1969 Plymouth Valiant – Power-Steering Upgrade

By: Jeff Smith

1969 Plymouth ValiantThe only thing worse than not having a taut-handling car is not being able to take full advantage of everything a great suspension promises because of an ancient, slow manual steering box. That was Shannon Hudson’s dilemma. You may remember his lime-green 1969 Plymouth Valiant from a previous story (“Total Handling Transformation,” July ’10), where we detailed its Hotchkis-bred suspension upgrade. The improvements included shocks, torsion bars, leaf springs, sway bars, tubular front upper control arms, and tires and wheels.

All these pieces put this little A-body on its way to a fun-loving life of canyon-carving—at least, that’s what Shannon thought. But hampering that enthusiasm was a wretchedly slow manual steering box that was far better suited to drag racing than any sort of apex-carving performance work, especially when it came to the autocross. “It was just really slow,” Shannon says.

Normally, a power-steering upgrade would be simple a bolt-in deal, but Shannon had also added a Vortec centrifugal supercharger, which created subtle problems. “I asked around,” Shannon says, “and everybody said it couldn’t be done.” The big hurdle was the oversized factory steering box, and no one made a power-steering-pump crank pulley. But solutions come to those who persist. Shannon learned that Borgeson, the high-performance steering specialists, had adapted Mopar mounting lugs to a petite import steering box that would bolt directly to any A-, B-, C-, or E-body Mopar. The box also uses the same Pitman shaft diameter as the original Mopar box, so the factory Mopar Pitman arm can be reused. One big advantage for this new box is that its smaller size also creates an opportunity for swapping in a late-model Hemi engine, something Shannon is considering. With all these benefits, the technical moon and stars all appeared to align to make this conversion. The new steering box twists a much quicker 14:1 ratio, offering far superior feedback to the old, one-finger ’60s boxes, and it’s leagues quicker than the manual box. Check out how Shannon made this system work to his advantage without resorting to an expensive custom K-member and rack-and-pinion.

Source: Car Craft