Getting down the road without a proper steering system is darn near impossible. That said, there are many a hot rod built with a steering system that may work but leaves something to be desired in the aesthetics department. Sure, a tilt column robbed out of a '70s GM van might work, but in a traditional hot rod, it would look downright ugly. And while a rack-and-pinion kit might seem like an easy way out, there's really no reason to replace the stock-style drag link system given the plethora of available aftermarket boxes for hot rods these days.
Since the dawn of hot rodding, guys have been using stock Ford boxes, typically in a side-steer design similar to the original setup. Cross-steer designs have also been used, similar to those in the post-'35-era Ford passenger cars. When the Ford F-1 truck came out in the late '40s, it wasn't long before some savvy hot rodder realized that the steering boxes in those trucks were a perfect replacement for the old worn out '32-34 side steer units, which incorporated a number of likely upgrades, given the 20-some-odd years Ford had to improve upon the design. Fast forward another 20 or so years and another savvy hot rodder finds that a Chevy Vega had a cross steer-style steering box that seems to have been designed to fit the confines of a Deuce frame. That single discovery has almost singlehandedly launched an aftermarket industry manufacturing everything from steering arms to spindles to steering boxes.
Nowadays, the majority of decent OEM boxes, be it '32 Ford, F-1, or Vega, are becoming quite hard to find. Thankfully, companies like Borgeson offer new boxes using the original Vega design. Rated for vehicles under 2,500 pounds and with a steering ratio of 22:1, these boxes work great under a highboy roadster and are even available reversed. Mated to an aftermarket or modified stock steering column via a set of universal joints yields a contemporary steering system that still retains that stock, Ford feel.
Steering columns are another item that needed a serious facelift. Like we stated earlier, you could use a GM tilt column out of a van, but why would you? Sure that made sense 20 or 30 years ago when there wasn't any other option but to use what was in the junk yard. But with today's massive aftermarket industry, anything from a stock-style '40 Ford column that bolts up to original Ford wheels to Deuce-style column drops can be ordered up in a matter of minutes and catered to any specific project. One such company has made quite a wave in the traditional hot rod scene recently by offering up just such a catalog of items. Having built hot rods for a number of years on both sides of the pond, Steve Dennish and his crew at LimeWorks Speed Shop have turned their attention recently on the parts business with some impressive results. Unhappy with the lack of a new steering column with a traditional feel on the market, they decided to start making their own.
Upon delivery of Editor Brennan's roadster pickup roller from the guys out at Ionia Hot Rod Shop, we quickly set out gathering the parts to finish up the steering system so that the truck could be easily moved around the shop. Our first call was to LimeWorks to pick up one of their hot rod steering columns and a four-spoke Bell-style steering wheel. We also asked Steve to come on by the tech center with a handful of universal joints, a DD shaft, and the three incremental sizes of steering column drops they offer. A few quick measurements were made before Steve was off and running, mounting the column to the Deuce dash and mating it to the Borgeson Mullins Vega box.
The first step in installing the steering components is to mount the column and column dro
Using the drop as a jig, Steve drills the two 5/16-inch mounting holes in the bottom of th
The column is then slid into place.
With the column and drop installed, Steve checks out the proportions on the cockpit confin
Thankfully, LimeWorks offers their '32-style column drop with either a 3-, 4-, or 5-inch d
Swapping out the 5-inch drop with a shorter, 3-inch version gains some much needed legroom