The firewall had more holes...
The firewall had more holes than OJ Simpson's defense, so we cut them all out and patched the big hole with a single sheet of steel. Our old reciprocating saw gave up the ghost when we were stripping the car, so Rodney got to be the first to use our new cordless saw from Craftsman. The saw has plenty of grunt for a battery-powered unit, and we figure we'll probably need one at the track sometime.
Coming into this project, the crew of Project Mudslinger had a few expectations: We expected to have some fun; we expected to learn some things along the way; and, most of all, we expected to get this car running before we all died of old age. That's certainly not too much to expect. What we didn't plan on was learning something about ourselves. That self-realization stuff is for somebody else to watch on Oprah. Frankly, we prefer a simpler environment where we can get dirty working on the car, tell jokes and burp if the spirit leads without having to say excuse me. I know what you're thinking: What the heck are you talking about? Read on, you'll see. I just wanted to get that off my chest before we started.
Progress, finally, is beginning to be made at a steady pace, but it's now the dead of winter and we're feeling the crunch of needing to complete the car before the season starts. In the last installment of Project Mudslinger we completed the seat installation and brake lines, and now it's time to get to work on the steering system. Many teams at the Pony Stock level keep the original steering system that came with the car. That's fine. Simply plug the holes for the power-steering lines in the rack, replace the steering wheel with a removable unit and off you go. But we wanted to show you there is a better way, and it's not too expensive.
Woodward Precision Power Steering makes an excellent collapsible steering shaft, and we knew from the beginning we wanted to incorporate one in our steering system. Unlike the steering column in a modern passenger car, a collapsible steering shaft for racing isn't designed to give way if the driver makes hard contact with the steering wheel-a good five-point safety harness should ensure that's never a problem. Instead, the shaft is made to collapse in the opposite direction, to keep the steering shaft from impaling the driver if a collision pushes in the front end of the car. This type of shaft is popular in Late Model racing but has yet to catch on in racing's lower levels, which is sad. Team Mudslinger intends to have as much fun as possible with this project, and we intend to take every precaution to make sure the fun isn't cut short by injury. We hope you will do the same with your race project.
Scott Helms welds up a tubing...
Scott Helms welds up a tubing extension to which we will mount the steering shaft.
On the other end we installed a replacement steering rack from Flaming River. This rack is a perfect fit and converts from power steering to manual. It's difficult these days to find a Mustang without power steering, which makes the rack bulkier than necessary, even after discarding the power-steering pump. The Flaming River unit is mostly used by drag racers and street rod builders, so our use of the piece is a bit of an experiment. It looks very well made, and even though it's four pounds lighter than the stock unit we pulled off the car, all of the critical parts are just as beefy as the original. We'll let you know how it holds up under dirt racing stresses.
The hardware on either end is the easy part; it's connecting the two that's difficult. After removing all the unnecessary parts, the firewall had more holes than a pair of old socks, and the location where we wanted to place the firewall bearing to support the steering shaft was right on the edge of one. Instead of putting in a bunch of little patches, we cut out the entire area and riveted up one clean sheet of 18-gauge steel. It's heavy but it also gives rigidity for the firewall bearing to eliminate slop in the shaft as the steering wheel is turned.
Randy Price (right), one of...
Randy Price (right), one of Scott's in-laws, stopped by to see the car and we put him to work. Here, we're bending some tubing to mount the collapsible steering shaft. I've mentioned before how tight we are for space in the shop, so we really like this tubing bender from Low Buck tools because when we aren't using it, it can go neatly in a corner.
The Woodward steering shaft...
The Woodward steering shaft collapses in on itself to keep the shaft from spearing the driver in the event the front end of the car gets crushed backward. It comes complete with a support bearing for mounting and a quick-release coupling that mounted right up to the QuickCar steering wheel.
In addition to the steering...
In addition to the steering shaft, Woodward also makes splined shaft inserts and U-joints to match. All you have to do is press the inserts into your three-quarter-inch tubing, weld it up and then slide it into the U-joint. Before, fabricators had to weld tubing directly to the U-joints. Not only is the heat from welding damaging on the bearings inside the joints, but it's also permanent. You have to cut your steering shaft in pieces to get it out. With Woodward's system all you have to do is loosen the set screws in the U-joints. Very neat.
The Flaming River steering...
The Flaming River steering rack is made to replace the stock unit, so it takes a little work to mate it with the rest of our system. The U-joint that comes off the rack is made to fit bar stock with flattened sides (bottom). We corrected this by cutting off an inch of the bar and welding it to the tubing we are using.
AFCO produces a number of ways to effectively mount the steering shaft to a race car, but we didn't have any lying around the shop so we fabricated our own. Using our tubing bender from Low Buck Tools, we bent a section of tubing into a shallow arc, notched it and welded it to the cross-tube on the rollcage. To this we welded a piece of plate steel with a slot cut in the middle. The Woodward collapsible shaft bolts to this, and the slot provides us a measure of adjustability. As a rule of thumb, when mounting your steering wheel, you want the shaft pointing straight at the center of the driver's chest. To the shaft we bolted up a 15-inch aluminum steering wheel from QuickCar Racing Products.
From there we connected the dots with three-quarter-inch tubing and universal joints. We finished the project in one marathon (for us) six-hour session that wrapped up just after midnight one cold Saturday evening. It was the first time in a long time we had been able to finish a project without the fits and starts that have plagued us because of poor preparation or lacking all the necessary parts. We nearly broke our arms patting ourselves on the back-that is until Scott turned the steering wheel and found a kink we couldn't eliminate. We had an angle that was too sharp for the universal joint to handle, and no amount of adjusting would get rid of it.
Here's the problem. The kink isn't really all that bad. More annoying than anything, really. But at this point there's no dirt gunking up the works, the engine isn't in place weighing down the front end, and turning the steering wheel at the race shop is a world apart from cranking the car around a real racetrack. Even though the start of the season is bearing down on us like a used car salesman at the end of a slow month, the answer was painfully obvious: Take it apart and start over. The old saying that if something is worth doing, it's worth doing right may be true, but it's a lot easier to throw around when you are telling somebody else to get their act together. It will come as a big shock to our wives when they read this and learn we aren't perfect like we've been telling them all this time.
So close, yet so far. This...
So close, yet so far. This is the moment the shocking truth hit home that we simply weren't going to be able to work the kink out of the steering line without taking it apart and starting over. You can see that the angle is too sharp after the shaft exits the firewall.
Coleman Racing Products
N-1597 U.S. 41
Menominee, MI 49858
800 Poertner Dr
Berea, OH 44017
801 SW Ordnance Rd
Ankeny, IA 50021
Low Buck Tools
4175 California Ave
Norco, CA 92860
988 Gordon Ln
Birmingham, MI 48009
QuickCar Racing Products
44 Pearl Pentecost Rd
Winder, GA 30680
Now this is more like it....
Now this is more like it. To correct the kink, we angled the Woodward collapsible shaft downward more so we had a gentler angle to get to the steering rack.
15825 Industrial Pkwy
Cleveland, OH 44135
Stock Car Steel
8018 Performance Rd
Mooresville, NC 28115
Woodward Precision Power Steering
3592 Burd Rd
Casper, WY 82604
We are using a Coleman gas...
We are using a Coleman gas pedal to go with our Wilwood brake and clutch pedals. It's a trick unit with tons of adjustability.
To help alleviate the space...
To help alleviate the space squeeze in the shop we are using a set of car skates from P&J products. Before, when Scott needed to work on his personal vehicles he either had to do it outside or roll the race car into the driveway. Now, he can roll the car to the side and still have enough room to pull another vehicle in. Better yet, it lets us spin whichever end of the car we're working on closer to the heater.