the tag by a company called Boxweed. The factory mounted the VIN tag to the steering column so we mounted our tag in the same location.
07. We wanted to use the factory turn signal lever (top) but the lever in the new ididit turn signal switch mounts with a screw. As it turns out mating the two was a pretty simple deal.
08. The ididit lever is formed from stainless steel tube, while the reproduction piece is threaded. We cut the end off the ididit lever and ground the threads off the reproduction piece.
09. After a test fit we mixed up a little JB Weld and filled the tube end and pushed them together. A little cleanup with a soft rag left a neat black band where the two are joined. Welding would have destroyed the chrome on the reproduction lever so we felt this was a great solution.
10. The lever was installed with the single screw supplied with the steering column. We then wired the horn button as per the instructions and then installed the steering wheel adapter hub. At this point the column is mounted and ready for a steering wheel.
11. We opted for a Corvette-style steering wheel from Con2R. Since you can custom design these steering wheels we went with a black and red combination for a custom look. The reproduction horn button fits just fine and it all blends in well with the Classic Instruments gauges.
12. Making the connection from the steering column to the rack-and-pinion began with a 3/4-36-spline piece of shaft 6 inches long from Borgeson Universal. A 3/4-36-spline coupler is employed on the column end, while a 3/4-36-spline x 3/4-DD shaft universal was used on the other end of the splined shaft.
13. A section of DD shaft leads down to the rack. We had to cut and weld a notch in the corner of the frame for clearance due to our big-block engine. With that clearance it was a straight shot.
14. As per the directions, a 1/4-inch recess was drilled in each shaft for the set screw, with Loctite used on all set screws. “Phasing the universals” is an automatic deal if you use DD shaft. When all the final connections were made we jacked up the car and turned the steering lock to lock to ensure there was no binding. Our steering proved to be super smooth.
15. With the steering complete we turned our attention to completing the brake system. A Wilwood dual master cylinder with a 7/8-inch bore was selected for the job. We also ordered a Wilwood proportioning valve block that incorporates a pressure-activated brake light switch.
16. The original pedal assembly had been completely restored earlier so it was a matter of taking it off the shelf. The pushrod from Martz Chassis is in place in the photo. The original brake light switch could be used to activate a third brake light if desired and use the Wilwood switch for the main brake lights.
17. The tube adapter from Martz Chassis accepts the Wilwood master cylinder. The Wilwood pushrod will join the Martz pushrod inside the tube. This requires mounting the master with the two rods together, then tighten or loosen the Martz rod inside the car until the pin lines up in the pedal.
18. This piece may not be needed, but after hearing stories of potential firewall flex we fabricated this extra brace. It bolts behind the Martz adapter flange and bolts to the side of the clutch pivot bracket on the frame. It made our installation very stout.
19. Here are the two pushrods assembled. Assemble them loose and install the master cylinder, then thread the rod in or out to fit the pedal. Once the proper length is achieved remove the master cylinder and tighten the lock nuts making certain there is at least 3/8-inch of rod threaded in each end of the coupler, not including the lock nuts.
20. Prior to the final installation of the master cylinder it is important to bench bleed the unit. The Wilwood bleeding kit makes this a simple operation. After we had all the air out of the cylinder we removed all but about a 1/2-inch of brake fluid. This will prevent unwanted spillage during the install.
21. We ordered a left-side mounting kit for the proportioning block and valve. This bolts in place with the same bolts used to hold the master cylinder in place, and the stainless steel lines make plumbing easy.
22. Here’s the proportioning valve mounted and plumbed to the master cylinder. The crimped lines are temporary plugs to prevent the brake fluid from draining.
23. This shows the master cylinder bolted in place. Note our fabricated brace is on the back side of the tube adapter, then the master cylinder, then spacers for the proportioning valve bracket. Two Grade 8 bolts hold the entire assembly in place.
24. We fabricated two brake lines to go from the proportioning valve block to our existing chassis brake lines and to complete the job. Note the master cylinder mounts on a slight downward angle to provide clearance for the inner hood brace.
25. The final step was to bleed all four corners, starting with the wheel farthest from the master cylinder. We always use a power vacuum bleeder because it makes it a simple, one-man job. The brake pedal was firm, the entire system was checked for leaks and we had working brakes. We will test the entire system at very low speeds in a safe place at a later date.