Like many of the trucks seen in Custom Classic Trucks, our F-1 has undergone suspension modifications and the original I-beam and worm-and-sector steering gear were given the heave-ho in favor of a Mustang II IFS and rack-and-pinion. While the suspension and steering installation were satisfactory, the same couldn't be said for the steering column-the recycled Mercury column was not only ugly, but it was too close to the driver door and, worst of all, the U-joints were of questionable health, weren't phased properly and had been welded to the intermediate shaft. To make things right it meant starting all over.

When installing a column, the first concern is usually positioning the wheel at a comfortable angle. In many cases a tilt column can help with that, but while the angle of the wheel from vertical is important, where the column points on the horizontal plane is often overlooked. One of the design elements often found on many high-performance vehicles is that the steering column is at a very slight angle that follows the driver's line of sight to the center of the lane in front of the vehicle. While it may seem unimportant, driving a truck in which the steering column points noticeably to the left or right from your normal line of sight can be disconcerting, even if you don't know why.

At one time, steering column changes required some scrounging-it wasn't unusual to use industrial U-joints or those adapted from a donor car (Porsche and Tornado U-joints were once popular). Fortunately, today there are quality components readily available for reasonable prices, like those we used from Flaming River. In most truck installations with conventional steering there will be at least one U-joint, IFS often requires two and in some cases three or more. Installation procedures have also changed, pinning or welding U-joints was common practice, and while those are still common practices with race cars, neither are necessary, or suggested, for street applications, Today, U-joints and shafts with double-D or splines make the connection easy and safe-double-Ds are easy to cut to any length and assemble, while splined shafts come in various lengths (and may usually be shortened an inch on each end) to provide finer adjustments for positioning the steering wheel-the important point is that both designs are absolutely safe and reliable when installed according to the manufacturer's guidelines.

When replacing the steering column, U-joints, and shaft in our truck we chose to include some flexibility in the system. As we see it, the steering column is solidly attached to the body and the steering gear is bolted to the front crossmember of the frame so some flex between the two is needed. By including a slip-shaft between the column and the steering gear any movement will be absorbed by the slip-shaft rather than transferring the stress and strain to the U-joints. New cars have them as a means of absorbing movement between the body and chassis, so we figured our old truck should too. There are several methods to do this, we opted for an EZ shaft kit as it has a hex shaft for the ultimate in strength and includes three inches of up-and-down movement to absorb chassis flex and will collapse in the event of a collision. Flaming River can supply an EZ Fit shaft for any two-U-joint system-just specify the length, column, and box size.

There are several methods of mocking up new steering shafts, we've used welding rod for simple installations-PVC pipe and wood dowels also work well. Keep in mind, if more than two U-joints are used, a support bearing will be required-and a double U-joint is considered two, so a single at one end of a shaft and a double at the other requires a support bearing.