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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I am early stages of setting up a '57 Bel Air sport coupe. It is a roller now, but will have a big block engine and a T400 with floor shifter. Right now, I assume it's the original steering column. It has some non-original steering wheel, I'd say 70s or 80s vintage. It functions. It is a non-power steering car. In case it matters for this, I am putting in bucket seats from a '68 Camaro. (I would say "swapping in", but right now, the interior is bare metal with no seats at all.)

I may add power steering, but I was thinking I'd try it without for a while to see if I felt like it was worth it.

So my question is, is there a better steering wheel that I could put in (also may use an Ididit/other column) that will work with or without power steering? I am mainly wondering if 15" is too small for non-power, or if 16" is too big for power. Plus any other factors I may be overlooking for this application.

Thanks!
 

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Consider that originally the same steering wheel was used whether the steering was standard/manual or power. I have a '55 with 454, manual steering, 15x7" ralleys, and a 4-spoke Vega GT steering wheel which is more effort than original. It was ok except a bit of effort rolling slow. Later I switched to 15x4 slots and a factory wheel (appearance preference) but kept the manual steering. Later I converted the gearbox to a quicker ratio (Vette parts) but have not driven it to see how much harder it will be to steer due to the ratio change, an additional ~10% expected.

I have an original PS system I could add if it steers too hard, but I do not expect that it will be, and that it will remain manual steering.

Fat tires, small steering wheels, and quicker ratios will make it harder to steer.

I think it is a matter of preference as well as if you are the sole driver or someone else will drive it.

I'd recommend trying out a few different size wheels and see what you like.
 

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The only time it's hard to turn is when you're just staring from a stand still. Here's my 57 210 2 door sedan with a 427, original manual steering & column, and 225-70-14 tires on the front (see below). The steering wheel is an original Superior "The 500" padded 13" wheel. Yes, it's "power by armstrong" when you're dead still, but just move the car several inches and it gets easier. I'm happy with it and I'm a runt with no muscles!!!

Ed

Speedometer Car Vehicle Odometer Motor vehicle
 

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The original steering wheel was 18 inches, there is one member Mikey 55wagoncrazy that does modify the original steering wheel to a smaller diameter due to a tornado ripping through his area his has no internet for the next few days.
You could also fit later model GM steering wheels the spline should be the same.
 

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57 210 post dressed as a Bel Air
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My 210 had no power steering when I got it and the previous owner had stuck a 15 Grant or some other low dollar wheel on it. From a dead stop it was a big pia to maneuver. I didn't like at all. Trying to parallel park was crazy hard. Now with power steering the 15 inch wheel is fine. My first couple of 57's were also manual steering but had the original 18" wheel and there was no problem. Right equipment for the design. I'm going to stick with a smaller size wheel, probably a 59 or 60 Impala style wheel just because I like the looks. My car was already so far away from original that I'm not worried about the authenticity of how it looks. I want the car to suit my taste not to win prizes for originality. Each to his own on that kind of thing.
 

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🐔County, TN. 55 Bel Air Sport Coupe
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The only time it's hard to turn is when you're just staring from a stand still. Here's my 57 210 2 door sedan with a 427, original manual steering & column, and 225-70-14 tires on the front (see below). The steering wheel is an original Superior "The 500" padded 13" wheel. Yes, it's "power by armstrong" when you're dead still, but just move the car several inches and it gets easier. I'm happy with it and I'm a runt with no muscles!!!

Ed

View attachment 369181
I run what looks like the same wheel (Grant?) My car is factory p/s, but when first driving it the power steering wasn't working. The power steering ratio is different making it harder to turn than stock manual. But it was running and driveable so I muscled my way through it until I got the p/s working. Actually at first I had a different version of that wheel from the previous owner, it was metal flake red. I should have saved it to hang on the wall. The dash and all the trim was also painted metalic red! Quite a sight it was.
 

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The only time it's hard to turn is when you're just staring from a stand still. Here's my 57 210 2 door sedan with a 427, original manual steering & column, and 225-70-14 tires on the front (see below). The steering wheel is an original Superior "The 500" padded 13" wheel. Yes, it's "power by armstrong" when you're dead still, but just move the car several inches and it gets easier. I'm happy with it and I'm a runt with no muscles!!!

Ed

View attachment 369181
Your interior carpet choice is very familiar to me..lol
 

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The original steering wheel was 18 inches, there is one member Mikey 55wagoncrazy that does modify the original steering wheel to a smaller diameter due to a tornado ripping through his area his has no internet for the next few days.
You could also fit later model GM steering wheels the spline should be the same.
I'm guessing he is ok right,
 

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Your interior carpet choice is very familiar to me..lol
LOL!! Yeah, when I first got the car there wasn't anything at all. I wanted a LITTLE sound dampening so I tossed some carpet remnants I had in there until I get a chance to fix the holes in the floor. Right now it's a Flintstone car with some sheet metal patches I've screwed in (see below). I'll weld in new CORRECT panels when I get some spare money.

Ed

Automotive tire Wood Road surface Asphalt Floor


Automotive tire Textile Wood Grey Gas


Motor vehicle Chair Vehicle Fixture Car
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Clearly, there are fans of the original wheel, but if I wanted to go smaller, would 15 to 16 inches be ok for both non-power and power? Maybe 16 to hedge my bets on non-power? Thanks!
 

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I’d say that’s subjective. 16” shouldn’t be too bad, but that depends on how much effort you find objectionable. Or how tight your parking space is…or how often you have to parallel park, etc.
 

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The original steering wheel was 18 inches, there is one member Mikey 55wagoncrazy that does modify the original steering wheel to a smaller diameter due to a tornado ripping through his area his has no internet for the next few days.
You could also fit later model GM steering wheels the spline should be the same.
Here are photos of 16 inch converted original wheels I have done for others:

55-56 150/210 2 spoke
Wheel Automotive tire Alloy wheel Bicycle part Rim


55-56 3 spoke B/A
Tool Audio equipment Gas Steering part Circle

57 210 or B/A

Rim Circle Logo Spoke Symbol
Automotive lighting Motor vehicle Rim Circle Jewellery


All of these are my paint work and new rings and or emblems. I have also done lots more where the wheel is sent back in a sealer and all the owner
needs to do is scuff and paint his their color to match their car.

Not a cheap job, each wheel takes me 20 plus hours of hand on work, plus materials

Mikey
 
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I used a mid 60's Chevelle wheel (65 actually). I believe it is 16" with my manual steering and poor mans power steering upgrade (bearing rather than rubber bushings in idler arm). Looks good and you can still find them for around $75.
 

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Some of the sharpest steering wheels ever designed by General Motors were used in the 1960's and a lot of them will fit the Tri-5 cars WITH THE CORRECT ADAPTER.

I wrote a STEERING WHEEL report many years ago for the first generation Camaro so take a look for some examples. Most of the aluminum two and three spoke wheels, like the "simulated wood-grain" wheels from the Camaro, Chevelle, Corvette and full size cars will fit, and even the "cushion rim" wheels, which were availabel in several colors on the 71-75 Buick GS, will fit (WITH THE CORRECT ADAPTER). There were 15" and 16" wheels and most are available in reproduction and not horribly expensive. There are also a TON of aftermarket wheels available, and of course the "trimmed down" stock wheels, so you DO have a lot of options.

HOWEVER, it's been a while since I wrote that article and researched adapters, so things may have changed in that time. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH BEFORE PURCHASING!

For a long time I ran a blue cushion rim wheel from a 71 - 75 Buick GS on my 69 Corvair. Really classed it up!

Ed
 

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🐔County, TN. 55 Bel Air Sport Coupe
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The only time it's hard to turn is when you're just staring from a stand still. Here's my 57 210 2 door sedan with a 427, original manual steering & column, and 225-70-14 tires on the front (see below). The steering wheel is an original Superior "The 500" padded 13" wheel. Yes, it's "power by armstrong" when you're dead still, but just move the car several inches and it gets easier. I'm happy with it and I'm a runt with no muscles!!!

Ed

View attachment 369181
I just thought of something having to do with a seat belt thread. Mentioned that in a collision, the steering column becomes a spear to your chest. Do newer wheels have safety standards where that wouldn't be likely to happen with a wheel like this above? With more steel and the 3rd "spoke", and the depth/angle makes me think it would be much safer. More likely for the wheel to hold one back from the horn button area. Any thoughts on that? Not that I'm saying all you stock or close to stock cars should have this, it's certainly a "hot rod" wheel and not going to go with an original theme.
 

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It's not the wheel but the column. The stock tri-5 column isn't "collapsible" like newer cars. Starting in the mid 1960's, all car manufacturers went to collapsible steering columns for safety. There are a lot of 60's, 70's and even later columns that can be retrofitted, and even aftermarket columns you can use, but I don't believe any of them are "plug-n-play". "Some" to "a lot" of engineering is needed to get them to fit.

I put a 67 Cadillac tilt-telescopic column in my 55 Nomad years ago and loved it. It took a lot of modifications and engineering, but with time, money and ingenuity, just about anything can be done.

Ed
 
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