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Project Rebirth ‘71 Suburban Part 3: Steered Straight

A Flaming River Steering Column From United Pacific Industries Brings Our Project Closer to Being Roadworthy

Bryan Fross
Jun 26, 2019
With every project—especially older ones like our '71 Chevrolet C10 Suburban—there are issues that can and will come up when you begin to tear into it. Last month, we brought you a second helping of tech on our '71 Suburban, consisting of a Baer brakes install to go along with the QA1 coilover conversion and CPP spindles from the month before. We also got the Chevy rolling on a set of Intro wheels with Nexen tires.
However, in the process of tearing out the old suspension and brakes, Todd Burton from Lowboy Motorsports in Mesa, Arizona, found some issues that required attention. A few of them were known previously, but the extent of what was needed was not clear at that time. One of the known issues was the steering column. It was difficult to shift, the hazard light knob had been snapped off so it wouldn't function, the self-canceling turn signal switch was busted, and the previous owner had haphazardly painted the entire column. Because it was a safety issue, it was time to replace it—but it doesn't hurt to have the replacement be a show-quality Flaming River steering column from United Pacific Industries.
Photo 2/30   |   The KP Concepts rendering of this project had visions of grandeur rolling through our heads, but there was still some work to do before cruising this '71 Sub.
To add a cherry on top, Seth from Lowboy added the polished and brushed steering wheel from Intro Wheels that mimics the 22-inch rollers we recently installed. Check out the steering column transformation from unsafe and ugly to proper and polished. Then, stay tuned next month as we bring you another addition to our project that will transform the looks as well as the overall driving experience.
Photo 3/30   |   The Flaming River steering column we picked up from United Pacific Industries in Long Beach, California, was exactly what the old Chevy needed to be safe and sound on the road as well as eye-catching at shows.
Photo 4/30   |   Our 48-year-old project Suburban was in decent shape now with the new suspension, brakes, and other changes, but a few more items were on the upgrade list for the crew at Lowboy Motorsports in Mesa, Arizona, before it could be driven back home to California.
Photo 5/30   |   Seth began to peel back the layers to get the old steering column out. The carpet was pulled back and the column firewall mount was loosened.
Photo 6/30   |   The under-dash bracket securing the column in place was the next piece to be unbolted.
Photo 7/30   |   Seth was careful to support the column weight as the bracket was removed. There are other bolts holding it in place, but prior to removing the bracket, it was difficult to tell if they were there.
Photo 8/30   |   The remaining bracket bolts were loosened and the wire clamps were removed.
Photo 9/30   |   In this underside view, the dashboard is bracket-free, which leaves only a couple connections left on the interior of the Chevy.
Photo 10/30   |   Inside the engine compartment, the bracket and clamps for the steering column needed to be loosened and set aside. When the new column goes in, this linkage will connect with the factory bracket so no fabrication is necessary.
Photo 11/30   |   A couple of bolts were freed using a socket wrench and Seth removed the last bracket holding our old column.
Photo 12/30   |   The wiring was unplugged from the factory harness and the connector was tucked out of the way.
Photo 13/30   |   Our old steering column was ready to slide up and away from the firewall. Seth pulled slowly since there was one more connection to disengage before the column could be removed.
Photo 14/30   |   With the old column dropped down and resting in the front seat, Seth disconnected the neutral safety switch from the stock wires.
Photo 15/30   |   The tired steering column was pulled out and laid on the shop floor for a quick photo. Our sloppy shifting, absent hazard lights, wonky turn signal, and chipped paint problems are going to the scrapyard.
Photo 16/30   |   Seth began the install of the new column by reversing the removal process. The neutral safety switch and wiring harness were connected, then the column was slid through the firewall.
Photo 17/30   |   The Flaming River unit was tucked up to the dashboard and held in with a factory clamp.
Photo 18/30   |   Our new steering column was then slid carefully into the steering box. The shaft is splined, so it was easy to line up and lock into position.
Photo 19/30   |   With the shaft slipped into the steering box, Seth resecured the bracket to the column and the firewall.
Photo 20/30   |   He then made sure the steering column was lined up straight before moving to the next steps, which will secure its position.
Photo 21/30   |   The factory clamps were tightened and the under-dash bracket was mounted to lock the unit in place under the dash.
Photo 22/30   |   During shipping, the new steering column comes without any of the functional arms protruding. Seth lined up the turn signal arm first and then bolted it into the housing. The hazard flasher knob was also screwed in.
Photo 23/30   |   Using a multimeter, he tests to make sure the connections were made correctly then tests the turn signals.
Photo 24/30   |   The hardware came preinstalled on the column, so the shifter retaining pin was removed and the handle was installed. The pin was then tapped into place to lock the shifter on.
Photo 25/30   |   With the shifter installed, Seth checked for function and alignment.
Photo 26/30   |   Our Intro Wheels steering wheel was set on the new column. Before tightening it, he ran the horn button lead wire through the hub.
Photo 27/30   |   With the wheel lined up, it was secured using the provided nut and a ratchet with the socket.
Photo 28/30   |   After checking alignment of the steering wheel and our front wheels, Seth loosened it once more to make a small adjustment then locked it down again.
Photo 29/30   |   The key was turned to the accessory position to check that our column lighting and all exterior signal lights were in working order.
Photo 30/30   |   Seth connected the horn button wire to the center cap and pressed it into place, finishing our install. This was a fairly simple install that solved several problems on our Sub. Most importantly, it took all the remaining slop out of the wheel. Check in next month for another very cool update to our '71 Suburban Project.

Sources

Lowboy Motorsports
Mesa, AZ
480-717-9256
http://www.lowboymotorsports.com
866.327.5288
https://upauto.com/

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