If you’re into any type of driving that requires frequent cornering – like autocross – you’ve surely read about the many suspension, brake, and handling upgrades that are available for classic cars and even trucks. Even if you don’t frequent the local SCCA events, you probably have an interest in making your classic handle better than it did when it was new. I get it. We’re all hot rodders. As much benefit as a suspension upgrade can deliver, most of the time, the task requires a complete transformation of the car’s underpinnings. However, Borgeson Universal Company wants you to keep in mind, your vehicle’s steering also plays a huge role in your hot rod’s handling capabilities.
It’s no secret that conventional, factory-installed power-steering gearboxes were sent out the door with a wide ratio. In fact, depending on the manufacturer, most had a ratio that ranged from 16:1 all the way up to 24:1. It took no less than four to six full turns of the steering wheel to get from lock-to-lock (wheels locked from the extreme right to the extreme left).
There were even some units designed to have a slow steering response near the center point, with an improved response as you approached the ends of maximum travel. These were termed variable-ratio boxes. The slow ratios were great for grandma when she was pulling a three-point turn in the mall parking lot, but not so much for us enthusiasts. Installing a quick-ratio gearbox can reduce the steering wheel lock-to-lock range to as low as 2 1/2 turns.
When most early-model Chevrolet trucks exited the factory, power-steering-equipped models were given a 16:1 steering ratio. That numerical nomenclature is used to describe the relationship between the rotation of the steering wheel and the movement of the wheels. In other words, turning the steering wheel 16-degrees will make the wheels turn 1-degree. A quicker-ratio box makes the wheels turn farther with the same amount of steering wheel movement.
You’re probably asking why the steering-box ratio of a two-ton truck matters? At one time, it didn’t – to non-performance-minded drivers. Now, enthusiasts are building these once-utilitarian modes of conveyances into true hot rods that can handle a corner almost as well as any late-model performance car. That’s why, when the folks at Borgeson told us about a new, performance-oriented power steering box for the C10 truck, our interest was definitely piqued.
The guys building suspension upgrades had few good options for a performance box. – Jeff Grantmeyer, Borgeson
“The key factor for Borgeson building this box was the style of builds going in to the C10s,” said Jeff Grantmeyer, of Borgeson. “Most of them are being built for Pro-Touring-type applications. The guys building suspension upgrades had few good options for a performance box. In fact, the best ratio that could be had was a 16:13:1 remanufactured variable ratio that just didn’t fit the builds. The box is over engineered to last, regardless of tire size or driving abuse, like our offering for the cars, this box will handle a 4400-pound frontend load.”
The new box from Borgeson, is the only quick-ratio power-steering box that directly replaces the Saginaw/Delphi 800 series in the 1968 through 1986 Chevrolet C10 trucks. This all new power-steering box has a quick 12.7:1 ratio with a firm, modern-steering feel.
“It wasn’t a huge stretch for us to bring the C10 box to the market,” Said Jeff. We have the good valve/internals already being used in our part number 800130 offering for the 1965 and up Chevelle, and the Camaro and such, we just needed to package them in a casting for the C10 trucks.”
Borgeson is calling it the Street & Performance power steering box, and it will bolt directly to the stock location and fit to original power-steering pitman arms. I actually found this to be true, as it only took a couple of hours for me to do the swap in my driveway. Keep in mind, if you are switching from manual steering to power, the swap will require a power-steering pitman arm.
Also, the steering box will fit many pump and hose applications, as it comes with adapters to connect to both an O-ring and flare-style hose connections. This new Borgeson steering box uses a 3/4 by 30-spline input shaft, which means all pre-1977 trucks will require a new rag-joint connector (PN 990012). In case you don’t remember, my ’79 Cheyenne has already been upgraded with a Flaming River steering column, so I was not sure if the original steering shaft would work for the gearbox swap.
I soon learned the length was only slightly different than the stock set up, and that might have something to do with the actual mounting of the column, as it was adjustable. For installation in my ’79 C10 though, Borgeson also sent a new collapsible steering shaft with two universal joints to ensure a solid connection. The steering shaft also looks better than the factory unit.
With the parts in-hand, it was time to get busy. Typically, when I start a project, I expect things to need some “adjustments” or “tweaks” during the install. This time, I can honestly say, this was one of the easiest upgrades I have done in a while. The swap took a couple hours, and I was even stopping to take pictures. The box mounted as it should, and the Pitman arm slid right in place. After flushing the power steering lines and pump, I connected the hoses to the new box with the help of the supplied flare adapters.
With the install complete I was able to experience the new box first-hand. I don’t want to say the original steering box was loose, because it was in great shape for a box of its age. However, the new steering box adds a level of firmness not seen in the truck before the install. It is not as “mushy” as it was with the factory box, and the steering is much quicker. I have not been able to put a bunch of miles on the truck or hit a few twisty roads since installing the box, but the immediate result is excellent. I can’t wait to get some serious seat time to really get a feel of how much improvement the Borgeson power-steering box has actually delivered.