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Thread: Rack & pinion installs on Studebakers

  1. #1
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    Rack & pinion installs on Studebakers

    Greetings all,

    A buddy of mine has got me thinking on the subject of rack & pinion steering on a Lark. I did some surfing and found a page referencing a R&C install on a 53 commander using parts from a 1990ish GM and rejiggering studebaker steering arms

    Has anyone our there installed rack and pinion steering in their Lark or Hawk and how much fabrication had to be done to get it to work. I doubt that I could find a R&P unit that I could somehow bolt to my frame and would magicly fit right into the stock steering arms with out modification.

    Jeff T.

    "I'm getting nowhere as fast as I can"
    The Replacements.
    \"I\'m getting nowhere as fast as I can\"
    The Replacements.

  2. #2
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    Greetings, Jeff,

    Having done enough rack and pinon installations to know better, including one similar to the one you mention, we suggest the questions you should ask yourself:

    1. Why does this seem like a good idea?

    2. What is basically wrong with the Studebaker steering?

    3. What do I plan to do with the car that requires R&P?

    4. Do I have the experience, tools and confidence to fabricate a system which will kill me and others if it doesn't work perfectly?

    After we see your answers, we can give you the benefit of hard-gotten experience.

    thnx, jv

    PackardV8

  3. #3
    Silver Hawk Member Guido's Avatar
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    Jeff,

    A local chapter member (Herman Gantt) who has extensive experience with race cars developed one for his '53 that was later produced by Phantom Auto Works. It was a bolt in installation and had rack and pinion as well as modern control arms and disc brakes. Herman won a contest a couple of years ago in a readers poll in some type of hot rod publication for his car. I was able to find an ad for it on page 34 of my November 2003 Turning Wheels.

    Gary

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  4. #4
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    Why does this seem like a good idea?
    because i need power steering for medical reasons

    2. What is basically wrong with the Studebaker steering?
    too hard to steer when stoped

    3. What do I plan to do with the car that requires R&P?
    drive the wheels off of it

    i am trying that 1997 olds rack&pinion its the perfect width
    keith kirchhoff
    brockport ny 14420

  5. #5
    Golden Hawk Member Dick Steinkamp's Avatar
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    quote:Originally posted by keeffer

    Why does this seem like a good idea?
    because i need power steering for medical reasons
    To get power steering in your Lark, it would probably be a lot easier and cheaper to install the power steering pieces from a donor factory power steering equiped Lark. No engineering and fabricating required.




  6. #6
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    Closest thing to a bolt in would be a 85 Buick Skylark R&P. Then you can tell everyone that you have Lark steering. There is a thread around here showing Jerry Forresters conversion so you could look at that to see if you want to go through that hassel.

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    Guido -

    What makes the Phantom suspension modern???

    Go with me here -

    No change -
    1. Frame attaccment points the same.
    2. Basic geometry the same (A big desire!).
    3. Ball joint attachment point, very simillar.

    The good -
    1. Semi modern brakes, though heavy (bad!).
    2. Easier to get brake/spindle parts. (see below)
    3. Lighter A-arms.
    4. More adjustability. (most don't care!)

    Questionable -
    1. R&P, (is it correct geometry wise?).

    The bad -
    1. Lotsa money.
    2. Lotsa work.
    3. Gotta try to remember WHAT it is you have when you do need parts from your local parts store...brand, year, model!!!!

    To wrap it up - no where do I see modern. "Later" or "more" modern...but not 2006 modern. Maybe....1985 modern.

    This is not to take away from the "thought" of what was done at all. Just a ton of money for little gain.

    Just one persons opinion.

    Mike

  8. #8
    Golden Hawk Member Dick Steinkamp's Avatar
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    quote:Originally posted by Mike Van Veghten

    Questionable -
    1. R&P, (is it correct geometry wise?).
    Here's a good point. Believing that you can replace the center pivot and tie rods with a rack and pinion and have "modern" handling is probably not correct. The new geometry may get you a poorer handling car along with severe bump steer and other bad things. If you are going to do this, don't "re-invent the wheel". Talk to those that have successfully engineered a conversion. It ain't easy.

    IMHO, same with other major changes. Bolting on disk brakes to the front with no other changes may result in longer braking distances, wierd pedal feel, incorrect proportioning between front and rear (and the likelyhood of the car changing ends under hard braking), improper residual pressures front and rear, mismatched front and rear braking abilities, incorrect MC for the application, etc.

    I'm the last one here to poo poo modifying your Studebaker, but keep in mind they did have rooms full of engineers to design these systems to work pretty good. "Upgrades" aren't usually as simple and easy as they sound.




  9. #9
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    FWIW, I've done a bunch of these over the years and learned a lot the hard way. Whether it is the Phantom kit, a DIY small GM center steer setup, or a Mustang II setup, there are a myriad of problems to be solved and most end up handling and driving less well than before.

    Said it before and have to say it again, a lack of skill or lack of engineering expertise here can kill or injure you, your family and innocent bystanders.

    For 99% of the Studebaker driver universe, the cost, time and effort of a R&P conversion far outweighs the few benefits. IMHO, just swap in a completely rebuilt Studebaker power steering into an completely rebuilt front suspension, live long and prosper.

    jv.

    PackardV8

  10. #10
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    I love this forum!!

    Thanks for the advice and opinions...

    I found another document where the author, anyone know Rick Tobin, installed R&P on an Avanti using a GM j body car's R&P, had a couple of brackets fabbed that installed behind the front springs to install the rack.

    Am I going to do this... Who knows!!?? A remanufactured rack runs $80, I would have to make a couple of brackets and change my steering column. It's a shame that I had to get rid of a couple of semisolid Lark frames that I could have experimented upon.

    I love a challange but... I only have so much time and money and I find it wise (sometimes) to bow to the voice of experience, unless it is my dad telling me something can't be done

    "I'm getting nowhere as fast as I can"
    The Replacements.

  11. #11
    Speedster Member grobb284's Avatar
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    quote:2. What is basically wrong with the Studebaker steering?
    The steering bellcrank is almost as likely to go up and down as to left and right for the tie rods. The feeling at the steering wheel of some "lack of control" is probably due to a lack of control.




  12. #12
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    you dont have to get rid of your steering columm just machine the shaft

    keith kirchhoff
    brockport ny 14420

  13. #13
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    did you ever decide to use a rack and pinion on your stud??

  14. #14
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    The steering bellcrank is usually the culprit, when its loose the car is all over the road
    and then when its tight its hard to steer. Didn't I read about someone making a new
    design of this? I used modern bearings and a different shaft? Myers? Fairborn? Thats
    the key in my mind, that and new bushings and tie rod ends. Make sure the kingpins
    are greased and turn freely.

    Tom
    '63 Avanti R1, zinc plated drilled & slotted 03 Mustang Cobra 13" front disc/98 GT rear brakes, 03 Cobra 17" wheels, GM alt, 97 Z28 leather seats, TKO 5-spd, Ported heads w/SST full flow valves.
    Check out my disc brake adapters to install 1994-2004 Mustang disc brakes on your Studebaker!!
    http://forum.studebakerdriversclub.c...kets-available
    I have also written many TECH how to articles, do a search for my Forum name to find them

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    Jeff, I'd be willing to bet that if you got the front end of your Lark in top condition, added factory power steering, and spent the rest of the time, effort and money you would have invested in that R&P job it the rest of the Lark you would wind up with a REALLY nice car that would you be even happier with than with just the R&P conversion.
    Jeff DeWitt
    http://carolinastudes.net

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    Someone in Tn offers a set-up to install R&P in a Stude. He used to run an ad in TW promoting this system. I think I know who he is but need to check into it before I say so publically. I saw a Hawk on a trailer in Va about a year ago that he had just finished and it looked great. Its owner had the swap done for reasons similar to what you quote. Steve

  17. #17
    Silver Hawk Member jclary's Avatar
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    All my Studebakers have R&P steering...problem is that in my case the R&P means "Ramble and Pray!"
    John Clary
    Greer, SC


    SDC member since 1975

  18. #18
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    how can I find that thread

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    Hi Christineman, I found the ad in a back issue of TW. The company is Slick Street stuff for rods and customs. They are in Knoxville Tn. The phone listed in the ad is 865-525-6151. The system in the Hawk looked very proffessional and was designed for a heavy car, much better than most conversions I have seen. Good Luck, Steve

  20. #20
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    Je
    ff, I'd be willing to bet that if you got the front end of your Lark in top condition, added factory power steering, and spent the rest of the time, effort and money you would have invested in that R&P job it the rest of the Lark you would wind up with a REALLY nice car that would you be even happier with than with just the R&P conversion.
    X2 on this advice. Again, please do your research. There are several threads here discussing R&P in general and the Slick Street in particular. It is not a step to be taken in haste. Don't just read about it. It would be a good investment to drive or fly to meet someone who had done EXACTLY the conversion you are considering and drive his car.

    jack vines
    PackardV8

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    Isnt slick street the same company as Phantom .. they jsut split and Phantom sells interior
    pieces and slick street sells the suspension stuff?

    Maybe I am wrong on that, but I seem to remember reading it.

    Tom

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    Imagine my suprise when I saw this four year old thread pop back up to the top

    Looked into rack & pinion steering for my Lark. I decided it was not worth the time and effort.

    Jeff T.
    \"I\'m getting nowhere as fast as I can\"
    The Replacements.

  23. #23
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    Its a GOOD sign, that means people are using the SEARCH feature!

    Tom

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    Dave thibeault sells all you need to retrofit a later model stude power steering sytem. It works quite well. The problem I have had is that the later model lark and avanti stuff has some fitment issues, but only if you contemplate additional mosifications. The steering bellcrank on the PS setup is a long arm that runs roughly parallell in front of the radiator and it's bracket, so its really close. Any fan, shroud or radiator mods will impact this choice. Also, the sliding valve assembly and hoses and pitman arm can be very close to exhaust pipes, and impinge on R3 headers, if you contemplate any exhaust manifold changes. I wish I couldve use dR and P on my latest project with twin turbos, it wouldve given me much more room at the steering box.I judged the R&P too be just too much hassle.

    Harger/slick street/phantom system requires alot of fabrication skills, and bump steer remains an issue for many people. Thanks, m weiss

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    Don't forget that Jerry Forrester put a late GM R&P in his. And best of all he is a forum member that can talk about the issues involved.

    He has some pictures posted on the forum so you may want to search under his name and R&P.

    Bob
    , ,

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    Quote Originally Posted by sbca96 View Post
    Isnt slick street the same company as Phantom .. they jsut split and Phantom sells interior
    pieces and slick street sells the suspension stuff?

    Maybe I am wrong on that, but I seem to remember reading it.

    Tom
    Rene Harger sold the Phantom name and interior company, he is not affiliated with Phantom Autoworks anymore. Before he sold it, he also had "Slick Street Stuff" selling hot rod stuff for Studes. He continues to operate Slick Street Stuff, and a new interior company, "Southeast Studebaker".
    Matthew Burnette

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    Silver Hawk Member Bob Andrews's Avatar
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  28. #28
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    you mentioned the closed thing to a bolt in was a 85 skylarkR&P. do you know of anyone who has used this and installed it I can contact???

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by sweetolbob View Post
    Don't forget that Jerry Forrester put a late GM R&P in his. And best of all he is a forum member that can talk about the issues involved.

    He has some pictures posted on the forum so you may want to search under his name and R&P.

    Bob
    Jerry,
    Could not find the last thread where I promissed info on the CTO rear mount R&P. One available is from Total Control Products - It appears to be an excellent fit for Stude's. One drawback - It is priced @ $2,095 (power - 1895 manual); too rich for me. Perhaps someone can identify the source for the rack (possibly Europe or Australia?).
    Paul Keller

  30. #30
    President Member Jerry Forrester's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Keller View Post
    It is priced @ $2,095
    I don't think they'll be selling many of those to the Studebaker owners.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Keller View Post
    (possibly Europe or Australia?).
    Then that would be RHC. Wont work for me.

    Here's a couple pix of my installation.

    More detailed pix here.
    http://community.webshots.com/slides...diaPosition=40
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Jerry Forrester
    Forrester's Chrome
    Douglasville, Georgia


  31. #31
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    Jerry....what front sway bar are You using?
    Bill Foy
    Gananoque, Ontario
    1964 Wagonaire - 1953 Starlight Coupe

  32. #32
    President Member Jerry Forrester's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Captain Billy View Post
    Jerry....what front sway bar are You using?
    '80 Olds Cutlass. The hanger brackets mounted to the frame horns are temps. I'll redo them when I set the front sheet metal on.
    Jerry Forrester
    Forrester's Chrome
    Douglasville, Georgia


  33. #33
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    I used A pinto. Not some thing I would do again. I think I will go to something else. Have you had any luck?

  34. #34
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    I put a Slick street into a '62 Hawk GT a couple of years ago. I bought the setup since I was going to a daily driver and sbc engine. The rack is an Omni unit and non-power. Once the alignment was set it performed quite well. I did add a center support bearing for the column so I could use iron manifolds and not block huggers. The unit worked quite well but was pricey. I also converted the front and rear to power disc brakes. The setup came with upper and lower control arms, rack and pinion, upper and lower ball joints. I did provide a slightly tighter turning radius over stock. All the original steering was removed. I change to a saginaw tilt steering column.

  35. #35
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    As noted previously, the 1989 GM Skylark unit was installed in to my '63 Hawk. It will be switched out in favor of the same type of unit (GM, etc.) but with the "quick turn" feature (2 1/2 lock-to-lock). Advice? Use the BEST welder you can find to do any brackets or mods. As my welding instructor commented, "If you have to ask someone if it is a good weld - It needs to be done over correctly".
    Paul TK

  36. #36
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    I don't have any direct Studebaker car knowledge for a swap but I would look at the Unisteer products. They have a kit for 58-62 Corvette which was a center pivot arm steer car. That might fit with a little mounting bracket modification.
    Norm

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