Jump behind the wheel of any new car and you soon understand the benefits of a great power steering system. The car is easy to maneuver, requires little effort to turn, and exhibits great steering characteristics in general. Now, get behind the wheel of any ’60s- or ’70s-era muscle car and it doesn’t take long to realize that ride quality, handling, and absence of any performance feel in regard to steering have evolved exponentially in the last 40 years.
Probably the first thing you notice is how the new car’s steering wheel has a direct connection to the road. That ’60s muscle car however, probably feels like you are trying to drive on marbles. But what would you say if I told you that you can vastly improve the steering in your classic Chevy, and it’s an upgrade that will fit across the board for nearly all GM rides — it’s Borgeson’s 800130 power steering box.
When GM was building cars in the ’60s, through even the 2000s, keeping things simple meant using parts across many models of cars. Such is the case with power steering boxes. During this time, one of the main steering boxes GM utilized was the Saginaw 800/808 (found in 1960s through 2000s GM cars and small trucks). GM also used Saginaw’s 708 gearbox (found in 1960s through 1986 GM Trucks and SUV’s, and the Saginaw GMT gearbox (found in 1987 through 2000s GM Trucks/SUV’s). The Saginaw 800 box was designed as a one-size-fits-all unit and can be found in almost every classic Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac car.
Since we like to focus on classic cars, that also means we’ll be taking a look at the 800/808 gearboxes. The difference between the Saginaw 800 and the 808 units is the size of the piston. In a nutshell, the 800 has a 70mm piston and the 808 has an 80mm piston. This is easy to measure from the outside of the gearbox by simply measuring the end cap. The 800 is roughly 3 inches and the 808 is just under 3 ½ inches.
The original 800 GM steering box was available in either a four-bolt or four-bolt mounting pattern. The three-bolt box will directly fit into any vehicle that previously utilized a four-bolt pattern, and vice-versa by not using the extra bolt. FYI: The Borgeson steering box utilizes the four-bolt provisions.
Gearboxes made prior to 1980 will have 5/8 and 11/16-inch SAE inverted flare fittings, and boxes made after 1980 will have 16mm and 18mm O-ring fittings. “The all-new Borgeson boxes include adapters to be able to use either the O-ring or flare-style hose connections,” says Jeff Grantmeyer of Borgeson. “This new Borgeson steering box uses a 3/4-inch 30-spline input shaft and all pre-1977 cars will require a new rag joint connector (PN: 990012).
Many power-assisted GM steering gearboxes were originally manufactured with a wide (slow) turn ratio. Most units delivered a variable ratio, typically around 16:1. Putting that into perspective, the steering wheel would rotate a full four to five turns from lock-to-lock. These units also incorporated variable pressure, meaning they would exhibit a slow steering response near the center point, but a quicker response as you approach the ends of its maximum range.
When enthusiasts were wanting to upgrade their car’s power steering box, it used to be necessary to find a quick-ratio box in a salvage yard. The quick-ratio GM steering box was original equipment on some mid-size models, and they could easily be transplanted into most other GM vehicles. However, finding one in a salvage yard nowadays is next to impossible. If you do happen to find one, you really will not know the condition of the internal parts until you try to use it. Since all-new units are available, is it worth taking the chance?
Thanks to Borgeson, this upgrade is still a viable option, without the need to scour the salvage yards for a non-existent, worn-out gearbox. The company’s all-new quick-ratio power steering box is a direct replacement for the factory Saginaw 800 box. “We developed the box with one of our current manufacturing partners, and we assemble and test them in the USA,” says Jeff.
The new GM steering box has a quick 12.7:1 ratio and delivers a firm modern-steering feel. We’re also told the Borgeson Street and Performance power steering box will bolt directly to the stock location and fit to the original power steering pitman arms. However, cars upgrading from manual steering will require a power steering pitman arm.
As previously mentioned, the Saginaw 800 box fits across the board for GM vehicles, so if you have a 1978-1988 G-body, 1967-1992 F-body, 1982-1993 S10, 1964-1981 A-body, 1968-1979 X-body, this new box will be the perfect way to improve the way your car drives. That makes it more enjoyable, and that makes it happen more often.
If you are ready to upgrade your GM steering box and want to talk to the knowledgeable folks at Borgeson, you can call or check out the company website. looking for a comprehensive list of what vehicles the Saginaw 800 box will fit, You can find one on the Borgeson website by clicking here.