It's rather ironic that a pair of Chevrolet's most criticized cars, the Corvair and the Vega, have also provided two of the most commonly used components in street rodding: their steering gear boxes. And while a huge number of Vega boxes and their derivatives are installed in street rods regularly, the number of Corvair boxes already in service is staggering. Virtually every T on the planet has one, and if you're building a bucket, there really isn't a better alternative.

Over the years there were several incarnations of the Corvair steering box. Some had a one-piece steering shaft, later versions had a short, splined input shaft that used a coupler; cases were made of cast iron and aluminum. And while there were some differences over the years, all were small, light, and used the recirculating-ball design. That's what made them so popular, even among those who didn't know what recirculating balls were. Just about every other compact steering box available used the old worm and sector or worm and roller layout, which meant harder steering and increased wear.

By virtue of its design, size, and availability, Corvair steering became a big hit with the T-bucket crowd, particularly when someone figured out how to reverse it. That provided the option of mounting the steering above or below the frame, with the Pitman pointing up or down.

However, while the little box was popular, there were problems from time to time. When used on heavy cars, the aluminum cases would sometimes crack. And, because the internal components were also intended for a very light car, as time has marched on and the miles have rolled by, wear has become a factor for many of those in use.

To further the irony of the Corvair steering box, the fact is that it remains an excellent choice for a variety of applications today (cars with 1,000 lbs or less on the front axle, like T-buckets). And as most small-production cars use rack-and-pinion steering, the Corvair box is still the most compact, conventional steering gear to be found. As you might guess, good, original Corvair steering boxes, or the parts to rebuild a worn one, are hard to find. However, thanks to the folks at Flaming River, the search has been simplified. Just give them a call and order their all-new and improved version.

Flaming River remained fairly faithful to the GM design and kept some things the same: The sector shaft accepts the stock Corvair Pitman arm, the input shaft has the familiar 5/8-inch/36 splines (same as Vega), and the mounting flange is like the original. From the outside you'd have to look closely to notice any changes, although the cases are now made of cast steel and are thicker and stronger than the OEM versions. Inside it's a different story. The bearings have been revised and improved, and the sector shaft now rides in needle bearings rather than a bushing. In addition, the worm, nut, and sector are all larger and stronger.

Flaming River offers their new Corvair box in two forms: the normal input shaft orientation and reversed. It should be noted that there is one other difference in these boxes, and that's the steering ratio. The reversed box has a 20:1 ratio while the standard has a quicker 16:1 ratio. In another bit of irony, those autocross and canyon-racing Corvair owners love those fast ratio boxes. If Ralph Nader only knew.

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Flaming River
800 Poertner Dr.
OH  44017