I’m no engine builder.
Normally I would take the engine out and ship it to my engine builder to be refreshed, which I’m sure it needs, and tuned. In this case I was already planning to switch engines when I rebuild the rest of the car. For that reason I intended to limp through the rest of the season with this one.
I have all the settings I need for the retuning and I am sure I can find someone whose expertise is far greater than mine. I might even learn something in the process. So no worries on that part of the project. Not yet anyway.
The next big problem was the steering. I had two problems there. First the steering box was shot. We had a spare to replace it with but I wasn’t planning to do that because of the second problem. The braces that mounted the steering gear hurt my knees when I was just sitting in the car. I didn’t want to think about what it would be like to have them slammed against the brace when hitting a bump or during a race. That kind of pain I can do without.
My plan was to use rack and pinion steering rather than the stock Volkswagon steering box mounted up side down as in the existing car. That would mean I would have to remove the steering box, the pitman arm, and the steering mechanism that the Dassingers’s had devised. It also meant that I no longer need the braces that cut across my knees. Score two for one.
I unbolted the steering box and discovered that the pitman arm had been welded to the box. Good thing I wasn’t planning to just swap it out. That would have been a bear to break loose and replace.
About this time I discovered that I had to remove the side body panels in order to remove the remainder of the steering apparatus. In an earlier conversation, Gary Dassinger had told me that one of the innovations they had been working toward in building the car was to have a single removable piece that allowed you to get to everything. That meant that the side panels would never be taken off unless you had to get into the frame for repairs, so they are semi permanently screwed on rather than using the more common Dzus fasteners. In order to remove them you also had to detach the steering arms and the rear axle locating arms.
After removing the body panels, steering assembly came out easily.
I got out the saw and a grinding wheel and went to work. It took some doing but eventually I had the braces and the tabs for the steering cross member out of the way.
I discovered I was also going to reduce the weight of the car a bit on this trade out because the steering bar, steering box and pitman arm hit the scales at just over twenty two pounds. At six pounds the rack and pinion and the mounting bar was a lot lighter. I wish it were that easy to take sixteen pounds off of the driver. (Now there is an area we could work on)
With the front tires back in place, I tied a string between the steering arm connection points at the wheels to use for alignment. At this point I realised what a nice thing the Dassingers had done for me. They had notched the top rail to receive their steering assembly. This provided me with all sorts of clearance for my steering arms.
I had found an Empi Rack and pinion rig in the JC Whitney catalogue. It was designed to be used in the center of a dune buggy so it fit my needs nicely. The next part of the problem was to devise a mount of it.
The box needed to be mounted fairly high in order for me to slide my feet under it. That would give the greatest length I could manage and make it easier to slide my six foot plus body down in the car. If I put the new assembly where the old one had been I should have good clearance all the way around.
The only problem that presented was that the mounts for the new steering box were on the lower part of the housing. There was also a one quarter inch plate on the back of the rack housing that kept it from sitting flush on the mounting plate.
I made up a quick sketch and Hugh got a machinist friend of his to fabricate it for us. Then I had a piece of two inch by two-inch angle fabricated to act as a crossbar. Hugh did some of his famous go-rilla welding to attach the mounting bracket to the cross bar. I test fitted the R&P rig to the plate.
After that it was just a matter of bolting the steering assembly in place and fabricating the steering arms. Bolting it in was easy. Getting the length right on the steering arms took several tries.
The steering arms that were part of the original Empi kit allowed for adjustment on one end only. I went ahead with it since I had paid for it. Unfortunately I measured wrong and they didn’t fir properly. It wasn’t a big problem but it was annoying. Architects should be able to measure better than that. I never said I was smart.