LeMons Ranchero: Shopping for Steering and Shifting


Since its acquisition in March, the new Ranchero’s sat in my driveway, a monument to lack of progress. It waited in line behind the final fixes and sale of the Wagoneer and the conclusion of a T-Ball season I was conscripted into coaching. With all that out of the way, it’s Ranchero Time, baby!
Click through for the first few acquisitions for the new car.


We’re switching from our previous 200ci motor to a 250. Aside from the extra cubes and broader torque curve, the 250 has the same bellhousing pattern as a Ford small block V8. That means any number of transmission options will bolt up. Lucky for us, a screaming bargain on a toploader and two Hurst shifters appeared. Said bargain screamed because the shift levers were almost completely rusted solid and the input shaft has like ⅛” of wobble. I managed to get things shifting with liberal application of WD40 and a hammer. When it comes to the looseness, there’s no way around it: gotta do a rebuild. Thankfully, complete, high-quality kits are cheap.

Next up, a mix of performance and safety. Had Jeff’s partial-overlap front collision crash test taken place on the driver’s side, things might not have gone so well. Early Falcons and Mustangs (and many old cars in general) have a “spear of death” steering column with a 1” solid shaft running from the wheel down into the steering box. Crumple the driver’s side frame rail and steering wheel comes up to remove your jaw.
ford pitman arm comparison
We can address this by exploiting the late-60s Ford parts bin. Swapping in the box from a post-collapsible-column Mustang gets rid of the spear of death. Swapping in the box from a power steering equipped Mustang gets you an upgrade from 19:1 box to a less arm-flail-y 16:1 box. There was some question as to whether the 1-⅛” sector shaft pitman arm from the new box had the same geometry as a 1” sector shaft part from the earlier box, but thankfully they’re interchangeable. Now it’s just a matter of deciding between adapting a collapsible Mustang column (they’re longer) or getting a “race car” column from Speedway Engineering or the like.
Tune in Thursday for actual progress on the car itself! There may be stinging insects involved.
yellow jacket nest

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10 responses to “LeMons Ranchero: Shopping for Steering and Shifting”

  1. dukeisduke Avatar

    The thought of repairing manual gearboxes has always intimidated me – I think of nightmare scenarios of not enough or too many shims, and improper gear alignment.

    1. nanoop Avatar

      Those seem humble and logical to me, in comparison to the labyrinths and internal brakes of an automatic.

    2. mad_science Avatar

      The Toploader is super simple, which is why I’m not hesitating. It’s like 4 bearings and a pile of snap rings.

    1. Frank T. Cat Avatar

      I just use the handy can of brake cleaner. They’re dead before they hit the ground.

      1. CraigSu Avatar

        Hadn’t thought of that. Brake cleaner is probably cheaper, too.

      2. jeepjeff Avatar

        My thought on brake cleaner was to point out that you can make the brake cleaner more effective/noxious by spraying it near the nest on a piece of steel and then running a bead over it with an arc welder.
        But really. Don’t do that, chlorinated brake cleaner turns into phosgene gas (a nasty chemical weapon) when you heat it in an anoxic environment (by, say, cleaning a part for welding with it and then running a bead with an arc welder).

    2. mad_science Avatar

      The better part of a can of carb cleaner was used improperly…

      1. jeepjeff Avatar

        Seems like a reasonable use of carb cleaner to me. Those look like yellow jackets. They’re pretty aggressive, they sting multiple times and while not the most painful thing I’ve experienced, it’s up there.

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