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You are here: Home Tech Articles & Tutorials Steering / Suspension / Brakes Shortening a 3Spd Manual-shift Steering Column
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Shortening a 3-spd Manual-shift Steering Column

After reading the articles "How to Install Power Steering in a ’65-’72 2WD Twin I-beam Pickup" and "How to Shorten Your Manual-Steering Column" on the website, we decided that we might be able to convert the ‘72 F100 three-speed on the column from manual steering to power steering. Without the pictures and information in those articles, it would have been very difficult and we probably wouldn’t even have attempted the project.

The two shift levers on the foot of the steering column required by the manual transmission posed a serious space problem. After much studying of a 3-speed column from a junk truck, we decided that by modifying the work described in the automatic-shift column tutorial, we could probably accomplish the task.

We also had an automatic shift column out of a factory power-steering truck to use for parts. It had the late-style lower bushing retainer collar (with an Allen set screw) on the foot of the steering shaft as opposed to the early-style clamp type. There was not enough space for the early-type clamp. If we hadn’t had the late style, we would have had to make a retainer. We slid the retainer collar down against the steering shaft rag connector flange and tightened it there. That accounted for 1-3/16 inch of the 2-3/8 inches difference in length between the manual and automatic column assemblies. That left 1-3/16 inches that we needed to shorten the column. That left just barely sufficient space for the dual manual shift lever assembly to clear the firewall. We temporarily clamped the column into the truck before we cut it and it appeared that it would work, so we proceeded to shorten the column and shift tubes by the required 1-3/16 inch.

We had intended to turn the 2-3 lever on the column around so that the offset was toward the front of the truck and use the automatic lever that had an inch and a half or so of offset for the R-1 lever. We were going to have to modify it slightly and when we started to cut one of the manual levers, we discovered that they are made of much harder metal (no saw blade we had would touch it), suggesting that an offset lever might not work due to the amount of force required to put the transmission into gear (an automatic transmission has essentially no internal resistance to gear changes with the stops being set in the column). When we tried the configuration using the offset lever in the truck, we were not comfortable with the movement and felt that it would not be reliable, and might actually bend.

We took the column out of the truck and reassembled it in the normal manual shift configuration and put it back into the truck. The 2/3 linkage rod seriously interfered with the firewall when in the second gear (up) position. We decided that bending it at the center bend would allow it to clear the firewall. We also had to bend the R-1 linkage rod so that the two rods would clear each other in the various positions depending on which gear the transmission was in at the time. We bent the linkages so that there was 1/4" more clearance (see yellow marker in picture) at their center bends. When we reinstalled them, the shifting worked normally.

We then discovered another problem. The heavy locater pins on the steering gear rag joint were rubbing on the foot of the steering column because of it being shifted down. That obviously would not work. It appeared that by cutting off about 1/8 inch of the lower end of the column that we could gain enough clearance to allow the rag joint to operate correctly. When cutting the end off, be careful not to cut the spot welds that hold the lower bearing assembly in the column completely out; we left about half the area of each one (you could hit the end of the column with a welder if you are concerned about the spot welds being weakened). We then reassembled the column and reinstalled it.

We started the truck and found that the linkages would have to be adjusted out (R-1 ended up out to the end of the adjustment at the tranny) to allow the transmission to go into gear properly and reliably.

We then installed the steering wheel and it was almost perfect except that the distance between the back side of the wheel and the turn signal switch housing was about 1/8 inch too wide. We removed the column from the truck once more and slid the collar with the Allen set screw up on the steering shaft so that it was about 1/8 inch away from the flange, which effectively moved the steering shaft toward the front of the truck. This also gave us more clearance between the locater pins and the steering column. Everything lined up and worked except that we still had some interference between the 2-3 linkage and the firewall. We put another inch (for a total of inch) into the 2-3 linkage center bend and straightened the 2-3 lower bend about inch. This solved the clearance problems and the shift mechanism worked properly!! Note that these distances are for our truck and “bend it and try it” may be required to get the clearances where they need to be.

One should use the firewall bracket from a power steering column, as the change in angle of the manual column will cause conflict with the manual brackets and holes pre-drilled in the firewall. Pictured at right are the manual-steering bracket (left) and the power-steering bracket (right). (Click to enlarge.)

The Finished Installation

You are here: Home Tech Articles & Tutorials Steering / Suspension / Brakes Shortening a 3Spd Manual-shift Steering Column

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