The steering assembly is straightforward in the guide. I fitted the rack and attached it to the uprights ages ago, so how much more can there be to do? Fitting the steering column is a simple task which, in my experience, grew from a planned few minutes into hours wasted breaking stuff and fitting some very fiddly other stuff.
The kit came across a couple of different boxes. The steering column in the large box with the driveshafts, other stuff in a miscellaneous box of varied bits, and a steering bush knocking about in the boot of the car when it arrived. The steering wheel comes in it’s own box. In the poly bag is the clamp to hold the two columns together and the fixings for the wheel onto the steering boss – in my case a quick-release boss sites behind the steering wheel mount.
The assembly process is detailed in the manual early on, but only happens in the build sequence after the exhaust header pipes are installed as the steering column threads it’s way between them.
As per the manual, I grease up the lower column, threading it through the dash and into the engine bay. Once in position, the top end of the column just reaches the hole in the scuttle. There are lots of warnings in the manual about using minimum force to get the column through the lower bush. I thought I did, but still managed to dislodge the lower white bush from the rubber mount. I shoved it back into place and thought no more about it until much later.
Down at the other end of the column and there is a universal joint to fit between the rack and the column. The picture on the right shows the joint in position with the lower bolt loosely fitted. I struggled with the bottom bolt. And when I say struggled, I mean I wrecked the thread completely. The UJ is made of very hard steel. When the column was in place the bolt would not fit through the holes. Forcing it did not work – I tried giving the jammed bolt a few turns with a socket. It went through, but knackered the thread.
Fellow builder Robin suggested pinching the tabs the bolt travels through together, and the guide suggests widening the gap with a screwdriver. I can only imagine the guide refers to an older version of the UJ. Robin was spot on, but I’m not strong enough to compress the joint enough. I resorted to a bit of tactical filing with a round file to enlarge the hole just enough to thread the (replacement a couple of days later, thanks Derek) bolt through. Another lesson learned.
Once in place the top column is inserted, and it’s back to play with the bushes again. I now inserted the top bush and rubber mount as per the instructions – easy enough with a bit of rubber lubricant, it drops nicely into place when the nubs and holes in the tube are aligned. Of course, putting the upper steering column in through the top bush was a breeze, when it got to the lower bush that I’d earlier dislodged, there was no way I was getting the upper column through that in place.
Cue an hour or so of swearing, fiddling and grunting, the awkwardness compounded by a lack of access and visibility of the parts I’m manipulating. Once I had worked out that the white plastic bush has notches that weren’t engaged in the rubber/metal mount but poking into the space where the column needed to go, I decided to force the rubber part out of the hole and re-fix the plastic sleeve into it. Getting the rubber bush back in took a couple of attempts, and handily, the holes for the rubber nubs are oriented top and bottom, not left and right like the upper bush (of course – why would it be the same?)
With the white bush in place correctly, one attempt saw the upper column glide through the bush in place and telescoped over the lower column. I let out a shout of joy, I can tell you. This little victory meant I could fit the clamp to hold the two sections together. After this, a little fiddling with the Quick Release boss revealed it only fits in one orientation, so I then needed to move the column around a spline in the UJ to make sure the straight ahead position of the wheel corresponded to the wheel being level. A quick run around all the bolts, including the steering rack, finally, meant I had successfully installed the steering. Go me!