Tilt Column Installation
"I don't think the Empire had Wookies
when they designed her, Chewie" - Han Solo,
Return Of The Jedi
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Being someone who is over 6 foot tall, one quickly learns that these old
Falcons can be a tad uncomfortable when behind the wheel, especially for
long trips. Even with an
aftermarket steering wheel installation, legroom is sorely lacking in our
So what to do? A tilt column sounds like a great addition to our cars,
so why don't we see more of them? A few reasons:
1.) Falcon columns are fairly short, and finding the same length tilt column
can be tricky
2.) The Falcon steering box (pre 1967) had an integrated steering wheel
shaft (a.k.a the spear of death)
With some research, time, parts house inquiries, and junkyard raids I was able to get
the tilt column in my car. Stick with me as I tell my tale...
What To Do First?
Before the tilt column can even be installed we need to do something
about the Falcon steering box's long steering shaft. Apart from
cutting and finding a machine shop willing to spline it for you, you have
Option 1: Mustang Tilt Column - Flaming River offers a
tilt column for the 1964 - 1966 Mustang that will work with the stock
steering box. This is a viable option to get your tilt column:
However, the cost might be high for some, and the Ford Falcon column is
about 1/2" shorter than the Mustang's column, so this new column will be a
bit longer than stock.
Option 2: Mustang II Front End - The silver bullet for early
Ford suspensions. Not only do you get a way to attach a tilt column to
your car, but you get more engine compartment space, better suspension
geometry, a reinforced front end, and several front brake selections as well!
Much on the same line as the Mustang II front suspension, a rack and
pinion steering unit can also be had by installing a
Fat Man Fabrications Strut
Option 3: Aftermarket R&P - Aftermarket companies are
beginning to offer rack and pinion kits for 60s Fords. One of the more
well known setups is Total Control Product's Rack and Pinion kit. This kit has been
featured in several magazines and has been installed on several 60s Falcons,
Mustangs, and Comets.
Option 4: Graft On An OEM R&P - Why not find an OEM rack and
pinion from another car? Not only will you get more responsive
steering, but you'll get the ability to use a tilt column as well.
I have heard some reports of using Sunbird or attempts at Windstar rack
and pinion steering on the Ford Falcon, with mixed success. First off
custom brackets will need to be created, or factory brackets will need to be
modified. Second, custom pressure and return lines will need to be
found out or built by a hydraulic shop, and third be sure the rack is the
same length as the distance between the frame rails! If not, the car
will experience bump steer and suspension problems!
Option 5: Use another car/truck Steering Box - There are several
vehicles out there that have small, compact steering boxes that will work in
a Falcon with modifications. Steering boxes out of Mavericks and
import cars/trucks can be used. These more modern boxes use rag
joints or have shorter input shafts to make a tilt column install a reality.
The caveat to this approach is VERY special measuring and attention must be
made to mount the box and graft it into the steering components of the car
as not to create binds or unsafe steering systems.
Option 6: Use a late 60s Ford Steering Box - A fact many do
not know is the steering boxes for 1960 - 1970 Fords using the Falcon
platform share VERY similar steering boxes. In fact, from 1963 to
1970, Falcons, Comets, and Mustangs used the same steering box body.
Because of this fact, it is fairly straight forward to interchange
steering boxes between these cars. But why would one want to do that?
In 1967 Ford began to ramp up safety features on all Ford cars, mainly
because of the scare fueled by the book
Unsafe at Any Speed by Ralph Nader. One of the first safety
additions to the Ford line was the collapsible steering column, greatly
reducing the injury in front end collisions.
To incorporate these columns, Ford modified the old reliable Ford Falcon
steering box and replaced the long steering wheel "spear" with a rag joint.
The steering column would now attach to the steering box via a rag joint.
This new feature opens up the possibility to have that tilt column in
our Falcons! All one needs to do is replace the Falcon steering box
with a unit from a comparable 1967 - 1970 unit with a rag joint!
So what's the catch? Well, you need to pick a steering box that
will have all the same characteristics as your Falcon steering box:
The Same Sector Shaft Size: This is the thickness of the
steering box output shaft that the pitman arm fits onto. They came in
two sizes, 1" and 1 1/8".
The Same Steering ratio: There were three ratios used:
22:1, 19:1, and 16:1. The 22:1 and 19:1 ratios are for manual steering
cars. the 16:1 ratio was used for power steering equipped cars (also
used on late 60s Mustangs as a "Sport Steering Package")
You need to match these criteria when selecting a new rag joint equipped
What Steering Box Do I Get?
First a bit of Ford Falcon steering box history:
1960 - 1962 Falcon steering boxes has 1 1/8" sector shafts. They also
has either 22:1 or 19:1 steering ratios. All of these years used the
long "spear" type steering wheel rod.
1963 - 1964 Falcon steering box used a 1 1/8" sector shaft as well, but used
a shorter "spear" to improve legroom. These boxes also came with 19:1
steering ratios for manual steering cars, but also could be had with 16:1
ratios for cars equipped with power steering.
1965 Falcon steering boxes are just like the 1963-4 units in size and
steering ratio, HOWEVER, the 1965 steering boxes have 1" sector shafts, NOT
1966 Falcon Steering boxes also use the "spear" type steering wheel rod,
however the rod is longer than the 63-65 unit's steering rod. The 66
box uses a 1" sector shaft as well, and comes in either a 19:1 or 16:1
steering ratio, depending upon application.
1967 - 1970 Falcons use a rag joint style box as well (also used on same
year Fairlanes) - However, the box is different from the Mustang box as the
steering wheel output shaft that the rag joint attaches to is longer than
the Mustang's. Because of this, a Mustang unit makes a better
candidate for a swap as it allows you to use a longer steering column, and
opens up the possibility of using a collapsible column.
For my tilt column installation I decided to use the late 60s Mustang
steering box. The decision was quite simple as Mustangs are popular
cars and the restoration and aftermarket parts market for them is very
comprehensive. I had a better shot of finding a good used, or cheaper
rebuilt unit for a Mustang compared to other 60s Fords.
Below is a listing of Mustang Steering boxes with rag joints and their
||1967 1" sector 16:1
||1967 1 1/8" sector
16:1 power steering
||1967 1 1/8" sector
19:1 manual steering
||1967 1" sector 19:1
||67-70 1 1/8" sector
19:1 manual steering
||67-70 1 1/8" sector
16:1 power steering
As the list shows, its good to be any 1960-1964 owner as a majority of
these steering boxes utilize the 1 1/8" sector shaft size.
Unfortunately, the 1965 Falcons use the 1" sectors, so they're choice of
boxes is limited to two (SMBE and SMBC).
What About Column options?
Option 1: To The Junkyard!! - An expedition into the car
graveyard nether regions can yield exactly what you need. When
selecting a tilt column out of a donor car/truck, a few things must be kept
Column Length: It has to the same or a close match in length to your
Connection to the steering box: The steering column should have the
ability to connect to the chosen steering box (usually by use of a rag joint
or heim joint).
After some searching I found a 1967 Lincoln with a tilt column. The
tilt column uses the standard Ford rag joint, and was the same length as my
1965 Falcon steering column.
Option 2: Aftermarket - There are several aftermarket companies
that build or supply remanufactured tilt columns. The same criteria
must be followed as in option 1, but turnaround time for a column that will
work for your car is much faster; often, aftermarket companies can supply
superior columns, in several lengths, and in several finishes. A few
options are listed below:
The catch with going aftermarket is the cost - usually you can't touch a
tilt column for under $300, and that's in paintable steel. With option
1, more work might be needed to find and modify a column, but often one can
walk out of a recycle yard with a tilt column for under $50. It all
comes down to your timetable, fabricating ability, and budget.
So What Did I do?