What appears to be a bad fit (interference of link bar against bullnose on crossmember, note mark on paint where link bar rubbed) is not a problem.
While test fitting, before bolting in (last 1/8") the link bar would rub the crossmember. After bolting in, what looked like no way it would fit ended up fitting. (assuming the link bar moves horizontally acroos the crossmember anothe 1/4" is needed to clear).
The answer to the whole mystery is geometry. The pitman arm and idler arm rotate through the horizontal plane (as opposed to within the horizontal plane), this results in the center link bar rising about a 1/4" as the steering moves from right turn (positioned there to install the link) to center to left turn. Since the link rises enough to clear the crossmember, it fits.
Would have never figured this out, except that since I had paid for the part more than a year ago (no return); nothing to lose with bolting it in. Even as I bolted it in place I was still sure it wouldn't fit, until we turned the steering and saw the link bar rise.
I have tried three different vendors on the center link (NPD, PST, and NAPA), all three were very similar - none fit. Also tried the 69 chevelle center link (looks very similar to one removed from car) from NAPA, but still no joy.
Looking at the photos here:
1) Note the rag joint is not properly assembled, the steering box side is pulled down from the column side by about 3/8".
2) Anybody know how to determine if this is the correct steering box for a 67 El Camino - manual steering?
3) Note that the Pitman arm mounting to the steering shaft looks to be a bit low and/or the shaft seems to stick down a bit extra from the steering box.
Any ideas on what is wrong here and what would correct my steering so that I can fit a center link without it binding on the crossmember?
Comparing the replacement center link to the old one removed from the car.
First pic shows both end to end, note that the new one lays flat because the bow in the middle is in the same plane as the flattened part where the tie rods connect.
Second pic shows the idler arm side of both, note that I used my foot to roll the old one so that the flattened part is aligned with the new one and shows how the bow in the middle is both shorter and at a slight outward angle.
Third pic shows the pitman arm side of both, note that I used my foot to roll the old one so that the flattened part is aligned with the new one and shows how the bow in the middle is both shorter and at a slight outward angle.
The new center link does not fit where it rides over the front crossmember horn.
First pic shows the old center link in place.
Second pic shows the new idler arm installed and in the center (steering) position.
Third pic shows the pitman arm (old one) in the center (steering) position.
I put the tape measure in the last two pictures for reference.
Cleaning and painting in the engine bay to get ready for the new motor.
The A-arms went together fairly easy (putting the bushings in the freezer definitely helps) with generously applied never sieze.
Note the grey Hotchkiss lowering springs and the cleaned/painted spindle with dust shield and caliper brackets for the upgrade to disc brakes.
The heater box was disassembled, cleaned, repaired (new core), and painted. Added all new seals for the installation.
A lot of other parts are ready for assembly so progess should be fairly quick over the next few weeks.