If you’ve been following the build of project True SStreet, then you’ve seen us take a theft-recovered 2014 SS Camaro that we purchased at auction, and start the process of turning the car into a quick street and strip mode of transportation. So far, we’ve shown you the 1,000 horsepower LSX engine that will be used, installed the Rhode’s Race Cars rollcage and Harwood fiberglass cowl-induction hood, and then remove the independent rearend, and upgrade to a Moser Engineering straight axle for the rear. In this installment, we are going to upgrade from the factory electric-assist power steering, to a Flaming River manual steering rack-and-pinion.
Our rack-and-pinion uses a shortened pinion shaft for added clearance, and the standard Flaming River steering rate for this style rack. It has a slower ratio than the power-assisted rack. It will be safer on track, and still perform well on the street.
In 2013, both the ZL1 and SS Camaro received the electric, variable-assist power steering. Chevrolet designed the system to provide more steering assistance at low speeds, in order to help drivers maneuver the big musclecar during instances like when turning in a parking lot, while reducing the level of assistance delivered when driving at higher speeds.
Variable-assist power steering does offer improved efficiency, due to its reduction of parasitic losses, and it is less expensive to manufacture than traditional hydraulic systems. But, this electric-steering combination does deliver a reduced steering feel that manufacturers are willing to allow.
Flaming River didn’t have a system to fit the 2014 SS Camaro, so we had previously sent them ours to copy and make this new unit. Once we got the new rack in our hands, installation was simple.
Steering feel is the way you “feel” the road, as transmitted through the steering wheel. For example, the firmness/resistance of turning the steering wheel tells you that you’re actually turning. Typically, a tire’s resistance increases as the steering angle increases, but an over-assisted steering system (like electrically assisted), can eliminate this source of feedback — especially at highway speeds. What could happen during this absence of “feel”, is a slight turn of the wheel could result in a dramatic change in direction, because you don’t “feel” how much force it takes to turn the wheel.
This variable assistance is great when all you’re doing is driving back-and-forth to the grocery store or to work, but is it well-suited for a drag racing application? That question can be answered by saying that it depends on multiple criteria. The first thing you need to ask yourself is, “Knowing this, are you comfortable with the steering in stock form”?
Positioning the rack is easy, especially with the engine missing. Simply slide it back into the proper location.
In many performance driving applications, steering feel is a huge requirement. For drag racing, you’re actually trying to ‘mute’ the effects of steering input. At 150+ mph, if your steering has too much ratio, a small jerk of the wheel can cause the suspension to be upset, causing havoc. Secondly, if you’re building a modified car like project True SStreet, will any other modifications you’re making be compatible with the stock system (i.e., header routing, ancillary plumbing, etc.)? For a drag racing street/strip ride like True SStreet, we wanted to install a manual rack that actually reduced our ratio, which will make the car less “twitchy” when traveling down the drag strip. Also, we wanted more header clearance, the reduction of weight, and to get rid of the heavy power steering hardware.
Once the rack is properly located, reinstall the factory bolts holding it to the frame.
Flaming River is widely associated with producing high-quality replacement and high-performance steering components for a variety of vehicles, and the gen-five Camaro is no exception. The company’s manual rack-and-pinion steering has long been a favorite of racers, as it offers more room in the engine bay for bigger engines and larger-tube headers, as well as a decent weight reduction as compared to some factory-installed power steering racks and associated parts. However, they never made a fifth-generation Camaro kit. That is, until now.
The rack uses the factory tie-rod ends, so installing them is the same as originally done. When you remove your factory rack-and-pinion, count how many turns it takes to remove the outer tie-rode ends from the rack. That will give you a baseline for reinstalling them.
According to Mike Close of Flaming River, “This all-new, manual rack-and-pinion design is a direct-fit for the 2014 Camaro (we also have a direct-fit rack for the 2016 Camaro). These racks go back into the original mounting locations, are significantly lighter than the factory power steering system, and offer improved handling characteristics. A shorter pinion shaft also allows for more clearance when working with large-tube headers, and engine swaps in custom applications. These racks are also machined, assembled, and tested at our facility in Cleveland, Ohio.”
The shorter pinion shaft will allow us to install a universal joint, and gain clearance around header tubes before connecting to the steering column.
We briefly contemplated keeping the factory power-steering on project True SStreet, but in the end, the aforementioned attributes of the manual rack won out. True SStreet is an endeavor that is all about going fast in a straight line, while still being able to drive to the track.
Check back often for more updates on project True SStreet.