Sunday, March 20, 2016

Grant 791 Flat-Dish Steering Wheel for C3 Corvettes

Moving the steering wheel away from the driver, is one thing 1968-1976 C3 Corvette owners can benefit from. C3s have small cabins and many owners complain about the lack of comfort when driving their Shark.

Even though Vettes with tilt and telescoping (T&T) steering columns are a little more user-friendly than fixed-column units, the problem is usually compounded by steering wheel size and dish depth.

The steering wheel aftermarket is huge, and there are many beautiful options available to the C3 Corvette owner... as long as it's not a 1976 Vette. Having said that, I own a '76 Stingray with a T&T steering column, but I got rid of the infamous "Vega" steering wheel and replaced it with an OEM unit that came with a 1978 steering column I purchased to eventually replace mine with. More on that in a bit.

However, the 1977-and-later steering wheels have a deep dish, which puts it closer to the driver, so—in my case—this solution was not ideal, as much as I enjoyed being able to get rid of the Vega-style wheel.

1968 through 1976 steering columns—both standard and T&T—are long and ergonomically wrong. If you are tall, and by tall I mean anything over 5' 9" and/or have long arms, the steering wheel reach is the equivalent of a 1950s car and you'll look like an old person behind the wheel. Not very cool when driving a sports car.

Post-1976 steering columns are—by comparison—about 2 inches shorter. And even though that may not seem like much, it makes a huge difference when sitting in the car. If you have the chance to compare sitting in a 1976-or-older Vette versus sitting in a 1977-and-newer you will see what I am talking about when you grab the steering wheel and get in a driving position.

This side-by-side photo, courtesy of Rick B., clearly shows the length differences between
1976-and-earlier and 1977-and-later steering columns. The latter has to be slightly modified
to fit pre-1977 Vettes.

This is what prompted me to buy a used 1978 Corvette steering column and rebuild it so I can install it (one of these days) in my car. There are a few compromises that I am well aware of, but I address those issues in my 1976 Corvette Steering Column and the "Vega" Wheel series.

Replacing the 1978 Original Equipment Manufacturer (O.E.M.) steering wheel is very easy, and you can opt to use an aftermarket wheel that uses a different style hub. However, keep in mind that by doing so you  may not be able to use the original horn button and the column may no longer have the telescoping feature, so do some research about things like that before purchasing an aftermarket steering wheel.

Removal of the OEM steering wheel is a straight forward process which you must always begin by disconnecting the car battery. From there you can remove the horn button.



The next step is to loosen and remove the three screws that secure the upper horn contact plate, shim and the spacer.



You can then remove the two screws that lock the telescope star nut in place and then remove the star nut, followed by the telescope lever.

Note: I hand-tightened the star nut so the telescope would be held all the way in.
This makes the steering wheel swap more comfortable.


This is the Grant 791 steering wheel I will be using. The bolt pattern as well as the horn contact notches are identical to the factory wheel.




This is one difference that it's worth noting; The bottom spoke on the original steering wheel is spot-welded to the hub, which results in a height difference of approximately 3/32". The spokes on the Grant wheel, on the other hand, are one piece.




My solution to this issue was simple. I located washers that made up the height difference and I used Crazy Glue to hold them together. I also glued them to the back of the Grand steering wheel so they'd stay in place while I attached the wheel to the column.

I also made a template for future reference in case I ever want to fabricate a one-piece spacer.




Here's a side-by-side photo of the Grant and factory steering wheels that show the drastic difference in dish height.



With all the necessary pieces ready to go, the steering wheel swap takes about 20 minutes.



Start by securing the steering wheel to the hub, making sure the extension is properly positioned in order for the telescope lever to work properly.



Next, install the horn spacer and telescope lever, the latter secured by the star nut. Also make sure the telescoping action works smoothly and that the lever locks it in place without going over the extension left-to-right travel limit.



The upper horn contact and shim are next, but make sure the tab makes good contact with the horn brush. When everything is aligned properly, tighten the three screws.




The horn button snaps in place. At this point the job is done.



Make sure steering wheel telescoping works properly by loosening the lever, testing the feature, then locking it in place. Turning left loosens the lock, turning right locks it in place.




And that's it, folks!

The flat dish of the Grant 791 steering wheel moves the unit far enough from the driver to increase comfort considerably. Not as much as using a 1978-or-newer steering column, of course, but this easy swap is an affordable and easy way to improve ergonomics quite a bit.





Thank you for reading.