The line between race car parts and street car parts used to be fairly clear, but with our classic Camaros getting faster that line has become blurred. Many Pro Touring cars today find themselves on the race car side of the spectrum. After all, parts bred for the track have certain advantages. They are typically more durable and often lighter in weight. And, let’s be honest, they look cool.
When it came to steering we had two main requirements. First, the column had to incorporate a quick-disconnect for the steering wheel. Secondly, it had to be as simple and sturdy as possible. The system we found to meet these needs was a custom-fit column kit from Chris Alston’s Chassisworks. It couldn’t have been any simpler. It had the required quick-disconnect, and, at around 9 pounds, helped the car shed a little weight. But, the biggest benefit was it allowed us to nail the optimal column length so that we could clear our stainless Hooker headers with the steering shaft. Downsides? Well, there’s no tilt, but that’s one less thing to break when we’re yanking the wheel left and right. Also, there are no provisions for turn signals or a horn, but we have ideas on both of those small matters. In the end, we felt the system offered far more on the plus side.
01. The first thing Best of Show Coach Works fabricator Kyle Phillips did was TIG weld one of the splined ends to the steel steering shaft. The steering tubes are 3/4-inch 4130 steel.
02. We then drilled two 3/16-inch holes just below the fitting and plug welded the holes. You could also drill the holes in the column shaft before inserting, and welding in, the splined end, but we found this method easier. This is the same method used on all four of the splined ends we installed.
03. Once welded, Kyle ground the welds smooth so the shaft could spin freely in the polymer bearing.
04. The kit included a universal-fit billet underdash mount, but we had this sweet Camaro mount from JCG Restorations and Customs. Later, we will replace the bolts with something nicer, but for initial fitment this worked fine.
05. The best part of this kit, besides its light weight, around 9 pounds, is that the length can be custom tailored for each application. We knew the distance we wanted from the steering wheel to the mount was about 16 inches, So Kyle adjusted the column and snugged up the mount. We were then able move to the engine side of the firewall and determine the best place to cut off the column tube and shaft.
06. Once marked, we used a tubing cutter to remove some of the stainless tube.
07. The Chassisworks’ steering wheel quick-release is a really nice piece. They normally offer it in a five-bolt configuration (for Grant style wheels), but we talked them into producing six-bolt versions. The adapter only fits the wheel mount one way and is marked on one end with an arrow to show which way is up.
08. Like the splined ends, we TIG welded the hub adapter to the steering shaft.
09. We then assembled the column parts, including the polymer bearings. On final assembly the bearing ends need to be coated with a bead of silicone before being inserted into the stainless column tube.
10. The lower column support swivels and was left loose during the fitment process. Once we had everything correct on the column, the ring was slid down to the firewall and tack-welded in place. It could have also been bolted, but we didn’t want bolts sticking through the other side.
11. It was then time to connect the column to our Chassisworks’ rack. At the end of the rack is a D-shaped rod rather than a splined deal like our other ends.
12. We took a rough measurement from the column to the rack.
13. That measurement was then transferred to a piece of scrap steel tubing we had lying around.
14. This let us confirm the needed length before cutting up the Chassisworks steering shaft. The Chassisworks U-joints can be misaligned up to 42-degrees and we were well within that specification.
15. We then marked the shaft where it needed to be cut. In lieu of the steel pipe, a welding rod could also be used as a template.
16. Once cut, we welded on the last splined end in the same fashion as we did the previous ones shown.
17. Once installed, we tightened up all the fasteners on the stainless universal joints. In case you’re curious, we picked up the sweet billet column grommet from JCG a couple of years ago. It really cleaned up the installation and sealed the gap between the column and the firewall.
18. We then moved back inside the Camaro and installed an extra steering wheel we had at the shop. We still haven’t decided if we’re going to paint, powdercoat, or just brush-finish the stainless column tube, but for now, having the car under steerage sure makes moving it around the shop easier. We also had an idea to run wires inside the column tube so that turn-signal toggle switches could be added.