Rack-and-pinion conversions rank among the most popular modifications for vintage Mustangs. And why not? Even when new, the Mustang's original recirculating ball steering box provided less-than-ideal precision. After thousands of miles of use, and in combination with original linkage designed in the 1960s, the steering in most of today's '65-'70 Mustangs feels vague and even downright scary with a loose feel and as much a five turns lock-to-lock, especially when climbing out of a late-model Mustang.
That's why Ford switched to rack-and-pinion steering for the Mustang II in 1974. But you can also get the same precise late-model steering for your '65-'70 Mustang with one of the bolt-in kits offered by the manufacturers listed here. Most can be installed with the factory steering linkage, although you'll really experience an improvement if you add coilover strut suspension, as offered by companies like Total Control Products and Gateway Performance Suspension, at the same time. Fatman Fabrications only offers their rack-and-pinion as part of their strut Independent Front Suspension system.
Modern rack-and-pinion steering eliminates the on-center spot and offers improved steering accuracy, reduced effort (especially with power-assist), and considerably improved highway tracking ability. Installation requires little or no modification to the car.
Since 1987, Flaming River has been offering rack-and-pinion steering systems for street rods and classic cars, including '65-'70 Mustangs. The latest is the Power Rack-and-Pinion for Flaming River's Cradle System, which mounts in the original chassis location utilizing the mounting holes from the original steering box and idler arm. No modifications are required to the chassis and the factory crossmember stays in place. With over six inches of travel and full lock-to-lock turning radius, the Flaming River rack-and-pinion provides driving comfort and improved steering performance. The rack-and-pinion unit is completely new and allows for an adjustable pinion angle. No core charge is required.
Rack-and-pinion steering can...
Rack-and-pinion steering can wreak havoc with exhaust systems because most headers were designed around the factory steering system. That’s why Flaming River has created their own headers, specifically built to clear the Cradle rack-and-pinion. Available painted or ceramic coated, the headers fit ’65-’70 Mustangs with 289 or 302 engines.
Flaming River offers over a dozen kits for '65-'70 Mustangs with a variety of steering column, steering wheel (original or aftermarket), and spindle (original or Granada) choices. Kits are supplied with a tilt steering column (except when no column is requested), wiring adaptor, mounting hardware, power steering pump and mounting bracket, and polished aluminum reservoir. Universal joints, shafts, and support bearing are also included to tie the rack-and-pinion to the steering column.
All Flaming River Rack-and Pinion Cradle Systems are designed for a factory original platform vehicle. Flaming River notes that variations or modifications to the car's original chassis, suspension, drivetrain, and drive height may require additional modifications to properly install the rack-and-pinion.
Depending on the part number, prices range from $1,600 to $2,100.
Total Control Products
Although it's been over a decade, Total Control Products is still well-remembered as the company that supplied the rack-and-pinion and coilover suspensions for the '67 Eleanor Mustangs the movie "Gone in Sixty Seconds." Now part of Chris Alston's Chassisworks, TCP continues to offer high-quality rack-and-pinion kits for '65-'70 Mustangs. Both manual and power versions feature a quick ratio and straight-cut gears that require only three turns lock-to-lock, compared to 4-5/8-turns for standard OEM steering and 3-3/4 turns for performance Mustang steering boxes.
TCP's unique modular design utilizes an assortment of mounting brackets and centerlinks to adapt to vintage Mustangs. Existing factory mounting locations are used to simplify the rack installation. Installed, the rack's rigid crossmember replaces the factory's bent tubular crossmember to better brace the lower control arm mounts. The design positions the rack's gearbox against the driver-side framerail so the steering shaft and universal joints remain close to the frame as well as to provide improved header and exhaust clearance.
Offered as either manual or power systems for '65-'70 Mustangs, TCP's rack-and-pinion kits are available to work with both factory and aftermarket steering columns. Installation in '65-'66 Mustangs requires V-8 spindles and tie-rod assemblies. With TCP's power rack-and-pinion, the level of assist can be varied to meet driver needs.
Prices for manual TCP racks start at $1,398; power racks start at $2,098. They're also available in right-hand drive for Mustang owners in Australia and New Zealand.