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Rack and Roll

Flaming River's New Easy-to-Install Rack-and-Pinion Gives First-Gen Camaros a Modern Steering System

Can you guess what Pintos, Mustang IIs, water-cooled Volkswagons, Corvettes, Omnis, and virtually all late-model foreign imports have in common that is lacking on the performance-oriented First-Generation Camaro? If you whispered a rack-and-pinion steering system, give yourself 100 points and pay close attention to the following story. What you're about to learn about is a basic, easy-to-install, and fully bolt-in, rack-and-pinion steering setup that will give a '67-69 Camaro owner a new feel for the road.

Flaming River Industries has become well known in the performance aftermarket as an innovative company, both among street rod fans and muscle car enthusiasts alike. From cool steering columns to quality universal joints, Flaming River is a continually forward-thinking firm. At the recent SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, Flaming River's Steve Cole (no blood relative, but a "bro" nonetheless) grabbed a hold of my arm and directed me to a new display that featured a pre-production rack system for First-Gen F-bodies. Wow, was my first reaction. Not so much for the idea of putting a rack in the car, that's been done before, but more for the intended ease of installation, and ability to revert back to the stock system if so desired. Bingo, a great idea.

Flaming River arranged to ship out a complete kit for me to spend the holidays installing in a '68 Camaro with a standard power steering system. Once again, I felt privileged to have the chance to do this exclusive install and help in the final product development after doing the step by step. Let me say, other than a couple of touch ups on the dimensions to the rack's bolt-in cradle, the complete Flaming River kit delivers exactly what it promises--a true bolt-in conversion to a manual rack-and-pinion steering system. No cutting or welding of any factory part is required (you do have to cut the double "D" shaft to length, but other than that, basic wrenches and sockets are all you need).

The Flaming River kit is designed to work with a stock dimension small-block oil pan. Our donor car had a deep sump aftermarket pan that we had welded a skid-plate to in order to protect it from speed bumps and such. We really wanted to keep the added oil capacity, so we contacted our good friend Jeff Johnston at Billet Fabrication and he built us a shallow pan with basically stock dimensions, except that it had a kick-out on the passenger's side. This allowed for the added volume of oil, but left plenty of ground clearance (even in this lowered car) and space for the rack system to fit. But in most instances, a stock small-block pan works just fine.

As mentioned above, we took some time out during the holidays amidst caroling and assembling the kid's toys to do the install, which went pretty smoothly. Unfortunately, though, our donor car was having a couple of other things done to it while up on the lift and we weren't able to take the car for a ride (with all the rain we got, it was just as well). Rest assured, however, the rock-solid kit should prove to be an improvement when navigating the winding roads on the way to work. We'll keep you posted on the seat-of-the-pants improvement. For now, take in on how simple it is to add this modern system.

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