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Advice on Tightening up Steering on 53 Coupe

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  • Advice on Tightening up Steering on 53 Coupe

    I returned from running the 7 day La Carrera Panamericana race just over a week ago. Although my 53 Commander coupe finished the race and generally performed well, I still have a list of several items to work on to improve performance next year. At the top of the list is to tighten the steering. I would not describe it as excessively sloppy, and the car handles well in cornering. However, there is a tendency for the car to wander, especially on rough roads and at higher speeds. The steering wheel seems to take at least a 20 degree turn to get a response at the front wheels. I would like it to be "tighter" and more responsive. The alignment has been checked and is fine. I don't expect the car to feel or steer as tight as a new modern car, and the car is being driven harder and faster than it was intended to be, but I would like to improve the steering as much as I can, staying with Stude technology. I'm relatively new to the Stude world, and this is my first foray into steering/suspension issues. Any advice would be very much appreciated.

    1. What steps can I take to try to isolate the source of the play in the steering? (keeping in mind I have not done this before, so I'm not sure what to look for)

    2. At least some of the play seems to be in the steering box. It is a Ross box, which from other posts I understand is not as good as a Saginaw box. Should I look at replacing the Ross steering box with a Saginaw? Is the Saginaw box a bolt in? or do I need other parts to go with it? Are there NOS boxes out there?

    3. Nate refers to "quick steering arms" in another post. What is he refering to? Will this improve the responsiveness of the steering (like reducing the ratio)?

    Thanks for putting up with my questions.

    John


    John
    1953 Commander Coupe
    1954 Champion Sedan
    1963 Lark
    John
    1953 Commander Coupe
    1954 Champion Sedan
    1963 Lark

  • #2
    The "quick steering arms" are late Avanti II pieces and they do quicken up the ratio quite a bit. I had a pair on a Hawk with manual steering and it REALLY made the car a BEEEEATCH to park at times, but at speed it was GREAT.

    The arms will not cure your sloppy box. Replace it.

    Comment


    • #3
      I'd also dial in as much caster as you can to help with the self centering. this won't help your sloppiness problem, but it will help roadability. Maybe even switch over to later kingpins and knuckles to allow more caster (there was a change made at some point, I want to say late 50's or early 60's?)

      You should definitely look at sourcing a Saginaw steering box. I'd be willing to bet that's where a lot of your play is, but still go ahead and inspect everything.

      nate

      --
      55 Commander Starlight
      http://members.cox.net/njnagel
      --
      55 Commander Starlight
      http://members.cox.net/njnagel

      Comment


      • #4
        Yeah, replace the box, or atleast see if it's adjustable. I'm not sure if it for that car or not. Something else to consider would be to set the toe-in a little more on your car. I did this to my track prepped TR6 and it really helped improve the steering response. Just a few degrees should do it. Be careful though... too much and you'll wear that heck out of your tires in no time. This is definately a "do it a little bit and see" type thing. It's common for a lot of racers to do this.

        Good luck,

        Chris Salisbury
        Hutto/Austin, TX

        1958 Commander Starlight Hardtop

        Comment


        • #5
          Almost forgot to mention... By having the toe-in set in a few degrees, this also puts positive pressure on your tie rod ends and other steering linkage. This won't do anything to help a worn box, but having positive pressure on the steering components (within reason) will act as a damper. This should increase steering wheel sensitivity in most cases and will definately assist in holding the car in a straight line at speed.

          Not sure if you have fully adjustable coilovers... but if you do, then this toe in setup will help you get the rear end out on sharp turns if you drop the nose a little bit and at a touch of rake to the rear. Maybe lift the rear or drop the front a half inch or so...

          It helped me throttle steer out of corners pretty nicely on the track and the street. [:0]

          Chris Salisbury
          Hutto/Austin, TX

          1958 Commander Starlight Hardtop

          Comment


          • #6
            Thanks, guys. Replacing the Ross box with a Saginaw box seems to be a common theme. I'll start trying to locate one.

            John
            1953 Commander Coupe
            1954 Champion Sedan
            1963 Lark

            John
            1953 Commander Coupe
            1954 Champion Sedan
            1963 Lark

            Comment


            • #7
              I will also try the ideas mentioned regarding caster, a few degrees toe in, later components, etc.

              Chris, I'm not permitted to use coil over shocks in the class I run in, but thanks for your other ideas. I'm pretty new to this whole game and I really appreciate the suggestions.



              John
              1953 Commander Coupe
              1954 Champion Sedan
              1963 Lark

              John
              1953 Commander Coupe
              1954 Champion Sedan
              1963 Lark

              Comment


              • #8
                quote:Originally posted by jngregory

                Thanks, guys. Replacing the Ross box with a Saginaw box seems to be a common theme. I'll start trying to locate one.
                I replaced the Ross box in my '54 with a same year Saginaw box. World of difference! The Saginaw boxes were not too common. Maybe just some Champions, but I don't know for sure.

                The hot set up is a Saginaw box from a later Lark. There is some adapting needed, but you will love how the car drives. []


                Dick Steinkamp
                Bellingham, WA

                Comment


                • #9
                  What hasn't yet been mentioned is the bell crank, and the center pivot on which it mounts. Sometimes the pinch bolt that holds the bell crank on the pivot shaft works loose, and the steering gets very sloppy.

                  Get the front wheels up on ramps, and have a helper turn the steering wheel through the slack and a tad beyond repeatedly while you watch for lost motion in the steering linkage.

                  Gord Richmond, within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands
                  Gord Richmond, within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I went through the miscellaneous parts I have been collecting over the past couple of years, and it turns out I have an extra Saginaw steering box. I think it came out of a 54 Champion parts car. It seems to be in okay condition, but I'll follow the shop manual to disassemble it and see what the innards look like. I hope I can source internal parts if needed.

                    Gord, thanks for the advice. I will follow your suggestion to check for play in the bell crank and elsewhere in the linkage.

                    John
                    1953 Commander Coupe
                    1954 Champion Sedan
                    1963 Lark

                    John
                    1953 Commander Coupe
                    1954 Champion Sedan
                    1963 Lark

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I would like to get more detailed information about how to do a Ross-to-Saginaw steering box conversion on my 1950 Champion. Does anyone remember a thread or an article with specifics on the process?
                      John
                      1950 Champion
                      W-3 4 Dr. Sedan
                      Holdrege NE

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Anyone who hasn't noticed and is interested there is a Saginaw manual box on e-bay. Item #160179330061

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Dick,
                          Before you let that beauty out of your site, check the turns lock to lock for me. I understand from an old timer (my dad) that the early saginaw had 3 1/2 turns. Now its probably been 50 years since he was behind the wheel of a 53 champion he may be mistaken. He had a 57 hawk at the time and really liked the feel of the champion with the quicker ratio.
                          Now John with the La Carrera racer pay attention here if the earlier champion is in fact 3 1/2 turns Lck to Lck then this would really help you in the handling department. With a tight box and a fast ratio you'd feel like you were in a new car.
                          The newer saginaw has the reciprocating balls that makes for less effort to turn the LCk to Lck is almost 5 turns.
                          Russ
                          quote:Originally posted by Dick Steinkamp

                          quote:Originally posted by jngregory

                          Thanks, guys. Replacing the Ross box with a Saginaw box seems to be a common theme. I'll start trying to locate one.
                          I replaced the Ross box in my '54 with a same year Saginaw box. World of difference! The Saginaw boxes were not too common. Maybe just some Champions, but I don't know for sure.

                          The hot set up is a Saginaw box from a later Lark. There is some adapting needed, but you will love how the car drives. []


                          Russ Shop Foreman "Rusty Nut Garage"
                          57 SH (project)
                          60 Lark VIII 2dr sd (driver)

                          Russ Shop Foreman \"Rusty Nut Garage\"
                          53 2R6 289 5SpdOD (driver)
                          57 SH (project)
                          60 Lark VIII 2dr sd (driver)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Russ, that's very interesting. The 54 Shop Manual says the Saginaw box has a 20:1 ratio, and the Ross just slightly lower. I don't have a newer Manual so I can't check to compare the 54 Saginaw to a later Saginaw box. I know 20:1 is pretty high - Roger Habich and his Dad, Daryl, from Monroe, WA who ran a heavily modified Studebaker in the La Carrera Panamericana told me they had steering with an 8:1 ratio (Roger ran very fast and would have challenged for the overall win if he hadn't been disqualified in mid race for being 60 lbs - half a tank of gas - under the 3300 lbs minimum).

                            John
                            1953 Commander Coupe
                            1954 Champion Sedan
                            1963 Lark

                            John
                            1953 Commander Coupe
                            1954 Champion Sedan
                            1963 Lark

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              56 manual has Saginaw at gear ratio 19-1(overall 20-1) Ross variable ratio 18.5-16.5-18.5(overall 19-1) Power Saginaw at 20-1. The power box
                              has almost 5 turns lock to lock

                              Comment

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