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Fixing 1970s Jeep Steering With Hard-to-Find Parts

’70s CJ Steering

Fred WilliamsPhotographer, Writer

Upgrading the steering on my 1973 Jeep CJ-5 sounded like a pretty easy job. The Jeep I call Lemon Pie is a junkyard rescue with a 258ci straight-six. You may recall it from a bygone adventure when I fixed it up (barely) and drove it across America in the “CA to PA in a CJ” road trip (read about it in the March, April, and May 2012 issues of 4WOR). The Jeep has manual drum brakes and manual steering, but these early 1970s CJs were available with optional power steering. I assumed this meant I should be able to just walk into the local parts store, tell them I need everything to reduce my manly manual-steering biceps down to puny power-steering twigs, and leave with an afternoon of wrenching ahead of me as I unbolt old stuff and bolt on new stuff. Simple eh? Yeah . . . nope!

I soon came to find out that although the power steering upgrade isn’t impossible, it will nickel-and-dime you for funky little parts, some of which are rarer than hen’s teeth. (For all you city kids: hens, as in female chickens, don’t have teeth, thus hen’s teeth are rare because they do not exist.) But after searching a multitude of retailers both online and in person, and more than a week of wrenching and spending, I now have a CJ-5 that steers like a Lincoln continental (smooth and with one finger). I only wanted to throw wrenches a few times, and now I can start looking for drum-to-disc brake parts.