The Studeblogger

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Reinventing the wheel - Part 1.

Since the day I bought Barney, one thing that's really bothered me was the Stupid Grant Steering Wheelâ„¢ installed by the former owner. OK, it looks '60s cool, but has several drawbacks:
  1. It doesn't cancel the turn signals.
  2. The horn button doesn't work.
  3. The spokes obscure the speedometer.
  4. My car has standard steering, so the small diameter of the wheel makes parking and other low-speed maneuvers a real chore.
So I decided early on to get the parts together for an OEM steering wheel, and spent about 2 years gathering them all; including an all-black wheel from a '62 GT Hawk, a proper horn button, and all the switches, wipers and contacts that make up the rotating electrical assembly for the horn button.

Last Sunday, I decided, was the day. I'd read up on how to run wires down the column jacket (via Bob Johnstone's tech archive), so was well-prepared, I thought, to get the job done quickly.

I pulled the wheel off the Grant adapter and easily removed the adapter from the column using a 3-jaw gear puller. No problem! The PO had nipped the horn wire off the old switch and crimped on a lead to go to the Grant horn button. This had failed, which was why there was no horn action; he'd also removed the original spring-loaded switch contact. No problem; I had a new one, so I used the old wire to feed a pilot wire up the column per Bob's explanation. That's where my problems began.

The wire channel through the column jacket exits the column just under the shifter collar; the wires must then make a 50-degree turn to get into the hub. No matter how I tried, the bullet connector molded onto the end of the old wire would not make that turn. I see-sawed the wires back and forth and pulled mightily... a little too mightily, as the pilot wire released itself from the old horn wire, leaving me with the wire pulled nearly all the way out, yet stuck - with no way to feed it back down. Arrgh.

I unbent a coat hanger and was able to get it through the channel just fine, so though perhaps I could snag the offending wire and pull it back down... no dice. All told, I managed to spend nearly 3 fruitless hours on the project, winding up reinstalling the Grant wheel so I could drive the car and putting off the project for another day.

What's going to have to happen is this: In order to free the old horn wire and feed in the new, I will need to remove the shifter jacket. Problem with this is, the jacket is held onto the column by two "T-nuts" whose heads are inside the column. They will be very hard to get re-installed... but it's either that, or live with this awful wheel and no horn or turn signal canceling forever. I guess while I'm doing it, I'll install a new turn signal switch as well just to make sure there are no problems down the road.

In the meantime: Happy Easter, everyone, and happy Studebakering!

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