Sunday, January 12, 2014

Building a steering column

Awhile back, I bought the steering wheel from an Avanti. For those who aren't familiar with Studebakers, the Avanti was a fiberglassed-body car made as a last ditch effort to save Studebaker from their inevitable swan song.

The Avanti has a very particular style--I've found that people have strong reactions to them: either you love them or you hate them. I'll let you decide:

Personally, I didn't like the Avanti, at least not the whole thing, until I saw one in person. They're hard to capture in a picture, I guess. But I did really like a couple of things about them: the front end treatment is very futuristic, which I like, and the interior treatment is my favorite of all of the Studebakers. Plus they were offered with a couple of  supercharger options!

So, after quite a bit of trial and error involving multiple steering boxes and columns, I decided that, given my move to a newer steering box and the difficulty of adapting my existing steering wheel to the new setup while retaining all of the functionality (the horn, namely,) and because I didn't feel the styling of the GT Hawk wheel was a good match to my existing dash, I decided to use an Avanti steering wheel.

Because the Avanti uses a different mounting mechanism for the column and the steering shaft, it did involve a bit of modification.

Here the steering column is put in position for measurement--note that it does not extend over the top of the steering box; this is needed to hold the steering column in position.

So after measuring twice, I cut the end off of the GT Hawk Column that mates up to the top of the steering box.

All cleaned up and ready to weld
Welded in place with a series of spot welds:

After a brief clean up with a file, here it is in position (there's a clamp that fits over this to lock it in place):

And here it is bolted into position:

No worries, everything will be painted up to match the dash color
Now I just need to pull it back out and clean everything up and get it ready to paint. At least I was able to sit in the car and make zroom-zroom noises and have the steering wheel actually turn the front wheels.

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