When NASA's space shuttle first went into service 30 years ago-yes, it's been that long-nobody ever intended it to be flying for three decades. To be sure, it's been upgraded, refurbished, and well maintained, but we've also lost half the fleet. The point here underscores the importance of regular care and upkeep on our antique hot rods. Even with the best loving care, it's easy for some very important items to slip between the cracks.
The steering system of a 40-year-old muscle car was likewise never meant to suffer the outrageous punishment of the highway for that long. Our '68 Chevelle project car, though well taken care of, has a laundry list of lesser components that if not addressed over time have the potential to wreak havoc. Making the situation more critical is the extra power and handling we've put into the Chevelle. The old factory steering pieces were just too overstressed. One such component is the stock tie-rod adjuster sleeve, of which there are two. As part of the tie-rod assembly, all the Chevelle's substantial cornering load was being transmitted through a stamped steel production adjuster sleeve.
In previous issues (Dec. '08 and Jan. '09), we upgraded our brakes and master cylinder with components from Classic Performance Products (CPP), and at that time we took the opportunity to swap out the stock adjuster sleeves. These are the pieces that allow the toe-in to be adjusted; the inner tie rod threads into one side, and the outer tie rod threads into the other side. The adjuster sleeve and the two tie-rod ends make one complete tie rod assembly, and there are two of these on each Chevelle. Right- and left-hand threads are provided on each tie rod to facilitate adjustment (think of it as a really beefy turnbuckle).
CPP sells an entire range of suspension, steering, and braking components for GM A-bodies ('64-72). In many instances, there are several levels of strength, from stock to full-on race. CPP offers three levels of tie-rod adjuster sleeves for Chevelles-the stock stamped piece with clamps, a cylindrical stainless steel piece with machined adjustment "flats," and the new hexagonal aluminum pieces that we installed. These newest aluminum units are lighter, and with a hexagonal shape, they afford much easier adjustment.