In the early ‘80s, automotive enthusiasts didn’t have much to get excited about. Gone were the performance cars of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Formerly powerful musclecars had become all but neutered shadows of their older siblings, and tightening fuel economy standards made it seem like the dark days were here to stay. But change was on the way, as a generation of rebellious young adults didn’t think it was cool to be seen driving their father’s Chevy Cavalier.
Enter The Third-Generation Camaro
While the third-generation Camaro did get caught up in the emasculation of the musclecar, it did manage to keep the Camaro name alive. Released for sale in December of 1981, the 1982 model was the first Camaro to ever be sold with a hatchback instead of a trunk.
The capabilities of the third-generation Camaro cannot be measured by straight-line performance alone. Let’s face it, this generation had nothing on its predecessor’s 1/4-mile prowess. But, when it comes to all-around capability, this Camaro does have a lot of potential. That being said, the last third-generation Camaro was built in 1992 — more than 23 years ago — which means many of the parts on these cars have long since passed their life expectancy, and need replacement. Lucky for us, Classic Industries carries the parts needed, to bring new life into classic Chevys.
Take for instance our project car, Project Respect. It is a 1991 RS Camaro that was purchased for a relatively-fair price of $1,500. Under the hood was the factory 305 cubic-inch V8, producing a legend-stripping 167 horsepower at the rear tires.
When we decided to give this Camaro the respect its generation was lacking, the name became obvious. While the car has been the recipient of many upgrades over the last couple of years (you can find all of those articles here). One of the things we hadn’t tackled, was rebuilding the steering system. Thanks to Classic Industries, we were able to make the Camaro’s worn, sloppy steering, respectable.
After 24 years of aiming the front tires over, around, and into potholes, speed bumps and tight corners, it was readily apparent that Respect’s steering system could use some much-needed attention. Inspecting the steering components is a fairly easy task. Begin by jacking up the car and grabbing the front and rear of one of the front tires.
As you “steer” the tire from left to right, worn components will be made noticeable by the ease of movement the wheel realizes before the actual steering begins to move.
As long as you have a pitman arm puller, this steering upgrade is something you can handle in a few hours. – Sean Goude, Shop Tech
To pinpoint the worn item(s), grab various components of the steering system that make up the steering linkage and see if they are loose. What you are looking for are obviously bent, worn, or otherwise defective parts. After checking the components under Project Respect, we knew that some work was required.
For starters, the power-steering gear box was badly worn, and allowed the steering wheel to move left to right a considerable amount before ever actually turning the wheels. We were fortunate that the gearbox didn’t leak oil all over the garage floor, but we’re sure it was only a matter of time.
The tie-rod ends were also showing signs of wear, and the idler arm was allowing movement that was definitely not conducive to a controlling and firm feel when grasping the steering wheel.
So, now we had a decision to make. While there are many suspension companies that specialize in sport and/or race-style suspensions and steering parts capable of making our Camaro corner like a road racer, that wasn’t exactly what we were hoping to accomplish. We just wanted to give the RS a factory-new steering assembly without breaking the bank. So we turned to the Classic Industries website, where we purchased all of the parts we needed.
Time, Tools, And Finishing Touches
If you are planning to rebuild your car’s steering system yourself, there are a few things that you will need to keep in mind. For starters, while this is a fairly easy job to accomplish, a beginner can plan on using most of the day to complete the task. An experienced do-it-yourselfer can probably accomplish it in half that time. You will need various sockets and wrenches ranging from 1/2-inch to 1 1/8-inch. Also plan on needing a hammer, needle-nose pliers, a pitman arm puller, and a lot of shop rags.
Once the worn steering components are replaced with the new pieces, you will need to take the car to an alignment shop. To make sure you don’t ruin your tires on the way to the alignment shop, either call a rollback and have your car hauled to the the shop, or check out this do-it-yourself alignment article about getting your car’s alignment close to specification at home. Since no special tools are required, what are you waiting for? Get out in the garage, get that steering fixed in your car, and go for a drive.