Remember when the only items of mechanical interest for many enthusiasts resided under the hood? You know, the all-important engine/transmission combination that was the basis for our street or strip prowess, and the essence of all that is Mopar high performance? While we certainly don't mean to discount the importance of horsepower in the makeup of any performance automobile, as most of us "mature," we learn that an enjoyable and well-balanced ride is more than just a matter of impressive ETs or dyno numbers. Guys like Swede Savage and Sam Posey appreciated this in Trans Am racing some 30 years ago, but it's taken longer for many of us. Perhaps it's been the advent of cars like the do-everything Viper, or maybe even a responsive daily-driven front-wheel-drive commuter (gasp!), but vintage enthusiasts have begun grasping the importance of other critical elements-things like suspensions, brakes, and the subject of this article, steering.
When you think about it, few components on an automobile have more impact on driving than the steering system. You subconsciously make constant, minute inputs to keep the vehicle pointed in the right direction. While numerous components contribute to an effective steering system, the steering box is the obvious central figure. Former staffer Tom Rounds figured this would be just the place to start when he decided to tighten up the steering on his '87 Dodge D150 pickup. Just like many a musclecar, trucks aren't generally known for their responsiveness to steering inputs even when new-all the more when the vehicle has over 130,000 miles worth of wear!
Rebuilding a grungy Saginaw begins with removal of the sector shaft cover, sector shaft, a
A call to Firm Feel, Inc., in Vancouver, Washington, got Rounds a complete rebuild of his original Saginaw-sourced steering box, replete with quick ratio internals. In fact, truck boxes are but a small portion of Firm Feel's offerings for Mopar enthusiasts. We'll chronicle the major steps of a Saginaw rebuild in the following photos, but be sure to check out the sidebar for a focus on other noteworthy Firm Feel products.
Anatomy Of A Saginaw
Many readers immediately associate the name Saginaw with products built by General Motors. Indeed, a wide variety of the General's cars and trucks used Saginaw-built steering boxes, but Saginaw isn't a GM-only supplier. Tens of thousands of Dodge trucks like our D150 got the Saginaw steering as well. We're not showing every step of the process, but will overview the major points so you get a feel for what's involved. Since Firm Feel had Rounds' box finished by the time we got to their shop, the accompanying photos documented yet another example going together. Thanks to technician Dennis Burkhart, who took us through the process, explaining the finer points and pausing as we snapped away.
Disassembly at the input shaft end (which attaches to the steering column) requires the us
This is the spool valve/input shaft assembly. It doesn't alter the steering ratio, but is
Once the unit is completely apart and the replaceable components discarded, the remaining
From left to right are the spool valve/input shaft assembly, rack piston, worm gear, and s
These are the worm gears from a standard ratio (top) and quick ratio (bottom) Saginaw. The
Once the rack piston/worm gear is reassembled, it's time to slip it back in the box. The a