The ball seats and spring go into their respective end of the drag link in a different sequence. We laid out the parts in correct order. On the pitman arm end of the drag link the ball joint hole is about 1-1/2 inches from the end.
We set out to rebuild the steering system's drag link and then install it to the steering box. It would only take about an hour, we thought, so why not use the morning to do the work and have a nice lunch later? We started at 9:00 am and finished at 2:30 pm; so much for a leisurely lunch.
Our pitiful little screwdriver didn't provide enough leverage to screw the plug into the drag link, so we...
The drag link was, in fact, a piece of cake. All we needed to do was make sure the internal springs and mating plates were in the right order of assembly. On one end the spring goes to the inside of the steering box Pitman arm ball socket and on the other end the spring goes outside the ball on the steering arm at the wheel. This was easy to figure out, and we followed the manual's instructions on tightening the springs and inserting cotter pins.
Got creative! We used our cold chisel and a wrench to screw the plug in.
We installed the pitman arm onto the drag link on the bench. Now we needed to get it hooked up to the front wheels. We stretched the rubber dust sheidl over the ball on the spindle arm and then installed the ball seats and spring into the drag link in the order we had arranged on our bench.
With the drag link assembled and greased (always grease things when finished or you might forget to do so later) we readied the steering shaft/box assembly for installation. We noted that the aftermarket exhaust header manufacturer's instructions had mentioned that the lower bolt holding the steering box end plate might have to be ground down to provide clearance to the exhaust output port. Prepared for such a situation, we gently tried to line up the steering box to get it in the proper position on the frame.
No dice! We had to remove the exhaust manifold to get the box into position and, once it was tightened in place, we attempted to line up the manifold to see how much material had to be ground off. It was a lot...
As near as we could estimate, we needed to remove from 3/8ths to 1/2 inch of the corner of the steering box to give any clearance from the manifold. Doing so would destroy the box's integrity, not to mention allow all the oil to drain out, so we had to find another way. Either the manifold had to be bent toward the engine block (no way, no how!) or the steering box had to move left (outside the frame, by the way) accordingly.
To gain clearance between the steering box and the exhaust manifold, we decided to move the mounting surface for the steering box out. We would do this by removing teh steering box mounting section from the frame and shimming it outward. We started by marking the area to be removed, shimmed and welded back into place.
There was no choice in the matter. We would have to cut out the box's mounting area on the frame, weld in some new metal to shim the plate out a bit, and then weld the plate back in place. We found some 1/8th-inch plate steel and started cutting.
We cut the marked panel out of the frame with our grinder.
A while later we had the mounting plate cut out and new shim plates located and tacked, so from that point we placed the plate back where our measurements indicated and welded everything back together. The move to the left that the box would now make, by the way, would present no problem inside the cabin. The steering column is located below the dash by a U-collar, so moving that won't be a problem.
After removing the mounting surface, we welded our shims into place.
With everything cooled off, we replaced the steering box and checked the exhaust manifold for clearance. We were close, but it still touched! That meant we'd have to take the box back out and grind off about 1/16 inch of its mounting flange to obtain enough clearance. The flange was nearly 1/2 inch thick, so taking off a little wouldn't hurt things.
Not a show car solution, but it did solve the problem.
After grinding, we remounted the box and placed the exhaust manifold into position with its bolts finger-tight. We went underneath the chassis and verified there was clearance (only about 1/8 inch, but it's there!) between it and the box. We tightened up all the hardware and re-checked our clearance, just to make sure.
After all that, this was the most clearance we could muster.
Once we got the steering box in place, before we attached the drag link, we had to make sure that the steering gears were in the right position. We put the steering wheel on the shaft, and put a piece of masking tape on the wheel as a marker. We then turned the wheel in the direction of a left turn until it reached the end of its travel. Counting the rotations of the steering wheel, we then turned it to the extreme right. This showed us that lock to lock, the steering wheel went 4-1/2 turns. Then we backed the steering wheel 2-1/4 turns. Knowing that the steering wheel was at the center of it's rotation, we aimed the front wheels straight ahead and attached the drag link to the pitman arm.
If we had used the original exhaust manifolds we wouldn't have spent 5 hours doing what should have taken less than one. The original flathead V8 was equipped with a single exhaust with a crossover pipe. Installing dual exhausts using Fenton cast iron exhaust headers are a common modification to these engines. The new manifolds look better, sound better and will improve the power output and since we want this truck to be a driver, we need all the power we can eke out of the old flattie. Besides, as your recall, we inherited this project and the Fenton's came with it, so why not!
According to the vendor who sold the headers, when installing them in a '52 Ford F1 pickup, "you might have to grind off one of the bolts on the steering box to make room, but it's basically a 'drop-in' fit." The lesson learned is this: when instructions tell you there might be some "adjustments" to be made or some "modification" to existing components to make things fit, beware. Those same instructions will fail to tell you how major the changes might have to be. While we experienced no difficulties with our transmission adaptor, the exhaust headers were an entirely different story. Just remember that when you buy some aftermarket products, you might have to do some of your own engineering to get things to work the way they're supposed to.