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1969 Chevy C10 Project, Part 6

How to install a CPP tilt column and power steering box from LMC Truck.

Marcel Venable
Oct 2, 2020
Try to imagine back to the decade of the '60s for a moment, when the features that we take for granted as essentials in our late-model trucks were luxury add-on upgrades to base-model trucks. Today's truck enthusiast expects all the modern conveniences of their truck's counterpart, the luxury car, but what about the classic models where even the simplest features were options to the purchaser? What if you could pick out just a few creature comforts that modern luxury convenience now offer? What would they be?
Our pick would have to be the steering. Only a few classic truck models were equipped with power steering, and even fewer of them came with a tilt column feature. Anyone who has even driven a standard cab pickup who is around 6 feet tall knows that a tilt column is one of the best things you could ever wish for. As for power steering, it's a luxury than allows the frailest grandmother to guide a 3,800-pound truck down the road with one finger. The trucks that had the luxury of power steering still had strange steering gear ratios to contend with, which makes navigating an old C10 down the road feel a bit like driving a boat compared to your modern vehicle.
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If you want to bring your steering into the current millennium, LMC Truck has the answers. They carry the Classic Performance Products 500 series steering box, which is a perfect upgrade from a manual steering box to power steering, or a wonderful change to a "quick ratio" (14:1) box from a factory power unit. For those power-steering-equipped truck owners, you'll feel more confident driving hard into corners at high speed, plus feel more in control at highway speeds as the quick ratio box gives the driver more positive feedback of the road as well as a tighter turning radius. To you owners of non-powered manual steering trucks, CPP's 500 series power steering box takes you out of the stone age and into the modern world by offering you effortless operation of your classic truck. Offering more luxury to the C10 driver, LMC also provided CPP's replacement tilt steering column, which allows any driver, of any size, to adjust the steering wheel to their likeliness.
Paired with the items that usually need replacement after years of service that create slop in a classic truck's steering, we're going to show you how to replace the pitman arm/idler arm in a classic C10 that will allow it to maneuver like a modern daily driver. Check out the steps we took to upgrade this old C10 manual steering box and vital steering components.
Photo 2/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 001
LMC Truck provided the Classic Performance Products 500 series steering box as part of their conversion kit, allowing us to transplant our manual steering box truck over to modern-day power steering. Features including its 14:1 ratio make this a "quick steer" unit, which reduces the number of turns from lock to lock, giving the driver a positive feel of the road at speed.
Photo 3/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 002
Here's a great look at the factory manual-style steering box that we're going to replace. Due to the many years of use, this Saginaw-style box as well as the idler and pitman arm are extremely worn out; you can feel the "slop" in the steering as you drive it down the street. Replacing all three items would improve the steering for sure. However, today's need for larger wheels plus the convenience of power steering call for us to upgrade to a performance power steering box.
Photo 4/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 003
Our first step was to remove the steering shaft from the steering box coupler, better known as the rag joint. Holding the shaft with a combination wrench, we were able to turn the nuts loose on the rag joint to separate the two components.
Photo 5/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 004
One of the key parts that we'll be replacing is the pitman arm. It's located underneath the steering box, and its major function is to drive the centerlink shaft from the steering box on the driver's side of the vehicle to the idler arm located on the passenger side. Over time the joint on the pitman arm that connects to the center-link wears out, creating more play in the steering. The one shown here was well worn out and will need to be replaced for sure.
Photo 6/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 005
The joint on that connects the pitman arm to the centerlink is a tapered fit in which requires some force to free the parts from one another. Here you can see where we used a "pickle fork" bit on an air hammer to split the two components apart. Normally the next step would be to remove the pitman arm from the steering box and replace it with a new pitman arm, but since we're going to replace the steering box as well, the arm will stay connected and will come out as one.
Photo 7/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 006
Moving over to the passenger side of the truck, we located the idler arm. Like the pitman arm, it connects to the centerlink and allows the centerlink to move back and forth when the driver navigates down the road.
Photo 8/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 007
The idler arm has two ball-and-socket joints, as its duties include pushing and pulling the centerlink that drives the tie rods, which turn the spindles on the vehicle. This vital parts service life is about half that of the pitman arm, so it should be looked at more frequently. Removal includes cutting the cotter pins and nuts and the use of our pickle fork bit on the air hammer.
Photo 9/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 008
Next on our list was the removal of the old steering box. It's located on the inside of the frame, and we located the bolts that held the factory steering box to the frame.
Photo 10/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 009
After the bolts were removed, the old steering box and the pitman arm came out as one.
Photo 11/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 010
We cleaned up the dirt and grime that lived in between the old steering box and the frame to then replace the old steering box with the new CPP unit.
Photo 12/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 011
The simple installation included mounting the CCP steering box right back to the frame using the stock bolt pattern of the factory Saginaw part.
Photo 13/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 012
Next we removed the four bolts on the cap of the box to add the aluminum cover that is held down in place by four button head stainless bolts.
Photo 14/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 013
Once the box was set into place, it was time to clock both the upper steering shaft and the lower pitman arm shaft. As you can see in the photos, the upper shaft has a flat shelf that allows the rag joint to be set into the proper position. It aligns with a large groove underneath for the pitman arm. We made sure that both were set facing level on the top and straight forward on the bottom.
Photo 15/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 014
With our adjustments set, we raised the pitman arm into place with the large groove on the steering box shaft aligning with the large grove set onto the pitman arm. Once we had the grooves lined up, we installed the lock washer and the nut to the steering box.
Photo 16/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 015
Back on the passenger side, we installed a new idler arm to the centerlink, before the centerlink was installed to the pitman arm. Doing it in this sequence makes it a little bit easier to install the new components.
Photo 17/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 016
Upon inspection of the new tilt column we found that there was everything that we need to perform the conversion from our non-tilt factory column to the CPP tilt unit.
Photo 18/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 017
Our first step to allow us some room was to remove the steering wheel.
Photo 19/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 018
Then the dash filler panel was removed.
Photo 20/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 019
Followed by the column safety plate.
Photo 21/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 020
Our next part to remove was the upper column strap that holds the column in the dash tunnel. After we removed the upper strap, the lower escutcheon plate that mounts the column to the firewall was removed, as well.
Photo 22/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 021
The factory turn signal wire plug was disconnected before moving into the engine compartment. The great thing about this CPP tilt column is the fact that they use the same style connector for the factory wiring, so when we need to put the new column in place we were able to plug the wiring right back together.
Photo 23/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 022
Moving into the engine compartment, the lower column clamp and firewall shield were removed.
Photo 24/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 023
Here's a look at both of the columns after the factory unit was removed. You can see in the photo that they are spot on in dimensions as far as length and width, so installing the new column is just a repeat process of the disassembly of the old column.
Photo 25/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 024
After we set the column through the firewall opening, our first step was to tighten the lower escutcheon plate to the firewall.
Photo 26/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 025
We paid close attention to where the top of the column rests to the dashboard; a pointed tang clocks the column into the proper location.
Photo 27/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 026
We located the alignment hole on the top of the column where the dashboard tunnel's tang locates into.
Photo 28/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 027
After we aligned the two points together, we set the upper column strap into place and tightened it up. Next we buttoned up the inside by re-installing the column's safety plate and the dash filler panel before focusing on the remaining steps in the engine bay.
Photo 29/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 028
In the engine compartment we bolted on the column's firewall plate and column clamp while paying close attention to the rubber gasket that seals off the firewall.
Photo 30/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 029
To install the rag joint we double-checked to see that the steering box shaft was aligned so that flat shelf was facing up, then our next step was to slide the new rag joint coupler into place on the steering box shaft. We went on to install the bolt that holds the rag joint onto the shaft but left it loose until the remaining items in the group were installed. This allowed us to move the joint down to allow the column's shaft to travel into position.
Photo 31/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 030
Now the steering column shaft was set into place to the rag joint. Then the bolt that holds the rag joint to the steering column shaft was tightened up.
Photo 32/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 031
The new column shaft is a collapsible design that allowed us to lower the column shaft enough to install the stainless universal joint. This style of joint allowed us to adapt the spline-style shaft found on the column to a double-D style shaft that connects to the rag joint.
Photo 33/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 032
After the column was set into place, we mounted a GM canister-style power steering pump that will produce the pressure to drive the power steering box.
Photo 34/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 033
Included in the kit from CPP was a high-pressure crimped hose that make hooking up the power steering pump extremely easy. After we hooked up the high-pressure side, we installed a lower-pressure return to the pump hose and bled the pump and box to remove any air bubbles.
Photo 35/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 034
Back inside the cab, we slid the turn signal lever through the column and ran in the set screw.
Photo 36/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 035
To operate the tilt function on the column, this lever was installed to operate the lock that holds the column in the driver's favorite position.
Photo 37/37   |   1969 Chevy C10 Project Part 6 036
After we got the steering wheel set back on the column we were able to see how the tilt feature really made a difference in the driver's comfort in this cab.


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