Changing the ratio in the steering box?

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GROOVYBIRD
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Changing the ratio in the steering box?

Post by GROOVYBIRD » Mon Dec 10, 2018 9:22 pm

Anyone here have any first hand experience in changing the ratio to 15:1 in their '66? Looks like Redhead steering would be able to change the ratio if I did a rebuild through them. Is it worth it? I've been reading on the forums and it seems stock steering ratios might be scary at highway speed? I intend to drive Groovybird frequently on the weekends and at distance (and on highways) so safe handling is a priority. Recommendations?

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RedBird64
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Re: Changing the ratio in the steering box?

Post by RedBird64 » Mon Dec 10, 2018 11:45 pm

Sadly yes.
I talked to RedHead gears when I bought from them and they said the 64 Bird is rather specific and there aren't any other gearing parts that can be swapped from other models like there usually are for GM products.

Now it's posible they just didn't want to get involved with it and gave me a line of hooey but I wasn't able to find any reference to anyone ever doing it.

Scott
1964 Coupe Wimbledon white/Rangoon Red w/black int. Owned for 41 years. It was my folks car before that (second owners). VTCI # 12013.

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Alan H. Tast
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Re: Changing the ratio in the steering box?

Post by Alan H. Tast » Tue Dec 11, 2018 6:10 pm

As you're finding out, 'Bird components are pretty unique to themselves, and aftermarket mods are few and far between. You're going to have to learn how to drive it and anticipate how the car will handle. Just be thankful you have integral power steering and not an add-on slave cylinder that's prone to leaking like on other '50s-early '60s cars. And I won't even go into the challenges you'll face with a rack-and-pinion conversion as I'm not knowledgable enough about what would work or what would be needed. Sometimes you just gotta "let it ride" and stick with factory components for sanity's sake.
Alan H. Tast, AIA
Technical Director/Past President,
Vintage Thunderbird Club Int'l.
Author, "Thunderbird 1955-1966" & "Thunderbird 50 Years"
1963 Hardtop & 1963 Sports Roadster

GROOVYBIRD
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Re: Changing the ratio in the steering box?

Post by GROOVYBIRD » Tue Dec 11, 2018 9:18 pm

Did some calling and talking today and, while I'm sure someone, somewhere, has done it, for me: it's a snipe hunt. (I did see the "conversions," but I am not altering my steering column/shaft/whatnot.)

I talked to Redhead and decided to use one of their units, as they work to get the excess play out of it. I think if someone were to just do a rebuild without compensating for wear on the gear, the way Redhead does, you would likely end up with a box having too much play in it to ever make you happy.

I have a '55 Crown Vic, and she has power steering that my dad (the original owner) added on "back in the day." The slave cylinder is from a '57 Ford, I believe, and the power steering pump is a '64. But, hey, that's how my dad did it, so that's how she stays (even if the belt tends to rub for lack of absolutely correct mounts --which are rare as hen's teeth, btw-- eh, just change the belt from time to time--that's what I'm sure he did, so that's good enough for me, too). The Crown went through a frame off restoration (having sat for about 40 years), but we didn't open up the steering box. Boy, was there ever a lot play in that wheel when we were done. Took me nearly three full rotations of the oversized wheel, spinning it fast, just to go around a corner (while muttering shwoop-da-shwooop-da-shwoop to myself to keep count). I'm sure this is the reason suicide knobs were invented, but I didn't want to mar the paint on my wheel by adding one. Pulled the box and a friend of mine (who knew what he was doing) went thru it, adjusting it back to where it should be. The difference is amazing. Turning a corner is now one full spin and another quarter or a half-turn: a shwoop-da-shwoo, to be technical about it.

So in my chat with Redhead, the ratios should be comparable between The Crown and Groovybird. I think my goal is to minimize play. Tight and right. I have never had an issue with The Crown on the highway, and her steering is all power, all the time. Redhead agreed that the symptoms at speed on the highway some have described here, around about in the forum, sound like, in all probability, that there's simply too much play in the box. I could be wrong, but that's my working theory.


Anyone have a recommendation as to isolators/insulators?

CJ

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sseebart
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Re: Changing the ratio in the steering box?

Post by sseebart » Wed Dec 12, 2018 12:13 pm

GROOVYBIRD wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 9:18 pm
Anyone have a recommendation as to isolators/insulators?
I was able to reuse my insulators when I had my box rebuilt a couple of years back. Reproductions are made, but they're pricey (~$40/each with shipping) and of unknown quality.

If memory serves, a few years back someone milled a set of solid aluminum "insulators" for his ride, but don't recall how the project worked out.

~Steve

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RedBird64
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Re: Changing the ratio in the steering box?

Post by RedBird64 » Sat Dec 15, 2018 12:26 am

The way Redhead explains it, only part of getting the slop out of the box is adjusting it. Then they use custom sized parts for the recirculating balls to take looseness out there as well.
My gear has no slop what so ever but it takes 1/2~3/4 of a turn of the steering wheel on the same corners that a modern car takes 1/8~1/4 of a turn.
1964 Coupe Wimbledon white/Rangoon Red w/black int. Owned for 41 years. It was my folks car before that (second owners). VTCI # 12013.

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