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How to convert to rack and pinion
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Thread: How to convert to rack and pinion

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Ballarat, Victoria, Australia

    Post How to convert to rack and pinion

    This 'How To' is used with authors permission and is ? copyrighted

    NOTE: Author and this website will take NO responsibility implied or otherwise as all modifications are done at owners own risk

    This conversion is based on Ford Mk.II Escort parts.
    Specifically the parts used are:

    • Mk.II Escort cross member - Slightly modified & seam welded.
    • Escort Mk.II 2 Litre struts and steering rack
      With new tie rod extensions, and complete with the bigger Escort brakes. I put in a quick rack conversion commonly available in Australia or from Britain.
    • Escort Mk.II 2 litre strut tops - Same pattern as the old Cortina ones and fit perfectly.
    • Escort Mk.II 1600 engine mounts - Boxed.
    • Escort Mk.II 2 litre engine mount rubbers - And maybe a couple of packer washers.
    • Standard Cortina Mk.II brake hoses
      I cut the flare off the strut end of the brake short steel pipes (metric) on the Escort struts, and substituted the Cortina nut (Imperial) and re-flared the pipe. The pipes had to be slightly reshaped by hand.
    • Mk.II Cortina pressed steel control arms
      These are the British ones, and not the Australian cast ones, (same ball joint & pin dimensions). These have to be shortened. This is the only tricky part as these can be hard to find in good condition. However, there are other possibilities here:

        1. It may be possible to secure a new ball joint unit for them somehow, as they are really only tack welded in on these steel arms, and could easily be changed.
        2. There is a Nissan/Datsun ball joint with the same pin dimensions and as this is a bolt on job, a new complete control arm could be fabricated (with replaceable ball joints).
          I am sure other alternatives could be found here. For racing just make an adjustable length arm with rose joints!

    • Ford Laser (FWD) steering column - Complete to second uni joint.
    • Section of Escort Mk.II steering column
      Between the second uni joint of the Laser column and the Escort rack flexible coupling. You need to get a short spline put on the other end to fit the Laser uni joint, (after determining the correct length and cutting), however, the shaft is the correct diameter material for the job and doesn't require machining down. I cut my own spline in a lathe by indexing. I would think you could adapt many types of 2 uni FWD steering columns if the Laser one wasn't available. One advantage of this setup is I now have the Laser adjustable steering column (vertical plane only), which is also a collapsible column, (but I hope I never need to test this out!). This column bolts up beautifully to both the underside of the dash, and the old Cortina column brace on the pedal mount (cast alloy type). The only modification here was to weld a bracket on the Laser outer column tube to bolt to the old pedal based Cortina column mount. By the way I put an Escort rack boot on the lower uni joint (both are inside the car) to keep it clean.
    • Mk.II Cortina sway bar - Modified.
    • Escort Mk.II sump - With Escort dipstick mounted in external tube ala many Jap motors.
    • 2 x Steering rack arm to tie rod extensions
      A short length of hex steel with male and female threads to match rack steering arm and tie rod end. These are virtually the only bits you will need to have engineered (I made my own in a lathe). You will need to use a suitable type of steel: 3/4" AF Hex (K1040) and have them professionally heat-treated after machining.
    • Standard Cortina master cylinder

    Ok, after securing all the necessary s/h bits and having cleaned them, proceed as follows:

    1. Set car on a level concrete floor and measure ride height at front.
    2. Jack up and remove front wheels and set car at ride height on wooden blocks under sills.
    3. Remove old struts, steering column.
    4. Suspend motor at standard height with block and tackle or with a heavy bearer across the guards (protected of course) and a chain to studs/bolts either side of the block.
    5. Remove old cross member.
    6. Remove old sump and fit new one, (after fabricating and welding in external dipstick tube in a suitable position).
    7. Offer up Escort cross member to chassis rails. Cortinas have parallel chassis rails and Escorts taper towards the front, so simply make a small hacksaw cut and reweld, heat & reshape the cross member mounts to suit, (about 10 mm taper or so either side). I suggest you seam weld the cross member while you are at it for even more strength. You will need to ascertain the correct position of cross member so the control arms are reasonably straight fore and aft when you have correct caster (see later).
    8. You can now bolt in the cross member using two of the original four cross member bolt holes for the time being.
    9. Now remove the springs from the new Escort struts and bolt the struts in using the Escort strut tops (you may need to file the holes very slightly).
    10. You can bolt the steering rack in now.
    11. Refit the front wheels so they sit on the floor at basically normal road position. Due to the slightly different 'king pin inclination' angle ie. the angle between the stub axle and the strut, the track will be slightly wider, but will still accept at least 6" wheels easily.
    12. Now bolt on the Escort engine mounts. I 'boxed' mine on the top for extra strength. These are left and right handed to match cross member!
    13. Raise engine slightly, bolt on the new Escort 2 Litre engine mount rubbers, and check clearance between sump and rack/cross member. If necessary use a couple of packers washers to adjust. (I removed my cross member after making this measurement, and welded a 4 mm plate on either mount face and partially boxed the uprights, then reinstalled it.)
    14. Now it's time for some geometry! The vehicle is at normal road height with the front wheels chocked in a position close to their normal road position fore and aft, with zero camber, (use a spirit level!). From here you can measure the control arm length, measure from pin hole to inner control arm bolt hole. From this measurement you can then add for neg camber, or use after market adjustable strut top kits or you can add a camber adjustment kit on the cross member at this point if you wish (I used the original Escort control arm inner mounting points).
    15. Anyway, once the length of the arms is established, cut them allowing approximately an inch of material past the OD of the new bush hole positions. Remove the old bush holders from the offcut, redrill the arm and weld in the bush holder, and round off the arm end on the bench grinder. Then refit the arms. If the arms are fairly parallel across the car you can down make provision for the other two cross member bolts (I drilled and welded tubes through the chassis rail). If the arms have to much angle at the bushes try the other two original bolt holes (move the cross member fore or aft), or make four new ones altogether.
    16. Now using a tape measure set the front wheels parallel, ie. no toe in. You can now measure the length of the two male/female extensions for your tie rod ends (all right hand thread). If you're not good with a lathe have someone machine them up for you using 3/4" AF Hex K1040 steel, and have them professionally heat-treated after machining. By the way, I searched for longer tie rod ends for months before settling for this solution (which is extremely strong anyway).
    17. On a flat concrete floor, heat and bend the original Cortina sway bar (to go under rack steering arms) and shorten the washer stops (carefully with a grinder and file) to set the caster. There are plenty of caster kits around or you can make your own adjustable mounts etc. By the way, I did not need to have to bar retempered believe it or not! I let it air cool and it is still the correct temper.
    18. The rest is straight forward - securely bolt in the Laser (or similar) steering, adding a bracket to bolt to the Cortina pedal mount. Change the brake pipe nuts and complete brakes and bleed.
    19. Cut the piece of Escort column to go between the Escort flexi joint and the second uni on the new steering column, have a spline put on the new end to match the uni joint and fit. Cut a hole in the cover plate between the brake and clutch pedals for the new column and fit a rubber seal.
    20. And that's about it. Take it to your friendly front-end aligner, and get all the readings. If camber and caster adjustments are required and you didn't build in an adjusting system, just make the changes the easiest way you can and then get it rechecked (I only had to get a little camber out of one strut top).

    I don't think I missed anything (I did mine fourteen years ago), except to say that the only evidence to show this job has been done should be the tie rod end extensions! Everything should look like it came out of the factory, and safety is paramount!! If you have doubts pay someone else to do it for you. My car has been through a normal roadworthy and they did not realise that the rack and pinion wasn't standard!

    Remember that camber is determined by control arm length, caster is determined by the sway bar, and the position of the cross member affects neither!
    The quick rack gives one less turn than the standard Escort rack lock to lock (shit that thing turns!).
    Don't go with the self centering strut top rubber arrangement (as they're always buggered), better to grease the metal tube, use self locking or castellated nuts, and leave them just loose enough for the shaft to rotate in the strut top.

    I also run a 2 Litre Escort gearbox and complete back axle (bigger brakes and much stronger and better ratios and a little wider), and a Ford Laser clutch cable, (modified pedal with short extension on top to accept cable). Also, if you change the gearbox you can move the motor back 3" or 4" when locating the cross member - it's all inter-related.

    It's all fairly easy and straight forward, I spent over twelve months working it all out, and about eight hours to actually do it! It should be easier since I have done all the groundwork. I would suggest collecting the various bits and then sit and think about it until it is all clear in you head, then go for it! But remember - quality and safety first!!!! Even for a track car.
    All up it cost me something like A$350.00

    Happy spanners.
    ?2009 Terry C.

  2. #2
    HI Jewels

    Excellent read. Thanks for posting this conversion. I am doing this mod at the moment and based it all around Escort MK2 gear as I have a wreck in the back yard as a parts car. All is going well at this stage and information like this helps heaps.

  3. #3
    there are longer tie rods from a volvo 240/260 that can be used, there are two types available one with an M20*1.5 (dont get these ones) and one with a M14 *1.5 female thread on the inner (rack) end like the escort, and they are around 45mm longer

    http://www.autopart007.com/Rack-End-...05659-616.html is the part you want, they are reasonably available.

    i was looking at doing a rack conversion to my cortina till the damn VASS engineer killed nearly the whole project

  4. #4
    Hi there

    I have just completed my rack conversion. I followed the above post with only a few changes.

    The rack ends were manufactured from round material and I was told they were nice and hard by the engineers so they were not heat treated (I will post some pictures). These are very good quality and I was very happy with them.

    The steering is MK2 Escort which means I had to drill through the firewall and also means that the steering wheel is on a slight angle. I am happy with that for now, however I would have went for the Laser idea as detailed above.

    I used the factory cast cortina lower control arms (these are longer than Escort MK2) and drilled holes into the Escort cross member to give around 1.5 degrees camber. The holes are inboard from the Escort holes but add around 50 mm width to the original MK2 Cortina settings (the sway bar was heated and moved out by around 45 mm)

    I gained caster by fitting a 3mm think alloy plate between the chassis rails and bolted to the original sway bar mounts (similar to an anti-dive plate). I could then mount the sway bar forward enough to get around 5 degrees caster (the centre of the sway bar axis is directly over the original forward sway bar mounting bolt.

    I hope this helps the next person to do this conversion....

    I will post more pictures soon
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by MK2 tina; 21st February 2010 at 05:33 PM. Reason: added images

  5. #5
    Hey there,

    Great to see someone finally complete this conversion from those 'how to docs'... They've been around on the net for about 10 yrs and I have heard lots of discussion about them but never actually seen a completed job. Just to clarify, is your conversion VASS engineer approved (or QLD equivalent??) Could you please post up a few more (detailed) pics? From the looks of the photo, it looks like a very neat conversion (and cortina for that matter). Would love to see more.

    Thanks in advance,

  6. #6
    Hi escortina

    The car is not Engineered as I am using it for street circuit racing, but I have tried to make it look as neat and as factory as I could. I have heard of guys saying 'make it look factory to get it over the pits'. If it looks like it is supposed to be that way from the factory then it may get through a roadworthy. I have not discounted getting it registered in the future although it may be a bit of a challenge for me if I go that way.

    I have mostly modify the Cortina with Escort factory parts so I know the car is using parts designed for that job (struts, brakes, steering, diff etc). One exception is the rack end extensions (these are fitted so the rack ends meet the tie rod ends after I have adjusted the camber). I tried the volvo rack end extensions mentioned in an earlier thread, however, although they were longer they were not long enough. These extensions were engineered so I am confitent they are able to do the job safely,not sure if they would be able to get a roadworthy with them.

    I have added pictures to the thread if you need more just let me know.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by jewels View Post
    Refit the front wheels so they sit on the floor at basically normal road position. Due to the slightly different 'king pin inclination' angle ie. the angle between the stub axle and the strut, the track will be slightly wider, but will still accept at least 6" wheels easily.
    Hi thanks for the information you shared. just wanna ask about the king pin. I notice you mention it on your post I'm planning to buy a king pin repair kit I just want to know what are the kits that i will be purchasing?

    Lisza Bailey
    car enthusiast
    Last edited by lliszabailey; 8th January 2011 at 02:44 PM.

  8. #8
    I used the factory cast cortina lower control arms (these are longer than Escort MK2) and drilled holes into the Escort cross member to give around 1.5 degrees camber. The holes are inboard from the Escort holes but add around 50 mm width to the original MK2 Cortina settings (the sway bar was heated and moved out by around 45 mm)

    Unless I have missed something surely the mounting points for the TCA's are no longer are in line with the ends of the rack and you will get bump steer? Paul

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by corsair View Post
    I used the factory cast cortina lower control arms (these are longer than Escort MK2) and drilled holes into the Escort cross member to give around 1.5 degrees camber. The holes are inboard from the Escort holes but add around 50 mm width to the original MK2 Cortina settings (the sway bar was heated and moved out by around 45 mm)

    Unless I have missed something surely the mounting points for the TCA's are no longer are in line with the ends of the rack and you will get bump steer? Paul
    Hi Corsair

    That may be a good point. Is the pivot point for the TCA meant to be in line with the rack end to prevent bump steer?

    I still have not had a chance to test the car out yet but it is nearly ready to go and my first event is in April which is a dirt sprint. I have not been game enough to take it on the street to check it out yet but I will be doing that soon (I live in a dark street on the edge of town so I should get away with a bit of night testing).

    Can anyone shed some light on whether I would get bump steer?

  10. #10

    How to convert to rack and pinion

    Hi All.

    I Just wanted to say that I tested out the steering on my MK2 Cortina in my first dirt sprint. The car was good from the start and felt very stable. I can't recall noticing any bump steer but this track is very flat (like a road that has been well maintained). It is dirt but very flat. The car was very controllable and it felt a bit more oversteer than understeer.

    Details of the car is as follows:

    Rear: standard cortina springs, standard oil shocks and lowering blocks

    Front: escort MK2 2ltr front struts with escort standard springs (cut down), standard gas struts, cortina sway bar, cortina lower control arms, escort cross member, escort rack and pinion steering and a piggy back sway bar

    Wheels: 6 x 13 inch alloys with Toyo R888 tyres

    Brakes: Escort servo assisted

    Set up: 2.5 degrees Caster, -1 degree Camber, and a little tow out. The front wheels track wider thanthe rear by about 45mm

    Engine: 2ltr OHC, standard 2bl weber, extractors and fireball ignition

    Gearbox: type 2

    Diff: 3.77 (escort) locked

    I would like to thank members of this forum. It has been the information on this site that has helped me build up the car over the last couple of years. Keep up the good work....

  11. #11
    im still in the middle of doing my MKII cortina rack conversion - mine is similar to the above (which i used as a basis for my conversion) differences are that i used a MKI capri swaybar, adjustable Escort TCA's with a new inner section to replace the rose jointed bit with a poly bush (you can now get poly bushed adjustables, youd just need a new middle adjustable section) volvo 240 non power tie rods and everything else escort MKII - for the column im using an escort column with the splined bit cut off the bottom a 5/8 / 5/8 inch smooth weldon uni joint (drag racing part from the US) a forged escort bottom uni joint and a longer splined bit removed from another escort column - geometry looks pretty good and i formed a simple front subframe to connect the crossmember and double width anti dive setup, and besides the crossmember, column and custom TCA inner has no hard to get custom parts.

  12. #12
    great thread ! cheers

    have already got a few bits & started to get more parts form this thread to get me started , but wondering if there is more feedback on this from anyone out there since 2009 ?
    also any chance someone has saved the pics from earlier in this thread ?

    cheers again

  13. #13
    are you doing a mk1 or mk2 , and have you checked your engineering inspection that seem to a requirement in most parts of oz , and its not possible /allowed to weld up some of the parts needed, not an insurmountable problem but lots more planning and headscratching needed.

  14. #14
    mk1 & no ... lol

  15. #15
    dont want to put you off , it is a lot of work but worth while if you get it right, the above list of parts laid out suits a mk2 cortina conversion more than mk1 , has a domino effect on the rest of the car ,the escort xmember sets the engine back further than standard, some work needs to be done on tran tunnel ,new prop shaft, speedo cable changed to longer one ,and so on .Theres a lot of variables so its not just a quick bolt up into place and drive away ,despite the assurances given by the various kits being made , its not cheap either even if you do the whole process yourself , i did mine to suit my own requirements .I didnt like the look of the kits , didnt like the steering box even though it okay to use, had seen the conversion done to 3 other cars and they were crap on the road , had to rebuild the car as it was so bad ,only other option was to scrap it , so it was a blank sheet to start out from . We have the good luck here that welded components is do able , but my next attempt or upgrade is to try and do this with out or an absolute minimum of welding and only to none critical areas. Keep at it , the end result transforms the car if done correctly.

  16. #16
    thanks madflow , tha idea was to do it once my pinto is built & already have a type 9 to slap onto that ... which reading about is a headache in itself
    but as you said ill keep head scratching

    cheers again

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