Corvettes have always set the standard in terms of American-built high-performance automobiles, with nimble handling, enough power for rapid acceleration, and better brakes than nearly every other car on the road. And while Corvettes of C3 vintage or earlier did possess cutting-edge steering technology for their time, the fact is their factory steering boxes leave a lot to be desired in terms of performance. As tight as the steering was in these early Corvettes, we always felt there was a certain tendency for the cars to dart when on-center or at the initiation of a turn. Moreover, we considered the steering valve in power-steering applications to be an inconvenient, if not unsafe, design. Of course manufacturing costs dictated the use of a steering box, but we've always thought a rack-and-pinion setup would have been a better choice for these performance-oriented cars.
Thankfully, the folks at Speed Direct felt the same way and designed a bolt-in, high-performance rack-and-pinion steering kit for the C3 Corvette. No stranger to the needs of early Corvette owners, Speed Direct offers many upgraded suspension and steering components for early Vettes, all of which can help make these cars into real performers. The company's Steeroids steering system is an all-inclusive kit to convert any C3's steering, by completely replacing the factory steering box, power-steering valve, and tie rods with a high-performance rack-and-pinion and all the related components.
The Steeroids kit is centered on a remanufactured GM rack-and-pinion unit, configured for either manual or power steering. Since Project C3 Triple-Ex will be subjected to a blend of aggressive street driving and frequent track use, we felt the power-steering rack was the way to go. And indeed, Speed Direct suggests going with the power rack if there's any question in your mind.
When our kit arrived, we were impressed to find that all the parts were packaged professionally, and that each part was packaged separately and labeled with a decal stating not only the name of the part, but the part number as well.
Everything needed for the installation comes with the Steeroids kit, including all new hardware, power-steering pressure and return lines, universal joints, steering-support bearings, shafts, and brackets. All of the various brackets and pieces are powdercoated in black, to keep them looking good and corrosion-free for a long time. Since we had everything we needed, we put our car on the lift to begin the installation.
We must admit that when we visited the Speed Direct website and read that the Steeroids kit would fit around our long-tube aftermarket headers, that it required only hand tools to install, and that it would go on in about three hours, we were a bit skeptical. Once we began working, however, we were pleasantly surprised at how well the pieces were engineered, as everything bolted in place precisely as the instructions indicated.
Working at a leisurely pace, we had everything installed in under four hours, with plenty of time to take the car to an alignment shop that same afternoon. Had we stepped it up a bit, we certainly could have installed the system in three hours as advertised. Having a lift in our shop made the job somewhat less difficult, but this installation could be performed with the car on jackstands nearly as easily.
Once the car was aligned to the specs provided in the instructions (and on www.speeddirect.com), we took our Stingray for a drive and were immediately impressed with the new steering. With only 2.5 turns lock-to-lock, the car was far more responsive than with the original steering. The Steeroids power rack gives just enough steering assist to make low-speed driving easy, without reducing road feel at speed like the original recirculating-ball steering box did.
After several weeks of driving our car with the Steeroids power rack, we've come away even more impressed. Though our car's total turning radius has increased slightly with the new rack, the trade-off is well worth it.
Overall we'd say this is one of the most dramatic and noticeable improvements we've made to our '71 Stingray thus far. Eliminating the sloppy, heavy factory steering box, questionable steering valve, and stock tie rods makes the car safer and more reliable. Even better, our Corvette is much more fun to drive now, and though the car's handling is still limited by the factory suspension components, the steering certainly feels like a Corvette of much newer vintage. Follow along and we'll show you how easy Speed Direct's Steeroids rack-and-pinion kit installs.