June 9, 2012
On Saturday we spent the whole day building the steering column mount, a simple part that until recently we weren't even sure we needed, and now has us second-guessing the whole stupid steering arrangement.
The day started out fairly positive. We cut the mount out of 3-1/2" square RHS, then spent a couple of hours fitting it onto the frame. We cut a big hole in the middle for the steering column, and drilled more holes around it for bolting on the column flange. We then welded a plate of 16 gauge steel on the bottom so the whole mount will be sealed from the interior once the firewall is welded on. Because the mount is made out of metal and not wood, shaping and fitting took some time, but we persevered as we tend to do, and the end result looked halfway decent.
We were a little nervous about welding the mount in place, because once it's done we can never change the position of the steering column again. Ever. So just to make sure, we dragged the frame back onto the floor and installed a makeshift seat to try it out. Except for the fact that we couldn't get our knees under the wheel without cheating and lifting it up a little, the wheel seemed nice and centered. And the height was okay, maybe on the high side, but going any lower would mean even less room for the knees. In any case you could hold the wheel at 9 and 3 with elbows resting on the frame rails, so it's within range.
The seating arrangement actually felt pretty comfortable, with all kinds of leg room, so we went ahead and welded the mount onto the frame. And then discovered immediately afterward that it was impossible to fit the steering column into the mount with the engine bay shelf in place. The mount is right below the shelf, and angled upwards at about 17 degrees. So the column can't be inserted horizontally, it has to be inserted at that same angle, i.e. downward through the engine bay shelf. Which can't be done because the shelf is in the way.
The good news is, we hadn't welded in the engine bay shelf yet. But between the column, the mount, and the shelf, something had to give. Since the mount was already welded in, this left the column and the shelf as the easiest targets, so we trimmed the shelf by lengthening the slot for the column, which allowed us to raise the column slightly to get a better angle on the mount, and trimmed another 1/4" off the flat side of the flange. We also took about 1/16" off the outer circumference of the flange, between the flat side and the top, which allows us to insert the column with the flat spot on top, and then once it's in place, rotate the column into its normal position where it can be bolted in.
So it fits, albeit marginally, but what are the odds that we're going to remember all of this six months from now when it's time to do the final installation? Or six years from now when the column breaks and we have to replace it? I'm thinking maybe we need a workshop manual. Not a complete one obviously. We don't need to know how to change the tires. Just something for the tricky bits. "Unbolt the column from the column mount and rotate the unit counter-clockwise until the flat side of the column flange is at the top. Slide the column carefully out of the mount, angling it upwards slightly so it doesn't bind."
This of course would be one of those entries that sounds easy when you read it, but is almost impossible to do when you're lying on your back under the dash all twisted around, and you can't actually get a wrench on anything, let alone see what you're doing. Which would make our workshop manual exactly like every other British workshop manual. In fact, it's so British it almost makes me nostalgic. And of course we'd include the usual detailed re-installation instructions: "Reassembly is the reverse of the disassembly process."
We'd also need an entry for the gas pedal box, since it's not at all obvious how to get it out. "Unbolt the box from the engine bay shelf, then remove the rubber pedal pad from the pedal and withdraw the box and pedal through the engine bay, feeding the pedal arm through the relief notch in the engine bay shelf opening (see fig. 4.3)." I like it. I think we could do this, put together an M.G. Locost workshop manual. No doubt we'll have a lot more entries in it before we're done.
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