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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Have you ever wanted to put a tilt steering column in your first gen Nova, but couldn't afford the expensive but nice Ididit or flaming river aftermarket columns?
If you're on a serious buget like me, you have to improvise and make your own. I'm more of an old school hot rodder by heart and always try to fabricate my own and build my cars whith what I can find locally.
The answer to the tilt column delima is simple. Go to the local boneyard and find somthing that will work. In this case, the cloumn of choice of many old schoolers would be the 1972-78 GM 1/2 ton- 1 ton van tilt column. These are probably the best and most easily adaptable column GM has ever made. In my own observational opinion, this is the column that flaming river and ididit based their aftermarket units on. They are so similar that you'd swear the aftermarket ones are reproduction copies.
I had to change the cloumn in my 64 after I switched to a MII front suspension. I didn't want to cut up my original steering componets to work with the ford steering rack. My original was a manual shift style anyway and I am going to an automatic. So I decided to do the same conversion that I had done before with my 55 Chevy.
Here is the Chevy van tilt column next ot the original Nova manual column. If you notice, the van column is a little longer and will have to be shortened.
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Heres a close up of the length difference.
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I was under a time deadline and had to work fast in shortening the column down to match the length of the stock column. I didn't have time to take pics of every step involved in the cutting and welding processes. I'll answer questions about it if you have any. The van column measures about 33" in length. I removed 2 1/2" from it while retaining the shifter arm. I kept 1" of the 3/8 shaft for further modification.
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Heres a close up
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Heres a comparison shot of the shortened van column to another stock lenght van column. at this point, I had hand grinded and filed the 3/4" end shaft to a DD to fit the U joint I made for the steering shaft.
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A friend of mine gave me these late model steering shafts to try to use. He said they were from a late model chevy truck and the shorter one was from an astrovan I believe. I made the middle one by removing the aluminum end of the u-joint like the bottom one and combined it with the DD style iron u-joint end from the shorter one from the top. The joint end had a slightly smaller DD input (probably metric) and had to be filed open to properly engauge a regular 3/4 DD shaft. The shafts extend to any desired length, so cutting them to a specific length wasn't a concern here. These can be made to fit a variety of applications.
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One end of the shaft has a 3/4 DD opening. So I cut a 2" length of 3/4 DD shaft and welded in the open end. This will then allow the shaft to be coupled to the 9/16"- 26 spline to 3/4" DD steering rack u-joint I bought from Speedway. Note the upper unmodified shaft is extended to demonstrate adjustable length variance.
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The components are now ready to be test fitted in.
I will update the install soon.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
install updates

Heres the van column installed in the car. The stock nova steering wheel fits great. The bowl on the wheel is the same diameter as the column signal housing so nothing looks mismatched. The van column outer housing tube is the same diameter as the stock column. so the stock upper dash mount collar and toe board cover fits like it was made for it. There is a centering notch in the upper dash colar mount that requires a hole be drilled in the van column in order to keep it centered and secured so that the housing doesn't rotate.
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Heres the steering shaft setup I made work. As you can see, it fits nicely and was just the right length.
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The stock column is held in place on the bottom by the built in steering shaft off the original steering box. So no stock mount was originally needed here. However, the van tilt setup requires that some sort of mount be implemented to keep everything stationary and solidly mounted. If the bottom of the column isn't secured, then it tends to flop around and would'nt be safe. I experimented with a couple of ideas with stuff in my parts stash, but nothing seemed to work. Its not possible to fit a mount on the outside, so you have to put it inside. What I finally ended up using was this stock lower column mount from a 55-56 Chevy car. Just like my setup in my 55. I welded in some washers in the two large holes on the bottom to reduce the mount holes down to somthing the self tapping screws could work with.
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To get the shifter hooked up to the TH350 transmission, I again dug around my extra parts I had laying around. These shift linkage parts are from any 73-87 Chevy c-10 automatic transmission equiped truck. The part that hooks to the shifter arm on the column came stock with the van column .
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Heres the upper shift linkage hooked into the van column shift arm. I had to cut the linkage down bacause it was a few inches too long.
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Heres the underside of the linkage assembly install. I used some self tapping screws to secure the mount bracket to the bottom of the frame rail so i could mock everything up and tweek as needed. The L shaped shifter rod had to be trimmed about 1 inch on the spring loaded side that sits in the frame bracket to clear the frame side. I eventually ended up welding some threaded studs on the frame for the bracket mount and moved the linkage rod to the other side of the arm to clear the exhaust pipe.
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Heres another shot of the steering column in the car. It steers and shifts everything fine. Best of all it looks factory and didn't cost a fortune! now to take it apart and clean/ paint everything.
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Discussion Starter #5
Is there any binding with the u-joints being 90 degrees out of phase?
Tim
Nope. no binding that I could tell. It rotates fine. This is how it fell together. It never occured to me that steering linkage needs to be phased like a driveshaft. Not like its spinning at high RPMs. Now you have me wondering.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
very cool; what did the yard charge for the column and does the column have the ignition switch in it or can you retain the dash mounted switch?
Tom
I bought this column from a friend for $75. He put one in his 37 ford and had this extra one left over. The local Pull A Part and U Pull It typically charge around $45-$50 for one, IF they have one of these 72-78 donor vans on their lot. They were in 1/2 ton - 1 ton vans in these years. I'm usually on the lookout for these everytime I go to any salvage yard. Occassionally I'll find one, if it hasn't been snatched up by someone else already. Typically, thats the first thing to get pulled off these vans in local yards in my area. They are quite popular to use around here.
These year columns do not have an ignition switch/key in them. So you can retain the original dash ignition switch. This feature makes makes them appealing to use.
GM started putting the ignition in the van columns in 79, I believe.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
turn signal switch wires

I haven't yet wired up the turn signal switch. But here is a breakdown of the wires.
white - brake light switch
green - right rear turn signal
yellow - left rear turn signal
violet - turn signal flasher
brown - hazzard flasher
dark blue - right front turn signal
light blue - left front turn signal
black - horn
gray - dashlights (lighted indicator bezel)

There are also 3 small wires for the cruise control switch, if equiped.

On the neutral saftey switch:
dark blue and light green - backup lights
purple and yellow - Ignition switch start circuit
 

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Rotorbolt. What you have done Its a great work. I was in urgent need to do something like this.

Do you happen to know from wich car or truck the steering shafts were? I will try to go this way next week.

Regards, Leon
 

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Great write up. Just shows that us guys on a budget can get it done. I also did a junk yard steering column. I like to see this kind of work. Its all about doing what you can. Helps to have mechanical abilities and you obviously do. JR
 

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That 55 mount really was the key ingredient. Looks pretty easy to fab that up though. Pretty ingenious.
 
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