Vette-Rod/Resto-Mod Corvette builds are on fire today. As many people are discovering, you can have the best of both worlds with these Corvettes. The current trend is to have the look of a classic Corvette with all the creature comforts of the late-models, while blending in the performance and handling of a C4/C5 caliber car. The result is cool, early-Corvette styling with 21st century drivability.
We're currently building a Resto-Mod '68 Corvette that has plenty of power, anti-lock brakes with BAER six-piston calipers, Vintage Air A/C, and plenty of suspension upgrades. One important upgrade to the car was rack-and-pinion steering, which requires new steering linkage to connect to the steering column for our Resto-Mod. When we got to that part of the job, the original '68 non-tilt column was in rough shape and was either ready for a rebuild or to be replaced.
The simple solution was to replace the column with a new Flaming River tilt column that is ready to go with four-way flashers and new turn-signal switch technology. Flaming River offers tilt columns with the correct diameter tube to fit correctly in the dash of any '63-'68 Corvette. Their tilt columns are a nice addition to the early Corvettes, especially when you're entering and exiting the cockpit. in the past, there wasn't a new tilt column available, and we had to retro-fit a difficult-to-find, used one from another GM vehicle.
There are also adapters available to reinstall your original steering wheel or one of the many new Flaming River steering wheels that are offered. Once installed, the column looks like it was installed on the assembly line. Flaming River also has highly polished, 304-grade stainless steel column assemblies if you're looking to add some "bling" to your ride.
In our installation, we went for the mill-finish stainless steel tilt column so we could paint it the interior color and then top it off with a cool-looking Flaming River steering wheel. The steering wheel we picked had bright-silver carbon-fiber material with a red leather covering. We liked the carbon-fiber silver on the steering wheel so much we replaced the custom seat inserts with the same material.
Before we start the install, here are a few tips to consider. Before the first bracket or support is welded to the column, make sure of the steering-column alignment. We found that placing the steering column further away from the dash allows more wiggle room with the steering-shaft installation. The steering angles aren't as drastic when the steering column doesn't protrude as much through the firewall, so keep that in mind during the installation. We found the best policy is to mock-up the complete steering column and shaft assembly together or you might be surprised by a crooked steering column rubbing hard on one side of the dash. The steering-column support has a plate that can be moved side-to-side as well as fore and aft. This effects column placement. The support plate also raises or lowers the column at the dash.
From time to time in the past, we would see factory-installed steering columns that were placed at an angle and tight against the dash with the owners complaining that it didn't look right. When they checked with their mechanic, they were told that's just the way it is. But there is a fix. The support plate just needs some adjustment, and the column can be moved where it needs to be.
Once the column fits well and the linkage turns without binding the column, supports can be welded in place. Make sure each mounting bolt is tight before any tack welds are performed. Once the supports are in place, final welding can proceed; be careful to weld small sections and cool the area with a wet cloth to avoid overheating the stainless steel that could damage the nylon bearing supports in the column.
Assembling a correct steering linkage is very important. Make sure all the steering shafts are fully seated in the coupling properly. A collapsible steering shaft should be used when the steering shaft has a straight shot to the steering column; angled steering shafts will fold away absorbing impact in a crash, whereas a straight column can be deadly as it is driven towards you.
Flaming River steering columnPN FR2001VTA
Shorty dress-up kit tilt & turn-signal leverPN FR20112CU
Meg-A-Force three-spoke steering wheelPN FR20126RE
31/44-36-spline Double-D vibration resistorPN FR1887
17 mm to 31/44 DD steering rack coupling to shaft PN FR1759DD
31/44 DD to 31/44 DD center U-jointPN FR1716DD
S/S steering shaft, mill-finish,18-inches longPN FR1850SS
S/S steering-shaft support bearingPN FR1811