Power steering on a 51 Champ? Yep! That was the orders I got from my wife.
She declared that the 51 was hers and that for her to drive it she would need power steering, disk brakes and air conditioning. Disk brakes no problem. Air conditioning no problem. Power steering problem?
Okay I need to do a little research first. I tried the Studebaker forum but no luck.
Asked a few people but no one it seems to have done this conversion. Got a lot of advice but no help.
Some said it could be done but it would be hard, others said it would be an easy conversion.
No one had any concrete advice. Looks like I will be breaking new ground.
Time to hit the books. The Bendex set up from a Lark or Hawk looked like it would be the easiest to convert. Lots of questions?
1. Will I have to change the steering box? No
2. Will the bell crank fit? Yes
3. Is the frame the same? No
4. Will the ram fit? Yes
5. Will the reach rod work? No
6. Will other things will get in the way? Yes
7. This conversion will not work on a standard transmission car.
Those answers are the simple answers. So lets take each one and explain 1&2
Will I have to change the steering box? Will the bell crank fit?
A. The box that came with the 51 is the one with the S on the side.
1. Part books says it is a type S steering box.
B. It has 5 1/8 turns lock to lock. That is 1/8 turn more than a Ross box out of my Lark.
1. Will this make a difference? It is a bit slower but it should work.
2. If you want quicker steering you will need to change your box.
C. The bell crank splines are the same as the Lark power steering set up (Bendex).
1. The splines are exactly the same.
D. So if your 51 has the S type box remove the bell crank install the Lark power steering bell crank and you are finished with this part.
2. The bell crank from the Lark power steering fits on the 51 box
3. It fits in the same place. Same angle.
4. The power steering bell crank is 8” long the original is 9” long. This should help speed up the steering.
5. If you use a different box I don’t know if it will work.
6. I don’t know what car the power steering set up I have came from except that it is out of a Lark. The part books list 3 different ones for Lark and Hawk. One for the 59-60, one for the 61-64 lark and one for the C-K. The one I have should be the Lark 61-64.
3. Is the frame the same?
A. No. The frame is thinner, width wise, than the Lark. That means that you will have to make a plate to bolt the ram mounting bracket to the frame. The front horns are also longer, but I see no problem there so far.
4. Will the ram fit?
A. Because the frame is thinner you will need to make a plate to mount the ram.
B. It fits fine. the ram stroke will turn the wheels full right and full left.
5. Will the reach rod work?
A. No. Not the Lark one.
6. Will other things get in the way?
1. According to the parts manual the Lark 1959-64 power steering reach rod is 13” long and is to short.
2. The reach rod on the power steering I have is 13 1/2” long. I guess this extra 1/2 is for Adjustments?
3. The parts book also list a reach rod for a C_K 1959-64 at 17 5/8” long
4. My measurements indicate I need one 18 1/2” long
5. The reach rod from the 51 standard steering is 18 1/2” long from the center of the ball joint to the center of the bell crank.
6. The reach rod from a C-K might work. There is an adjustment on the reach rod. I don’t have one so I can't say for sure.
7. The reach rod will have to be lengthened to 18 1/2”.
- 1. If you have a standard transmission the clutch linkage may be a problem.
- 2. If you have an automatic transmission the emergency brake bracket is in the way.
So far I have to make the reach rod longer and make a bracket to mount the ram. That’s not too bad. If nothing else shows up this will be an easy conversion.
I sent the reach rod out to get it lengthened and today it came back. I bolted everything together and it seems to work. I did change the position of the ram mount. I checked out the parts car with power steering and found out I could move the mount closer to the cross member. This means I didn’t have to make a plate to mount the ram. Everything looks good. Now it is time to rebuild everything and re-install everything.
I called Jerry Blount and ordered all the parts I would need. Jerry has the best prices for Studebaker parts and he lives here in Oregon. Two days later the parts arrived. I spent the next day re-building everything and installing it back into the 51. Power steering done? The hoses? I forgot about the hoses. I spent the day trying to figure out how the hoses would fit. Since I lengthened the reach rod by 3” I thought I would have to lengthen the hoses. The hoses that go from the control head to the ram were still good so I hooked them up to see just how short they were but to my surprise they worked. I did have to tweak them a little but they work. The other two hoses didn’t look good so they will have to be replaced. Time to call Jerry again. Will this be the last problem? I hope so.
I need to install the engine and transmission. I hope everything clears! Yesterday I installed the engine and everything clears. The exhaust pipe is really close on the left side but it will clear with a little help from Mr. Hammer.