61 with big block and power steering issues - Impala Tech
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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 05-26-2019, 11:10 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2019
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61 with big block and power steering issues

Hi guys,
I'm so new to the forum that I haven't even set up my profile yet but I've been fighting this thing for a while. I have a 61 Bubble top that I'm trying to build with a 396 and having trouble finding steering components that will play well together. I started out trying to use a 800 series quick ratio box off of a 87 Monte Carlo, there is no adapter that will make it fit and I got tired of trying to make one. I gave up and ordered a CPP 500 box, which came yesterday. Now I'm finding out that my brackets and steering pump from the 67 396, won't fit for hitting the steering box.
I got the linkage sorted out with a u-joint and the box to column is lining up ok, along with the pitman arm.
Does anyone have any experience with a big block in one of these with later power steering? I'm sure someone has done it. I just need to know what kind of pump and brackets will work. I've already spent too much to change over to a small block.
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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 05-26-2019, 12:33 PM
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Location: Moneta, VA
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I put a 396 in my '62 Impala many years ago, but did not go with Power Steering. The car never had it and I left it that way (I'm a no PS fan anyway, lol).

My only suggestion to you would be to go back to the original type PS Steering Box and original '61 PS components. Hopefully that will work with your Big Block Brackets. But pre-measure it all first to make sure, if you decide to go that route.

By the way, my 396 was a '67 as well. A 325 Block with a 375 Solid Lifter Cam, Edlebrock Hi-Rise, Holley Dual Feed and Hooker Headers. Had an M-21 Muncie 4-Speed behind it.

Keep us posted on your progress.

-Parting Out over 75 '58 to '73 Full Size Chevy Cars-


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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 05-26-2019, 12:43 PM
Join Date: Jan 2006
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Welcome to the Team!

Issue isn't the Big Block.

In 1961 you had a choice of two big blocks the 348 or the brand new 409 (which used the smaller 348 exhaust manifolds that didn't take up much space compared to the 1963-'65 409 manifolds). In 1961 the power steering pump was mounted to the back of the generator, even on a big block.

Finally the main issue you have is with the X-frame hydraulic ram steering. If you try and use a modern steering gear box the wheels will never move far enough to turn the car. Steering geometry is shot with a new steering gear box that requires another bucket of money to buy custom made tubular control arms for the front end that still will not allow you to adjust camber enough to prevent eating up tires.

Best bet is to keep everything stock. Parts are still made by Mercruiser (marine inboard-outboard) and sold through Corvette restoration houses. The Corvette used the same ram assist power steering from 1963-'82 as appears on your 1961. You can use the 1965-'68 power steering pump and brackets on your 396 and the Corvette hoses (though they will be a bit long as the Corvette has the motor moved eight inches further back in the frame). Mercruiser uses Chevy power steering on all of their inboard power foots so they may have shorter new hoses.

In 1963 Chevy introduced the alternator (DN series) and every alternator made since then uses the same BBC brackets (they changed in 1969 with the long water pump to bring the accessories in closer to the engine to prevent throwing belts).

You need to read up in our archives about adapting a modern Saginaw gear box to your car and the issues it creates, before you throw more money at your problem.

Big Dave
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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 05-29-2019, 09:40 AM
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Your trying to put an engine in that the car was not designed to use. You can't put 348 or 409 accessory brackets on your 396 as the bolts don't match and alignment with the water pump doesn't work. With the new gear box you also need to either get an original manual drag link, pitman arm, and idler arm to make it work and you will need an upgraded radiator with a notch to clear the new gear box or they make all the conversion parts and you can buy a kit. This will get you the upgraded power steering and keep steering geometry the same as a manual steer car. The last option is to find the power steering rack out of a 64 impala as this was the only year chevy X frame car to use a gear box without the slave cylinder. Honestly I don't know that all the work is worth putting a 396 into the car since you could get a SBC 400 and make it look like a SBC 327 with more horse power and less weight then the big block. If your going to put a BBC in at least go with a 454 or bigger. The 396 is like the 283 as far as why add the weight for no real gains. As far as getting the engine accessories to work you may have to play with various bracket sets and see what works. I am betting you will need a short water pump and bracket set though.
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