Project Gift Horse Chomps At The Bit For A New Flaming River Column

One of the main reasons we build our cars is so we can enjoy driving them. Whether you plan on driving your car around a track or down a calming, country road, having a means of directing which way the vehicle turns is a significant factor in how much you’ll enjoy the drive. And how long the journey lasts!

Project Gift Horse’s means for making turns is through a new 30-inch, floor-shift, Flaming River Industries tilt column in a paintable, machine finish with its accompanying Flaming River Waterfall steering wheel. Those who remember the Ron Francis Wiring install story will remember that Gift Horse uses a push-button start system, so we didn’t need a key on the column to make it all happen.

Easy Upgrades

Mike Hoover of FabAuto also handled the install of the Flaming River column, floor mount, and wheel. To keep with the updated items we’ve highlighted so far, the steering got a complete re-fresh, with the manual steering box being replaced with a CPP power-steering unit. The main difference was Mike needed the correct adapter to connect the DD shaft on the bottom of the Flaming River column with the CPP power-steering box’s splined shaft. Depending on whether you have a steering box or rack, Flaming River has many options ranging from rag-joint-style connectors and shafts using a combination of universal joints to make everything fit.

The tilt steering column (P/N: FR20005) didn’t need a key to start the car, but Flaming River offers units with this feature, as well as a column shift. Wiring is standardized with later-model GM units for easy integration into the existing vehicle.

Another upgrade was the addition of cruise control on the column. Flaming River offers a cruise control switch assembly, and if you order the switch at the same time you order the column, they will install the switch for you. The owner Aubrey King planned to paint the column, which required slight disassembly, so Mike figured he’d fit the switch assembly at that time. Other options available with Flaming River columns include tilt, a key mechanism to start the car, and column shift.

Flaming River Industries’ Jeanette Ladina gave us some insight into how the columns are designed. “Our tilt steering columns are Made in the USA,” she says proudly. “We use premium US-made 304 Stainless Steel — even on our paintable columns. This means it will not rust before you paint and install it. Or, for the ultimate customer convenience, we offer polished stainless, black powdercoat, or custom powdercoat finish to any color in the RAL color chart. Because our columns are Made in the USA and we powdercoat in house, we can turn a custom color or column within 5 days.”

Our tilt steering columns are Made in the USA. We use premium US-made 304 Stainless Steel — even on our paintable columns. This means it will not rust before you paint and install it. – Jeanette Ladina, Flaming River

Mike explained that installing the column was pretty straightforward. He described it as, “a day’s job,” stating that if you have everything you require, it really goes pretty quickly. Because there are a few things needed today that weren’t even a consideration when these cars were first engineered, like a neutral safety switch, you’ll need to do a little wiring to make the install as safe as it should be.

“The neutral safety switch is an essential safety component which prevents the vehicle from starting in gear,” Jeanette adds. “This tilt column features new GM wiring with a 4 ¼-inch connector, and as an added safety measure, a hazard kit can also be added if your vehicle’s wiring hasn’t been updated.” With our Ron Francis wiring kit, we didn’t need the hazard kit, but it’s good information for those of you still using the old wiring.

We received everything we ordered. You can specify cruise control when ordering your column and Flaming River will install it for you.

Mike confided that the wiring for the Flaming River column is very similar to the later-model GM systems, so if you have any experience with post-70’s GM vehicle wiring, you’ll do just fine. The column comes with the terminals and connectors to make a seamless flow of ions from the column to the rest of your vehicle’s electrical harness.

A Re-Bolting Experience

Other than the previously-mentioned painting of the column, the install of our Flaming River tilt column was pretty much a bolt-in. We purchased the Tri-Five-specific mounting kit to not only fasten the bottom of the column to the floor but also seal it from the elements and it swivels for easy column positioning. The column has a 2-inch OD tube, and the upper mount to the dash simply re-uses the original mount.

We fit everything before painting the column. We used the OEM upper dash mount and Flaming River offers this lower floor mount for 1955-1957 Chevys (P/N: FR20101-57). We covered the wheel to protect it while working with the install.

Outside, we used the Flaming River adapter to mate the column’s shaft to our new CPP power-steering box. You’ll have to do a little mix and match, depending on if your application is upgraded to rack-and-pinion status or factory-stock. Flaming River has all the components to connect your new column to whatever you use to steer the wheels.

Topside, we used Flaming River’s wheel adapter to mount the black Waterfall wheel to the column. We should note that the horn wiring is included in the column, and is designed to ground the horn relay momentarily, whenever the contacts in the horn button are connected. You should not run power directly to the horn through the contacts of the horn switch, as damage could result from the increased current.

Options With Uniformity

Flaming River offers several styles of steering columns for a variety of cars. Options range from keyed, key-less start, tilt, floor-shifted, and column-shifted, as well as powered telescoping columns. Many applications are addressed, but thanks to the engineers at Flaming River using a widely-offered wiring architecture, the end-user doesn’t have to be a custom-wiring genius to make it all work together.

The new Waterfall wheel and tilt option give Gift Horse a much-updated feel and comfort level. The Flaming River Waterfall wheel (P/N: FR20150) is available in a variety of colors to complement just about any interior.

Check out some of the options available through Flaming River and see how you can update your ride far beyond what those early engineers ever imagined. Perhaps, you might find your options to go beyond what you ever thought possible, as well. With these new additions, this car is well on its way to being one hell of a driver. Stay Tuned, as there are still a few more parts to go until Gift Horse is galloping down the road!

Article Sources

About the author

Andy Bolig

Andy has been intrigued by mechanical things all of his life and enjoys tinkering with cars of all makes and ages. Finding value in style points, he can appreciate cars of all power and performance levels. Andy is an avid railfan and gets his “high” by flying radio-controlled model airplanes when time permits. He keeps his feet firmly grounded by working on his two street rods and his supercharged C4 Corvette. Whether planes, trains, motorcycles, or automobiles, Andy has immersed himself in a world driven by internal combustion.
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