If you’re building a classic truck with a certain period in mind, it’s hard to argue the styling cues of a stock steering wheel. Back before they contained airbags shod in a giant rubber box, steering wheels had a sort of “je ne sais quoi” about them. If you’re drinking a Molson and swinging a hockey stick as you’re reading this on a frozen lake, chances are you know what that means. If, like me, you skipped French class altogether in high school, that translates loosely to, “I don’t know what” in English. Allow me to use it in a sentence. “That girl over there with the flat feet and overbite sure is cute. She just has a certain je ne sais quoi about her.”

But enough with the French lesson. The point is OEM steering wheels are cool. However, oftentimes their styling suits our purpose, but the size does not. Most of the truck wheels were designed back when power steering meant you had forearms like a lumberjack and a 17-inch steering wheel to give you a little added “umph.” Today, with most of us adding power steering to our haulers, that giant steering wheel is not just unnecessary; it’s just plain in the way. But what of those cool, old wheels that would look great, but perhaps reduced by an inch or so?

That’s where I found myself as I started to drive my ’68 Chevy around a few months back. The suspension was now dialed, thanks to Classic Performance Products, but I still had the stock steering wheel bolted up to the original column. It worked, but when we swung the truck through the slalom a few weeks back (see my editorial in the June issue for a pic), it was obvious that the larger diameter 17-inch steering wheel and manual steering box needed some lovin’. It took a full half sweep of the wheel to get the truck to move enough to dodge the cones, which I have to say was a bit comical watching from the sidelines!

That’s when I knew something needed to be done. I dug the original steering wheel design of the ’67-68 trucks, but my only option was to replace it with a reproduction wheel of the same size or to install an aftermarket wheel with a reduced diameter. Not wanting to change the OEM look of my interior, I opted to do the next best thing; reduce and restore the stock wheel.

I did a little detective work and found that most original steering wheels have a steel core with a cast plastic exterior. What I pass as common sense said that I could cut the wheel apart, weld up the steel cores, and remold the wheel back to stock guise, reducing the diameter in the process. It sounded like a good challenge, so I called up our buddies at Eastwood to see if this was something that was even possible, and as it turns out, I wasn’t the only guy who wanted to retain his stock steering wheel. As you could imagine, it’s fairly common in the restoration business to refurb an original wheel and Eastwood had just the kit to do so.

What they recommended was their complete steering wheel restoration kit which consists of two cans of PC-7 epoxy, plastic adhesion promoter, and a can of PRE paint prep. Not having the slightest clue how to go forward, I also had them send along their Steering Wheel Restoration Handbook, which handed down some pretty good tech tips.

With a decent plan in hand, I then decided that I wanted to crank it up a notch and replace my original standard wheel with a Deluxe CST steering wheel that I found on eBay. It had the usual cracks in the plastic, but overall was in pretty good shape. More importantly, the CST horn button was in really good shape. I was never really excited about the standard Chevy horn button that my truck came with and it was pretty thrashed, so making the swap simply made that much more sense.

Next month, we’ll tackle installing the newly restored and reduced wheel on a new tilt column from ididit, as well as mating the whole shebang up to a CPP power steering box, but until then, check out how I went from an oversized, crusty steering wheel to one that not only matches the rest of my truck, but works even better. CCT

SOURCE
Eastwood
800-343-9352
http://www.eastwood.com
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