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1953 Pontiac Chieftain Power Steering


Guest 53Chieftain
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Guest 53Chieftain

Hi everyone, this is my first post here on aaca. Last september I purchased a 1953 pontiac chieftain two door deluxe. It was in pretty rough shape but since then I've done quite a bit of work to it with lots left to do. It is a straight eight car but it had an Oldsmobile 455 under the hood when I bought it. It had some pretty shoddy work done to it that I've been trying to correct. I've gotten rid of the big block in favor of a 350 chevy and I'm converting to power disc brakes on all four wheels. My biggest concern mechanically is the steering however. It has the factory manual steering setup and I'm weighing my options to see if converting to power steering is worth it. Ideally I would like to put in a 605 steering box because it doesn't seem any 53 pontiac originals are available. Does anyone know if this swap will work with a 605 box? I appreciate any information that can benefit my project. Thanks!

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Guest Bob Call

You're on the wrong site to be asking these questions. This site is for people dedicated to preserving and restoring vintage cars to as near original as possible. I would tell you to junk the belly button (everyone has one) Chevy 350 and TH trans and put back the straight eight and hydamatic trans, keep and rebuild the drum brakes, and keep the 6 volt electrics. Tens of thousand of Chevies, Pontiacs and Olds with this same basic steering and brakes were built and worked well for these cars.

 

You need to search for street rodding sites to get answers to your questions and advice on building a performance car.

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Guest 53Chieftain

I see, clearly I've made a mistake. Unfortunately being an engineering student on a budget, a full nut and bolt restoration is out of the question, but I'm happy with my 350. Also considering this car hasn't been registered since 1974, all of the original mechanical (save for steering and brakes) and electrical parts were sold off long before me and it was converted to 12v. I'm just trying to put an old car back on the road is all. Thanks for your input.

 

By the way, I posted on here looking for a member of this website who I thought could help me out, I read a forum he posted on a while back and he seemed to have a wealth of knowledge regarding 1953 Pontiacs. I think his username was 1953pontiac or pontiac1953. Regardless, I'll bring my question elsewhere.

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Guest Bob Call

Newbie

 

You are looking for Charles L.  Coker whose user name on this site is pontiac1953.

 

I checked my Hollander Interchange and the steering gear for 53 & 54 Pontiacs is exclusive to Pontiacs for those years. I would guess that Chevy would be the closest since they had the inline 6. Olds with the V8 probably had different gear and/or mounting to clear the wider engine. Ididit may be the place to look for advice.

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Don't let it get you down. Some of the 'orthodox' don't like the 'reform' faction lol.

 

I suggest you try it without power steering first. When the car was new, old ladies and grannies drove them and did not have  a problem.

 

Make sure the steering and suspension is in good shape, meaning replace worn parts and be sure everything is lubricated correctly and not seized up. Then get an alignment and try it.

 

Use bias ply tires or if you prefer radials don't go too wide, and pump them up to 32 PSI.

 

I have made the same suggestion to others and those that followed it up, found their cars drove so nice it took away all desire for power steering or a suspension swap. With the advantage of being easier and cheaper and keeping the car original.

 

Don't forget to fill the shocks with hydraulic jack oil or if you have tubular shocks, replace them. Check the bolts that hold the steering box to the frame and check the box itself for wear. You can adjust out some slack if it is worn but be sure to follow the adjustment procedure in the factory manual. If you don't do it right you can wear out the box in a month. Also fill the box with oil or grease as recommended by the factory.

 

The V8 is lighter than the stock straight eight and no doubt sits farther back in the engine compartment so the load on the front end will be less than when it was new. This will make steering even easier.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)
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Guest 53Chieftain

Thanks Bob and Rusty for the info. I do like the sound of keeping the steering original not only from a budget perspective but also to just keep things simpler under the hood. I may be hot-rodding this vehicle a little mechanically but I like vehicles in OE condition just as well. I won't be chopping the top or anything crazy like that, exterior and interior will be all original. Thanks! 

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You may want to leave the brakes as they were, except for converting to a dual master cylinder. I've heard that modern lining material in a drum brake system improves the overall performance rather well. Try it before going through the trouble and expense of converting to disc brakes.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I see, clearly I've made a mistake. Unfortunately being an engineering student on a budget, a full nut and bolt restoration is out of the question, but I'm happy with my 350. Also considering this car hasn't been registered since 1974, all of the original mechanical (save for steering and brakes) and electrical parts were sold off long before me and it was converted to 12v. I'm just trying to put an old car back on the road is all. Thanks for your input.

 

By the way, I posted on here looking for a member of this website who I thought could help me out, I read a forum he posted on a while back and he seemed to have a wealth of knowledge regarding 1953 Pontiacs. I think his username was 1953pontiac or pontiac1953. Regardless, I'll bring my question elsewhere.

At least you admitted to a mistake. As said before by someone else, why don't you try to find a original Pontiac engine. If you are convinced to not leave it stock I would have left the Olds engine. It's a better engine than a Chevy 350, and as said by someone else before...EVERYONE has one. So what you have here is a car you bought with a Olds engine which turned your car into a Olds, you then replaced the Olds engine and turned your car into just another Chevy. Most of the guys that I know who modify Pontiacs modify them with Pontiac V-8's. In other words even though they have modified their Pontiac, their Pontiac is still a Pontiac!!! Charles Coker is friend and a Tech advisor for POCI and he is in the process of building a 1953 Chieftain like the factory had intended to do but didn't. Let me explain. Pontiac by 1953 had over 5 million miles on their new V-8 engine. The engine, a 287 V-8, the one that went into the 1955 Pontiac (which is the father of ALL REAL Pontiac V-8's all the way up to the 455 V-8 and they all use the same connecting rod and the blocks are dimensionally the same )was ready for production for 1953. Because Buick was releasing their new nailhead V-8 in 1953 as well, Buick division begged the corporation to hold back Pontiac division from releasing their engine until 1955, which is what happened. If you look at the steering and front suspension for a 1953-1954 Pontiac you will notice all the modifications are already done for a V-8 that never came thanks to Buick.

If you must modify a Pontiac at least use a Pontiac engine, or as you will soon find out at a Pontiac event when you hear the words; Thanks for turning your car into a Chevy, or your car should be at a Chevy show , or another Pontiac turned into a Chevy.

In case you are wondering The engine is the heart and soul of the brand of car you have.

Edited by helfen (see edit history)
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You may want to leave the brakes as they were, except for converting to a dual master cylinder. I've heard that modern lining material in a drum brake system improves the overall performance rather well. Try it before going through the trouble and expense of converting to disc brakes.

 

I'm of the opposite opinion re "modern" linings. I went through 3 sets of  new shoes for my 57 Buick with PS. NONE of them stopped the car without mashing the pedal. I had a brake and clutch shop reline the shoes with "old time" type lining and it made a world of difference in stopping ability. It only takes a tap of the toe now........Bob

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hello 53chieftain, this is charles l. coker, first let me say thank you to the members who brought my name up, including my very good aaca forum friend don heflen. my 1953 pontiac chieftain custom catalina is a factory ordered power steering car, and as don mention, i'm re-engineering the car to have the intended 287 strato-streak V8 engine. the power steering column that you need to add, must come from a 1953-1954 pontiac only. although the 53-54 chevies are pretty much the same size car, just about all pontiac chassis and suspension/steering parts are closely related to oldsmobile. as don has mention, you would be much better off either going back to a pontiac 268 straight 8, or a 1955 to 1958 pontiac V8 set up. your original brake system is a good system, eveything in the system must be kept in good repair, a dual master cylinder is a good modification, but i'm an old school guy, so my car will keep the treadle vac power brake option.  

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Guest 53Chieftain

helfen, thanks for telling me off. As said previously by me, I know 350 chevys are common but I am happy with it for now. I'm 19, I would love to put an original engine in the car, I really would. However, logistically speaking, it was not the best choice for me. Not now at least. Yes, you heard it here, I want to build a hot rod. I did not make a mistake getting my chevy engine, I made a mistake by posting on this website expecting a warm welcome. But it worked out for me. I now know I will keep my car's manual steering and I will continue with my build. A little additional info for you, I traded the olds because big block hot rods are most often overkill. The olds was in poor condition, and rebuilding it was simply not of my interest (perhaps it would've been if it were a more desirable block, but this one I assure you was not). So, as a mechanical engineer (again, on a budget), I weighed my options. Everything regarding power, reliability, fuel economy, and bang for buck pointed towards small block chevys. Yes, I'm not the first, but on the other hand, I don't really care about that. Maybe one day I'll drop in a pontiac engine, I would like that no doubt. But until then, I'll still enjoy everything about this car no problem.  :D

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Guest 53Chieftain

Mr. Coker, thank you for your input. Your build sounds absolutely incredible and I wish you the best of luck with it. As I said in the last post, maybe one day I will be able to drop in a more suitable engine for my vehicle. I'm not going crazy with modifications here (no air ride, led lighting, or any junk like that) but I do admire your dedication to the factory original setup. I will surely post here in the future if I decide to drop in a pontiac engine. Until then however, I'll stick to the hot rodding forums. To everyone who helped me out with my questions, I appreciate it tremendously. And to those who had a word or two of criticism, I understand how you feel. Not all car enthusiasts are the same, but know I'll be happy my 53 pontiac will be on the road again for the first time in 41 years.

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Well guys, you did it again! You ran a 19 year old, on a budget, away from our hobby. How many of you as kids, placed playing cars with clothspins next to your spokes on your bicycles, I did. Then spent hard earned money collecting pop bottles and mowing grass on handlebar grips with plastic streamers, I did. I hate to think what the bicycle purists thought of me. I guess you all are to far removed from a budget to remember how it was. I am trying to interest young people to get involved in saving/restoring old cars. My shop is always open to young people who want to learn how to turn a wrench. My great nephew went from building a dune buggy (he calls it a sand rail) to a 1967 Barracuda he found as all orginial.

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Well guys, you did it again! You ran a 19 year old, on a budget, away from our hobby. How many of you as kids, placed playing cars with clothspins next to your spokes on your bicycles, I did. Then spent hard earned money collecting pop bottles and mowing grass on handlebar grips with plastic streamers, I did. I hate to think what the bicycle purists thought of me. I guess you all are to far removed from a budget to remember how it was. I am trying to interest young people to get involved in saving/restoring old cars. My shop is always open to young people who want to learn how to turn a wrench. My great nephew went from building a dune buggy (he calls it a sand rail) to a 1967 Barracuda he found as all orginial.

Sorry 53 Chieftain, re-read my reply. I didn't tell you off, I told you the truth. As far as 350"s go. Pontiac makes a very good 350 ( it's really a 354.74 or a 355 & don't ask why Pontiac called it a 350-probably a nice round number) that makes a lot of power if you want and can make a bunch if you really want and shares many parts with all 1965-1981 Pontiac engines and because 389, 400, 421, 428, and 455 are much more in demand you can get them, and rebuild them much cheaper than a crate Chevy 350. Sounds like you are a pretty smart guy for only being 19 with an engineering degree to be had.....so going through a Pontiac 355 would be no problem on a limited budget.

Beltfed, 53 Chieftain is a big boy. We didn't run him off, we just told him the truth and from his reply to me it sounds like he had already anticipated this type of reaction. Far better for us to tell him the situation before he's embarrassed in front of his friends when he encounters a Pontiac aficionado at a car show or cruise night. He must remember even though he is young and doesn't come from a time that brand loyalty runs deep, and the engine origin is part of the brand.

Edited by helfen (see edit history)
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Hey leave me out of this. As usual I tried to give good advice that would create the best results at reasonable cost and work. He already said the original engine is long gone and a 53 Pontiac is not exactly a museum piece. So, why not make the best of things if the alternative is to see the car sit on blocks until it rots into the ground? At least he is trying to do something good. I would hate to see some of the first projects you guys were ever involved in.

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Hey leave me out of this. As usual I tried to give good advice that would create the best results at reasonable cost and work. He already said the original engine is long gone and a 53 Pontiac is not exactly a museum piece. So, why not make the best of things if the alternative is to see the car sit on blocks until it rots into the ground? At least he is trying to do something good. I would hate to see some of the first projects you guys were ever involved in.

Don't have a picture of my first car electronically, but my second car, 12th grade;

http://www.pismoderelicts.com/photogallery/new%20format%20834/images/img_0137_edited_1.jpg

My third car also the 12th grade I bought this one new;

http://www.pismoderelicts.com/photogallery/new%20format%20937/images/p1020752.jpg

Obviously I still have them both.

Edited by helfen (see edit history)
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Guest 53Chieftain

Okay guys, no need to turn this into a spitting contest, we're all aficianados here remember. I think we all realize the mixed feelings around what I'm doing here, that's been established. But I do appreciate all of your advice, you guys just want what's best, I get that. I'm putting the 350 in my car, I've spent a lot of time on it and it's surely going to make plenty of power, I couldn't be happier. However, I'll keep my eye out for a proper Pontiac engine if one happens to pass my way, because why not.

 

Beltfed, thanks for understanding where I'm coming from here, same to you Rusty. It's no question that young people are losing interest in cars, at least when it comes to more technologically conservative applications. I see it everyday. Sharing your interests can go a long way for guys and gals who want to get into cars, especially if their parents weren't much into cars like mine were. There's a garage nearby here over in Sea Girt, NJ owned by a gentleman who regularly opens up his garage to visitors and what an incredible collection he has. He has an Auburn, a Duesenberg, a very early Lincoln as well as a '55 capri if I remember correctly, as well as a '62 Cadillac and the list goes on. All are in immaculate condition. So hats off to folks like that, because these cars deserve to be shown and shared.

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Well, when I was 19, I just had a bicycle...OK, it was long ago, not in a country like the USA. My parents never had a car (yes, that does exist!) but obviously, I had my own ideas if you look at my signature.

I really appreciate when young people are trying to put an old car on the road again and not playing with a computer or other games. Congratualtion young man!

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  • 3 weeks later...

hello 53chieftain, you are more than welcome to ask me any questions pertaining to your project, have you any pictures that you can post for us to see ?, looking forward to hearing from you.

 

charles l. coker

1953 pontiac tech advisor

tech advisor coordinator

poci

charlessdv8@yahoo.com

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Guest 53Chieftain

Thank you, that is much appreciated. Right now I am in the process of taking apart the front suspension so I can paint all the individual parts and replace any bushings or grease joints. I'm having some trouble when it comes to compressing the coil springs though, I have an external spring compressor but it's too long to fit. I think I'll have to get an internal compressor, would that be recommended?

 

Additionally, I plan on servicing to the steering box as previously mentioned. The entire steering assembly turns effortlessly (the car is on jack stands) so I'm not sure how much maintenance I should do, maybe I shouldn't take it all apart. any recommendations or advice is greatly appreciated.

 

I'll try and upload a few photos to show where I'm at.

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Check steering box for looseness and leaks. Most likely all you need to do is top up the lube. If the grease is leaking out you may need to replace a seal. If it is worn you can adjust out most of the wear. If really worn it may need to be rebuilt. Don't borrow trouble. Clean it up and replace the seal if necessary, check the adjustment according to the manual, and see how it works when everything is together and adjusted.

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Guest 53Chieftain

There's some caked up dirt that's built up over the years but other than it's pretty bone dry to the touch. I'll check to see if any lube needs to be added.

 

image1 2

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Guest 53Chieftain

Just an update, I checked the steering box and noticed it's filled with a high viscostiy grease rather than a more free flowing lubricant. Is this acceptable or should I take it as a sign of poor maintenance? Thanks in advance.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Guest 53Chieftain

Just an update for you all, I managed to acquire a '55 287 strato streak that I'll be rebuilding and putting in my chieftain. I'll run the sbc until it's ready

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Just an update for you all, I managed to acquire a '55 287 strato streak that I'll be rebuilding and putting in my chieftain. I'll run the sbc until it's ready

. Smooth move, dude! Before deciding to rebuild that 287, examine it closely. It may not need a rebuild or it may have already been done. I got lucky that way with my '57 Olds. I discovered that it already had a rebuilt short block, but the previous owner unknowingly installed a cracked head. After replacement, the engine runs perfectly.
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Guest Bob Call

Glad to hear you found a Poncho 287 to replace the sbc. Second Larry W, pull a head and check condition to see if it has been rebuilt. Did you get a Hydramatic with the engine?  If not, I would suggest you get an adapter from Wilcap and use a TH350.

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