The updated steering linkage kit for '49 - '51 shoeboxes is designed to address the issues built into the original setup. Ford's original coupled a bad inner tie rod position with a weak idler arm assembly. Replacing all the stock components was barely more affordable than this kit. Because this tired old Ford needs all the help it can get, the upgrade kit was ordered.
According to the manufacturer this kit "Greatly Improves Overall Handling and Steering Feel." Their description makes it sound like a cure-all for the original steering in shoebox fords. They claim it addresses the bump steer issue by moving the inner tie rod mounting points further in and angling them so they move with the suspension. The kit also replaces all the tie rod ends with new ones and replaces the spindly old idler set up with a burlier bracket designed to use a hefty (relative to the old ford part) AMC Idler arm.
Before the parts could be installed they had to be painted. Wax and grease remover was used to wipe down the tie rods, drag link and idler arm bracket before painting them with etch primer and a couple coats of black.
No, this isn't the world's worst wind chime. These steering components are waiting to be installed.
Before the shiny new parts can go in, the old crusty old ones have to come out. The pickle fork and some smart raps with a hammer brought the tie rod out of the steering arm.
The original idler arm bracket was very crusty and, compared to the new AMC parts, woefully frail.
Here's a side by side comparison between the old and new hardware. The difference in the inner tie rod end mount is immediately apparent. This kit also changes the way the alignment is adjusted from the old school style to a more modern threaded-tube style. Once installed the tie rods are easily turned by hand, but some flat spots to turn them with a wrench would be handy once the threads get packed with road grime.
A big motivator for taking on this task was to get rid of as much slop as possible in the Ford's steering. A big source of that play came from the tie rod ends which were all worn out.
The installation of the linkage went pretty smoothly, the inner tie rod ends had to be installed opposite of the instructions, grease nipples down rather than up, to clear the oil pan. This may be a quirk unique to this Ford, but it merits mention. The only notable difference when installing this kit rather than the original parts is the installation of the adapter plate for the idler arm. It went in with no fuss using the provided hardware. Once it was in place, the idler arm could be installed.
Next, the steering wheel was center and the drag link was installed between the idler arm and the steering box arm. After that, it was just a matter of installing the tie rods between the drag link and the steering arms and double checking that everything was tightened up. Once the car was down off jack stands, it was pulled out and back into the garage to see how far off the alignment was. This needs to be set with the car on the ground.
The work was done in a home garage over two evenings. One for paint and the other for turning wrenches. This doesn't include the home-job alignment which carried over into the next week and involved watching many YouTube videos. These photos were taken after the job was done when the Ford was up on a friend's lift.
So, how does it drive? It's better. There's still play in the wheel, but that's probably due to the steering box. The car no longer darts to one direction after going over bumps. This is probably the best improvement of doing the upgrade. There's also the piece of mind that comes with knowing there are brand new tie rod ends under the car rather than the crusty ones that were liable to fall apart.
If you're Shoebox is in need of fresh steering components under the front end, especially if it's lowered, this kit only costs $30 or so more than buying new original-style parts. New components and improved handling are worth at least that much to this old Ford.
Steering Linkage: http://shoebox-central.com/1949-1950-1951-ford-steering-linkage-tie-rod-upgrade-kit-new
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