Now I needed to find a suitable material to make up the 1/8" gap between the column and the rod. The gap was too big to use an oversize rod bearing, and it would be seen, so I needed to find something that was hard enough to securely grip the column but still be somewhat easy to make and look good too.
The answer was some black ABS plastic sheet that was about 5/32" thick, which would be made in two pieces and fit between the column and rod just like a bearing.
First thing to do was to bend the plastic to fit the curvature of the column. I screwed one end of the plastic to a piece of 2" PVC pipe, applied a little persuasion with a heat gun, and the plastic formed itself into perfect bearing halves as shown in the first photo.
The second photo shows a completed bearing half installed in the end of the rod. I even left a little extra plastic sticking up at each end of the bearing half to give it a little "crush" when the cap was bolted down tight, just like the real thing.
The third photo shows the completed assembly. Since the plastic was a little thicker than I needed, the i.d was sanded down carefully on a drum sander until the column fit snugly.
Now that the rod was cut to length and the mounting bracket fabricated, I drilled and tapped two holes in the end of the rod as shown in the first photo.
The second photo shows the finished bracket for the column drop welded in place.
The last photo shows the completed connecting rod column drop. Some final sanding/buffing will finish it off.
After measuring very carefully and double checking, I made the final cut through the connecting rod as shown in the first photo.
The second photo shows the rod bolted in place on the column. Now I needed to make a bracket that would attach the rod securely to the dash support brace. I originally thought of using a heavy steel door hinge, cut to length. This would give me the swing adjustment that most column drops have. However I decided on just making an angled bracket to match the angle of the cut end of the rod.
The last photo shows the beginning layout for the bracket. In order to bend the steel to the exact angle I needed, I made a saw cut almost all of the way through the bracket, which then bent easily.
Once I got the correct angle I welded the cut back up on both sides and ground it smooth.
The generic column drop that I used for the mock-ups just wasn't cutting it looks-wise. I kinda liked the connecting rod style myself, so that is what I decided to use.
Not any connecting rod would do though, so I picked up an aluminum rod from a Top Fuel engine.
First pic shows the two styles of column drop. No choice in which one to use...
The second photo shows the steering column in place and set at the angle that I wanted. I temporarily supported it with wire and also added cork filler around the column to make up for the space between the column and the rod. The column is 2 1/4" in diameter, and the big end of the rod has an i.d. of 2 1/2". The cork was temporary until I came up with a better filler material.
I knew that I would need to make a preliminary cut through the rod just to get it into place for measurement, so I took an initial cut and lopped off the pin end of the rod.
Third photo shows the first cut through the rod. I don't have a band saw, and I wanted to make a better cut than with a sawzall, so I used my table saw. I put on a real fine tooth carbide blade and made very small successive cuts all the way through the aluminum. Came out very well, nice and square. Plus this was good practice for the final cut. I only had one of these rods and didn't want to cut it too short.
The first picture shows the finished support brace between the body and the dash support. It stiffened up the support considerably, and does not get in the way of the a/c unit or defrost and a/c ductwork.
The second photo shows the completed a/c unit installation. The center "duct" for the a/c is just a turn-down supplied by Vintage air. I have room to get the two end outlets fit up with flex ducting, but had nowhere to go with the center one. This turn-down will blow the cool air straight down towards the floor. I may be able to add some flex duct to the turn-down if I cut it back a bit, but am undecided at this point.
The third photo is another view of the completed under-dash area. In moving the dash support rearward by an inch, the dashboard itself will also move rearward by the same amount. This is okay as it will give me a little more room for the defrost ducting. It will also help the gauges in clearing the master cylinders. Also seen is my column drop and windshield wiper setup which I'll cover in separate journal entries.