Sooner or later, most vintage Mustang owners experience vague steering while driving their cars. First-generation Mustangs aren't much fun to drive when the worn original steering box is still in place and untouched after 35-40 years of service. Even with new ball joints and a new steering linkage, the symptoms of a worn steering box are still felt with a large on-center spot, little or no road feel, and wandering at freeway speeds that requires constant correction.
You'll also have a situation where the steering wheel can be turned several inches to either side with no change in direction. It's a spooky feeling when traffic is tight and the lanes are narrow. Even with a rebuilt or new steering box, an old Mustang's steering can't compare to the precise feel of the rack-and-pinion steering in modern cars, including the newer Mustangs.
Luckily, this is no longer the case as there are many manufacturers offering aftermarket steering upgrades. Rack-and-pinion conversions have become a popular option for owners of vintage Mustangs. A modern rack-and-pinion steering system eliminates the on-center spot and offers improved steering accuracy, reduced effort, and considerably improved freeway tracking ability. There are systems that require little or no permanent modification to the car, and both manual and power steering setups are available. Let's take a look at your choices.
DB Performance Engineering
DB Performance Engineering's power rack-and-pinion system converts '65-'68 Mustangs to a quick-response, low-effort steering setup. Designed to accommodate large tires, it has a quick steering-gear ratio of 16:1 and 3.25 turns lock-to-lock. The heavy-duty front crossmember strengthens the car's front end and is adjustable to eliminate bumpsteer, which is important for lowered cars. Also included is a new five-position tilt steering column with the emergency-flasher switch built in.
The system also includes Borgeson needle-bearing steering-shaft U-joints for connecting the rack and the column. All hardware, hydraulic fittings, and instructions are provided with the kit, and no welding or major cutting is required for the installation.
DBPE is also a full-service vintage and late-model performance shop that offers other conversions such as disc brakes, a power brake booster with a dual-reservoir master cylinder, and 5.0L EFI conversions, as well as AOD and T5 transmission conversions for early Mustangs.
Flaming River offers rack-and-pinion cradle steering systems for '65-'70 Mustangs, now in both manual and power versions. The power rack-and-pinion system carries PN FR300PW1, and it's a direct bolt-in installation to the existing steering-box and idler-arm mounting holes on the subframe. No cutting, drilling, grinding, or welding is required. The manual and power systems retain the full-turn radius, and the cradle position maintains correct steering geometry. Both systems install with basic hand tools and are available with or without Flaming River's tilt column. The column is available with a paintable, stainless mill finish or a polished stainless finish. Columns that accept a stock Mustang steering wheel are also available.
The cradle mounts in the original location without chassis modifications, and the center support doesn't have to be removed. The systems include a manual or power rack-and-pinion and the mounting cradle, Grade 8 mounting hardware, universal joints, steering shaft, and support bearing. Power systems also come with a variable-pressure pump and billet-aluminum reservoir. For now, the power systems fit cars with 289/302 engines and stock exhaust systems. Manual systems work with 289/302/351W and FE 390/428 engines with factory exhaust or headers.
Total Control Products
Total Control's line of high-performance, center-takeoff rack-and-pinion packages enable correct geometry and an optimum level of positive and direct steering. Both manual and power versions feature quick-ratio straight-cut gears, requiring only three turns lock-to-lock. Standard OEM steering is often more than four turns, while performance OEM setups are often 331/44 turns. The unique modular design utilizes an assortment of mounting brackets and center-links to adapt to '65-'70 Mustangs as well as other Ford and Mercury cars, including Cougars, Comets, Falcons, and Rancheros.
Existing factory mounting locations are used whenever possible to simplify rack installation. Once installed, the rack becomes a rigid crossmember bracing the lower control-arm mounts, an improvement over the original, bent tubular design. Mounting brackets along with the centerlink are specific to engine type and are used to vary the height of the rack as needed for oil-pan clearance. TCP also offers stainless steel tilt-steering columns.
Revelation Racing Supply
RRS offers a rack that is functional, and most important to some, basically a non-invasive application. The company, based in Australia but with offices here in the U.S., has both manual and power rack applications for '65-'70 Mustangs.
Both the manual and power racks include all mounting hardware, stainless steel U-joints, a stainless-steel mid-shaft, and a hardened double-D shaft with column bearing and support for '65-'66 Mustangs. Speaking of '65-'66 Mustangs, the RRS rack kit also includes an upper shaft (with bearing) to allow use of the stock column and wheel. Both feature a rebuildable steering head and over-the-counter inner tie-rod ends. The power rack also includes the hoses. Prices are $1,895 for manual '65-'67 applications and $2,095 for '65-'67 power-steering setups. Applications for '68-'70s are slightly less at $1,850 and $2,050, respectively.
The RRS rack uses two separate mounting brackets to physically mount the rack system to the car. The end with the steering head is captive, while the passenger-side end piece has some leeway for movement prior to final tightening-a good idea since unit-body construction is not exactly a precise science. The rack essentially mounts in the stock location.
RRS uses the factory drag link to configure its tie-rod mounting position on the aircraft aluminum tie-rod bar to maintain factory geometry all the way around. To that end, both the power and manual racks use stock Mustang manual-steering inner tie-rod ends. This setup assures bumpsteer is minimalized in a stock front-end configuration. The one drawback to its stock mounting location is that some brands of long-tube headers won't fit with the rack. RRS also says that four- or five-speed manual-transmission applications require modifications to the stock equalizer bar or the use of a hydraulic clutch. Those issues aside, the pluses are a near-stock turning radius when coupled with the stock spindles, a fast ratio, and 2.88 turns lock-to-lock. The rack's stock inner tie-rod ends assure correct alignment, and all shorty and mainstream brand Tri-Y headers will clear RRS rack installations. RRS also offers a 12-month/12,000-mile warranty on all parts.
RRS systems are available from National Parts Depot (www.npdlink.com) and Auto Krafters (www.autokrafters.com).
Rod & Custom Motorsports
Although Rod & Custom mainly offers a complete Mustang II-style front suspension that eliminates the vintage Mustang's shock towers, its systems also include a rack-and-pinion steering setup.
The complete tubular A-arm systems include a crossmember for tubular control arms, a motor-mount kit for any type of engine, a pair of spindles, a complete 11-inch front disc-brake kit, a pair of stainless-steel brake hoses with a frame-bracket kit, a pair of springs, a set of four tubular upper and lower control arms, and a rebuilt power or new manual steering rack.
Other bits include a pair of gas shocks, U-joints, steering shaft, bearing kit and adapter for the lower part of the steering column, a pair of inner-fender repair panels, and a 1-inch antisway bar with urethane bushings. The complete kit retails for $2,295. Add $75 for 2-inch dropped spindles.
Speed Direct is the manufacturer of the Steeroids rack-and-pinion steering conversion kits for '65-'70 Mustangs. Its kit is a complete bolt-in upgrade and includes a tilt-steering column. Speed Direct also offers a money-saving option for purchasing a kit without a steering column so you can use a stock column with little modification.
The Steeroids system offers a quick-ratio rack-and-pinion, among the quickest on the market. Power kits yield 2.5 turns lock-to-lock at the steering wheel, while the manual racks offer about three turns lock-to-lock. Systems are thoroughly track-and-road tested to ensure optimum performance.
As the suspension travels over bumps and rough areas in the road, if bumpsteer isn't adjusted correctly, alignment changes throughout the travel of suspension cause the car to wander and become darty. The Steeroids kits include adjustable tie-rod ends to control bumpsteer and are tested with a bumpsteer gauge. With the adjustable tie-rod ends, you can dial in the car for better control under all conditions. If your car has been lowered, bumpsteer can be greatly affected, but with the Steeroids kit, adjustments are possible.
Aftermarket headers for both small- and big-block are usually not a problem. The kits are lighter than the stock steering setup and don't require the removal of the structural crossbrace when installed. Power kits are designed to work with both stock and aftermarket steering pumps. These kits are also designed to maintain a tight turning radius.
Steeroids kits are available for Mustangs as a complete bolt-on kit with a choice of steering column finishes from $1,450. For owners who prefer to use their stock column, there is also a money-saving kit without a steering column. Those systems start at $1,150.
Randall's Rack and Pinion
Randall's aftermarket power rack-and-pinion steering system for '65-'70 small-block Mustangs also fits '67-'70 big-block cars with stock exhaust manifolds. The rack is mounted to a strong 11/44-inch steel, one-piece crossmember that provides a secure mounting point for the rack and helps to increase the strength of the front end. The rack turns three times lock-to-lock. The bolt-in conversion requires a small amount of work to the car's existing steering shaft and column depending on the style of column. All required parts are supplied, including a powder-painted crossmember, a rack-and-pinion unit, an intermediate shaft, a steering-column adapter, power-steering lines, a centerlink, and all other related installation hardware.
The Randall's system can be used with or without an existing power-steering pump. All lines are included to connect to a car's original pump. If you need a pump, Randall's offers a new aluminum pump with brackets and hoses for installation.
Randall's rack-and-pinion uses the original Ford column and steering wheel. All parts needed to use an original column are also included in the kit. Because aftermarket columns or steering wheels aren't used, the Mustang's original appearance is maintained on the inside.
The package is protected from possible damage by the one-piece crossmember design, and the placement of the steering rack provides adequate clearance for both long- and short-tube headers. The new (not rebuilt) power-steering pump includes an aluminum pulley, adapter brackets, and fluid lines.