Street News

Shoebox Ford Tech- Installing a Volvo Gearbox in a 49-51 Ford

second lead

advertisement for Steeroids

Owning a classic car is one thing, but driving a restored or modified vintage ride is a whole other enchilada. Maintenance issues, finding the right parts, and the constant tinkering to keep them road worthy, can really drag on at times. Add to that some of the marginal safety features, sometimes certain parts should be swapped out for better parts. 1949-1951 Ford Shoebox steering boxes in particular have created a few problems for resto-mod builders.

The biggest issue at hand is the rear-steer set-up on these cars. With the drag-link and tie-rods running behind the oil pan, there just are not many options. All is not lost, however, as you are not stuck with a loose and sloppy stock gearbox. But to find the answer, we have to look over the Atlantic to Sweden. You might find it odd (and a bit ingenious) that the best solution for upgrading the stock steering box in an early-fifties Ford comes from a Volvo. A 1967, early 69 or 1971-1974 Series 140 or 160 Volvo to be exact, depending on whether or not you want power-assist. The Series 140 cars were almost exclusively manual steering, which feature a smaller, more compact gear box that is considered to be bulletproof, they simply do not break or wear out, and that’s Volvo engineering for you. If you desire power steering, and who doesn’t these days, then the Series 160 unit is for you, which is basically the same box as the 140, but with an added power-assist case bolted on the input shaft side.

The most difficult part of the entire install is finding a Volvo gear box, but we were lucky enough to score one from a local salvage yard. Simply finding the right Volvo box does not in itself solve the problem, they don’t exactly bolt in. To serve that function, Jamco Engineering manufactures an adapter kit that bolts to the stock frame and correctly positions the Volvo box to mate up with the stock steering column, while still clearing the motor, and retains the correct geometry for the pitman arm. While the kit is pretty simple, it accomplishes a lot. The installation is rather simple too; the box just bolts in place. The steering column however is a different matter.

If you desire to keep the stock column, the services of a certified welder MUST be employed. The stock Ford column is actually just a tube that bolts to the gear box, the column shaft however, is an integral part of the gear box and must be cut and welded to a section of Volvo-splined shaft in order to be used with the Volvo gear box. While a certified welder can make this happen safely, for ease of installation and a little extra peace of mind, it is highly suggested that you swap the steering column for either an aftermarket unit or a more modern OE column. For our Ford, we chose an Ididit steel column for added benefits of being brand new, tilt and just plain good looking, this is after all a resto-mod. But for those of you who will want to retain the stock column, we covered that part too, so you can see what all is involved.

The entire process, even cutting and welding the stock column, can be done in about a weekend (although you will need the assistance of a machine shop to re-taper the Volvo pitman arm), or even one day if you hustle. The end result is smooth turning, with a quicker turn ratio, which is always an added benefit, especially if you are sticking with a manual gear box.

1.The process began by pulling the steering wheel. Our wheel had obviously seen better days. A steering wheel puller was used to make it easier.

1. The process began by pulling the steering wheel. Our wheel had obviously seen better days. A steering wheel puller was used to make it easier.

2.Since the gear box has been in place for over 50 years, the bolts needed a little help breaking loose. This JB 80 from the Justice Brothers is the most impressive lubricant ever. Just a few minutes after being sprayed, the bolts came right out.

2. Since the gear box has been in place for over 50 years, the bolts needed a little help breaking loose. This JB 80 from the Justice Brothers is the most impressive lubricant ever. Just a few minutes after being sprayed, the bolts came right out.

3.The steering column tube is held on by 4 bolts, which were removed first. Then the column tube was pulled from the car, leaving the steering shaft.

3. The steering column tube is held on by 4 bolts, which were removed first. Then the column tube was pulled from the car, leaving the steering shaft.

4.Then the pitman arm was separated from the drag link. We kept the castle nut in place (although loosened) so the drag link doesn’t fall and hit the ground.

4. Then the pitman arm was separated from the drag link. We kept the castle nut in place (although loosened) so the drag link doesn’t fall and hit the ground.

5.The 3 bolts holding the gear box were removed and the box pulled out.

5. The 3 bolts holding the gear box were removed and the box pulled out.

6.The main component of the kit is the adapter plate. You have to supply the bolts to fasten the adapter to the frame and the Volvo box to the adapter. We used 3\8” x 2.5” and 3.5” bolts to do the job.

6. The main component of the kit is the adapter plate. You have to supply the bolts to fasten the adapter to the frame and the Volvo box to the adapter. We used 3\8” x 2.5” and 3.5” bolts to do the job.

7.The 2 lower bolts slide through the frame and into the welded-on nuts on the adapter.

7. The 2 lower bolts slide through the frame and into the welded-on nuts on the adapter.

8.The Volvo box is a tight fit, especially with the Ford 4.6l mod motor we transplanted into the Shoebox, but it fits.

8. The Volvo box is a tight fit, especially with the Ford 4.6l mod motor we transplanted into the Shoebox, but it fits.

9.The gear box uses 4 bolts and lock nuts to hold it in place. A Gearwrench works really nice here.

9. The gear box uses 4 bolts and lock nuts to hold it in place. A Gearwrench works really nice here.

10.The stock Volvo pitman arm has a second attachment point that needs to be removed to clear the oil pan. We used an Esab plasma cutter to do the job. The plasma cutter keeps the heat localized, unlike a torch, which puts too much heat in the metal. You could also use a cut-off wheel or band-saw.

10. The stock Volvo pitman arm has a second attachment point that needs to be removed to clear the oil pan. We used an Esab plasma cutter to do the job. The plasma cutter keeps the heat localized, unlike a torch, which puts too much heat in the metal. You could also use a cut-off wheel or band-saw.

11.The pitman arm was ground smooth on the bench grinder. The pitman arm needs to be re-tapered to match the Ford drag link. Most any machine shop can perform that task.

11. The pitman arm was ground smooth on the bench grinder. The pitman arm needs to be re-tapered to match the Ford drag link. Most any machine shop can perform that task.

12.If you are going to retain the stock column, then it must be cut from the gear box. The steering wheel splines require about 2” stick out past the column bell as shown here. Add this to your overall length measurement.

12. If you are going to retain the stock column, then it must be cut from the gear box. The steering wheel splines require about 2” stick out past the column bell as shown here. Add this to your overall length measurement.

13.We wanted a 30” column, so we cut the steering shaft at 31 inches. A sawzall made quick work of the shaft.

13. We wanted a 30” column, so we cut the steering shaft at 31 inches. A sawzall made quick work of the shaft.

14.The kit includes a section of Volvo-splined shaft that must be welded to the steering shaft. A CERTIFIED welder should make this weld. Note the chamfered edges of the 2 pieces, this is where the weld will be added. We used a 3\8” extension (with a little tape to make a tight fit) to ensure a square connection.

14. The kit includes a section of Volvo-splined shaft that must be welded to the steering shaft. A CERTIFIED welder should make this weld. Note the chamfered edges of the 2 pieces, this is where the weld will be added. We used a 3\8” extension (with a little tape to make a tight fit) to ensure a square connection.

15.The finished weld was ground down clean, ready for reassembly.

15. The finished weld was ground down clean, ready for reassembly.

16.The kit comes with a poly bushing to keep the steering shaft centered in the tube. This piece is retained by 3 screws (you must supply). The bushing and the tube should be drilled, otherwise the screws will split the bushing.

16. The kit comes with a poly bushing to keep the steering shaft centered in the tube. This piece is retained by 3 screws (you must supply). The bushing and the tube should be drilled, otherwise the screws will split the bushing.

17.To grease the wheels, so to speak, we used a little Royal Purple assembly lube on the shaft. The tube then slid over the shaft.

17. To grease the wheels, so to speak, we used a little Royal Purple assembly lube on the shaft. The tube then slid over the shaft.

18.The supplied U-joint slides on the gear box and the column slides into the other side and the bolts were tightened down. Since we are using a power gear box, we also need to run a couple of hydraulic lines to the power steering pump.

18. The supplied U-joint slides on the gear box and the column slides into the other side and the bolts were tightened down. Since we are using a power gear box, we also need to run a couple of hydraulic lines to the power steering pump.

19.The stock column keeps the factory look on the interior.

19. The stock column keeps the factory look on the interior.

20.The Ididit tilt column looks a lot better though and has tilt. The safety benefits of using a column that has not been welded speak for themselves.

20. The Ididit tilt column looks a lot better though and has tilt. The safety benefits of using a column that has not been welded speak for themselves.

 

Sources:

 

ESAB

http://www.esabna.com/us/en/

Ididit

http://www.ididitinc.com/

Justice Brothers

http://www.justicebrothers.com/

 

 

About Jefferson Bryant (201 Articles)
<p>A life-long gearhead, Street Tech Magazine founder and editor Jefferson Bryant spends more time in the shop than anywhere else. His career began in the car audio industry as a shop manager, eventually working his way into a position at Rockford Fosgate as a product designer. In 2003, he began writing tech articles for magazines, and has been working as an automotive journalist ever since. His work has been featured in Car Craft, Hot Rod, Rod & Custom, Truckin’, Mopar Muscle, and many more. Jefferson has also written 5 books and produced countless videos. Jefferson operates Red Dirt Rodz, his personal garage studio, where all of his magazine articles and tech videos are produced. You can follow Jefferson on Facebook (Jefferson Bryant), Twitter (71Buickfreak), and YouTube (RedDirtRodz).</p>

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*