Flaming River Manual R&P Review


Well-known member
Mar 26, 2008
So here's the 411 on the FR Manual R&P Setup for C3 Corvettes.

Q: Why did I decide on this package?
A: There are several reasons:
  • Can't stand the slop somewhat endemic to recirculating ball setups
  • Don't care for the numbness that is often associated with boosted steering
  • Not a big deal, but further simplification and reduction of weight by not using a PS pump and all that extra plumbing
  • The Steeroids package was considered, but reviews of it were pretty mixed.
  • The FR Manual rack was fairly new and still isn't used by many, but it won some SEMA award so I figured I'd give it a whirl.

Q: How difficult is the installation?
A: Here's what I remember.
  • Contrary to FR's suggestion, you're really going to want to have the engine out of the car to gain clear access, especially for setting up the steering linkage.
  • It is a bolt-in, no welding required, but you'll need to cut the universal length shafts to appropriate lengths and fidget with the U-Joints to get a clean installation. This means you're going to want to have a metal cutting saw or a lot of patience with a hack saw. As I recall, the shafts were tempered, so a cold-cut saw is preferred.
  • The cross member is a direct fit, but in my case at least, required considerable persuading (i.e., hammering) to get into place.
  • I think there was something about the bolts, but I don't recall so clearly.
  • You'll obviously have to have it professionally aligned after installation.
  • It's a full half day installation, with the engine out. Hard to imagine trying with it in.
  • If you're doing and LS1 conversion (as I was), you'll have to notch and reinforce the rack crossmember to clear the F-Body style oil pan

Q: What do I like about it?
  • Absolutely zero slop.
  • Excellent feedback from the road; both in terms of vibration up through the steering column and natural force loading when cornering.
  • Great natural weighting and tracking when driving at speed.

Q: What do I not like about it?
  • It is pretty heavy when driving slowly, especially in parking lots where you need to make 90 degree turns at slow speeds. I'm a fairly strong guy, so it's not a big deal, but it would be a struggle for anyone who is on the weaker side. In fact, it'd be sufficiently unpleasant, it could keep them from driving altogether. NOTE: Tire size seem to have a definite impact on this. With my original 255/60x15 it was clearly harder than with my 255/50x17s, which basically ok for me. In a perfect world there would be moderate assistance at slow speeds that tapers off, but I think only fairly modern and expensive cars have this kind of variable assist.
  • The ratio of 14:1 on the R&P is supposedly about the same in real terms as the 17:1 of the stock steering box. It feels to me about the same, or perhaps a tiny bit wider. I would prefer a quicker ratio, not a lot, but making a typical 90 degree turn on one lane streets requires something close to 180 degrees of rotation. I would prefer something like 120 degrees. However, this changes according to environment. On the freeway and what not, it's great for stability because small inputs only make small changes. On the other hand I could imagine on a tight AutoX, it might be a little annoyingly slow. I've considered experimenting with a slightly smaller steering wheel to get the effect of a quicker ratio, but this will make the steering even heavier.

Here's a pic show the fairly complete installation of the linkage and rack. Notice the rack crossmember isn't notched. Yeah, we figured that out later.

Here's a pic showing the steering linkage in its final glory.

A better pic focusing on the linkage after the engine was put back in.

Note the contact.

Here's a pic of the notch required to clear the oil pan:
Great post, this is something I have been considering for my Vette.

I have a couple of questions tho. Which position on the steering arms are your tie rod ends located? What is your castor set at?

When I switched from power to manual steering, the steering was excessively heavy. Moving the tie rod ends to the front position and backing off on the castor settings (both were done at the factory on manual steering cars) made it much more drivable. Thanks again for the great write-up!
Here's my report. Posted "yonder" ;) before ...but I'll add it here since I did quite a bit of work on this thing.

I'm installing a flaming river rack for a buddy and I don't think anyone here has done this so I figured I'd post a report and I hope someone from Flaming River is reading and taking notes so they can improve on some things.

I'll have to take some pics to clarify some things here but for now it'll have to do.

I haven't completed the install yet but i already have a couple of things that need attention.

First of all, it looks like a quality kit, the cradle is sturdy with thick steel mounting plates and the hardware that comes with it looks good, as does the rack. It's a nice and slender rack.

It's much easier to install this with the engine removed, you have to holesaw a hole in the drivers side engine mount (much in the same way I did it for my front steering end take off rack) and a template is supplied to give the correct position for the hole. However the template is USELESS! If you cut it out and line the motor mount bolt hole up it does not resemble the frame mount at all, there's a 1/2" of room under the template and some room on the left and the general shape is not the same. So now, where am I to saw this hole? Do I need to lay it flat on the flange bend of the mount and just vertically line up the hole w/ the bolt hole? If I raise it so it's perpendicular the bolt hole will line up but the hole to be cut is partially above the mount, so not enough meat. I assume the template has the hole in the wrong position. Still have to figure this one out.

Then the cradle, its a nice cradle but I would have expected it to come POWDERCOATED and not w/ a cheezy satin black transport paint (which has already come off on the ends from rubbing inside the box). Later on, it proved to be sort of a blessing that it's not powdercoated because of fitment issues (oh damn!)
The cradle has 2 thick plates on the side that bolt to the frame where the steering box and idler arm were. The dr. side has 4 chassis bolts and the other side 3. Now, the stock steering box has 3 bolts and the idler arm 2...so where do the additional ones come from? Well, they are for the aligment holes for the 2 U channels that the frame is made of, They are under the motor mounts and are NOT supported by a tube on the inside like the other holes are. Also, the holes do not have a square opening on the outside like the other ones, making the carriage bolt that's supposed to go there USELESS since you can't hold them to tighten them. Other bolts must be used w/ big washers and care must be used when tightening them as you can collapse the frame easily since it's not internally supported... damn again! Also, these holes in the frame are much larger than the bolts so they don't offer a lot of "holding" when it comes to positioning the rack, tightening it to the frame w/ a large washer on the outside will still work though.

Then there's the plates themselves, they are thick which is nice but they are completely flat and the frame is not. They need some massaging. I ended up bending the rear sections (the smaller ones of the "ears") in a vise so they are bent inwards a bit. Not a big problem and maybe better to leave as is so the installer can carefully bend it to fit. Then the plate cutout, they have a cutout in the middle where the rear wall of the motor mount slides in, they clamp "around" the mount like a big U. These cutouts are not deep enough on the pass side, it needs some work with a grinder, maybe the cutting pattern can be modified a bit. Also, the section that has the hole for the frame jig hole bolt under the pass. side motor mount is too large, the front endge needs to be trimmed to fit inside the motor moutn U channel so you can move the cradle forward far enough to insert the other 2 bolts.
The problem is the weld on the underside of the motor mount, there's a lot of difference there between individual frames. I had to grind the weld off the frame and also take about 1/4th of an inch or so off on the firewall side, basically making the cutout deeper and angled. Not a lot of work but if the cradle came powdercoated surely something that would ruin the finish. Then all it took was a little grinding on the drivers side motor mount, the flange width had to be taken down a bit right next to the frame. No biggie though.

So then it fits like a glove...but what do I see..? OMG! it's crooked... what the hell??

I quickly found out by measuring a bit that my eyes were not deceiving me. It's also not the frame, it's the cradle. It's all nice and level but from the bottom it's not how it should be. I then noticed how the crossmember was welded to the 2 big mounting plates. The plates have a U shape at the bottom, on one side the crossmember is perfectly centered in the bottom of the U, on the other end it's off by at least half an inch. Only thing left to do is cut it off carefully and weld back in... in the proper location Good thing the flaming river badge is not a sticker, I carefully removed it and after rewelding, modifying and painting (or powdercoating...might do that) it I will glue it back on.

I didn't get to cut the crossmember or do any of the steering shaft install...will have to do that.

Oh and why didn't the kit come w/ new tie rod ends? It came w/ lock nuts..kinda cheap, would have expected some to be included. Luckily I had some new ones lying around but this sure was a small disappointment.

Another little comment, the carriage bolts are all course threaded and threaded all the way, the stockers are fine threaded and have a large shank. I feel such bolts should be included instead of the other ones, they are readily available as many sources sell them. The threaded bolts are stronger as they have more thread area and a alrger minor diameter. IMO, the coarse threaded ones are junk (but I needed to use them sicne originally I only had 3 from the removed steering box, later I replaced them with 3 more I had from my own car since I'm not using them anyway). Also the upper short idler arm bolt is kind of small in daimeter, I'm going to put a larger one in there that will match the size of the hole in the frame bracket and the mounting plate. Small bolt..large hole? nah!!!

Then there's the rack height, I noticed the rack is kind of wide for the low placement on the frame, I hope flaming river did some bumpsteer stesting as the tie rods are on the short side and they do not angle in conjunction with the lower arm, for a perfect geometry the rack would have to be mounted upwards quite a bit. There's no room there however. Being where it is right now the ideal rack width would be around 16,5-17" ... the width of one of those appleton or sweet racks..but those are front steer. Reducing the rack width will reduce the lock to lock travel and therefore the wheel lock angle.

Here are some pics to illustrate the story above. I contacted FR tech support and their answer for the issue with the template was that the kit was designed for a small block car adn the frame for a big block is different, we all know that's untrue. I replied that to them, haven't received an answer yet but from the looks of it I'll have to figure out where to put the hole myself.

The template:


maybe you can see the install is crooked here


Here are the pics of the crossmember w/ comments:




I cut off and rewelded the drivers side mount plate and also notched a section on the other side where it wouldn't fit over the bent tab from the motor mount, on the inside of the frame (idler arm mount area)




After figuring out where to put the hole. Tech support was helpful in that they told me where to put the hole. I decided it had to go in a slightly ifferent position (further towards frame rail). I still have to set up the input shaft but the steering column is out, waiting on a manual pedal box before I can finish that. In the mean time, I finished modifying the cradle, after finishing it was sandblasted and powdercoated...and i even stuck on the flaming river badge (maybe I should have stuck my own badge? LOL)

I also welded square tube sections into the frame jig holes so the carriage bolts will grab, not rotate and NOT collapse the frame.


now the rack sits perfectly perpendicular to the car's axis and also level. It's going to get blasted and powdercaoted for a nice finish.

the left one has the square tube welded in, same on the other side (these are right under the motor mounts, making it a royal pain in the ass to weld in and grind smooth the inside frame)





I also modified the whole input shaft support, I spent quite some time reworking the support bearing bracket to where I had the least amount of angle on both universals, so that the angles were equally distributed (the pic distorts the truth here as the angle on the forward one is also in the down direction)

Flaming Rivers Rack & Pinion, do you like it

I am concedering the manual rack and pinon set up for removing some horsepower draw, and also removing some weight. I figure if I go manual, and using the rack setup, I will use low profile 18" wheels, and I will be able to steer quick enough, if I stay with tires around 10" wide at the tread. My question is there bump steer problems, and is the manual steering a good way to go for autocrosses, is it fast acting enough.
I've got the FR manual rack and really like it. As for the install, I left the engine in and had no problem getting the linkage right. I used wooden dowel rod and cut it with a hack saw till I got the lengths right for smooth operation, then cut the steel one. I did however have to slot the mounting holes a little to be able to drop the support and rack about 1/4". I have a Moroso 7 qt. pan and the rack was up against the pan. Fits great now and I love the feel and response. I have 235/40x18" tires up front and once it is rolling it's not too tough. Did my first autocross last weekend and the steering was great!
Eh Twin Turbo! I checked out your thread on the FR install over on Corvrtte forum and was pissoff that they closed it!
So I Bitched about that and found out all inactive threads are closed after 45 days over there WTF.
Then a member PM me that you moved here to Vettemod. Quessing you own this place!:thumbs:
Anyway I just got the FR kit and will be installing it shortly, Car is a 69 sb 4sp
but she gets a 427 and 5sp this spring.
They have to close down and archive the good stuff so there's room for incorrect answers and BS there LOL

If you have the engine out, do the install now, so much easier. You'll have to take it apoart later to get the engine in but at elast it will be a simple install then.
As to the engine in/out point I'll leave that up to my buddy who's building the thing. Will link him to your thread. http://www.jasonparkerracecars.com
He eyed the cradel and said luts jig this and do it in pipe. Hmm? Not a bad idea since yours was otta wack. And you had to notch it to clear oil tank. Half way there! Change out the bolts as well.
Will post up the results. Later
Guy's what is your opinion regarding installation of a steeroids rack. I know not the same. Engine in or out. Engine is currently out, should i seize the opportunity?

BTW: I found this site with some nice additional info on steering http://www.stockcarproducts.com/steer12a.htm

I think Steeroids install/design sux....plainly obvious....

they did not properly support that mount on the driver's side, they did not take good care with the adaptor plate on the rack output....

they used one too many U joints on the input linkage from the stock column to the new rack.....there by allowing for a center support off the mount to a center link/bar?, and attendant adjusting problems....much simpler to do my way, which I did some 6 years ago...before they hit the market....

MY install ran less than 200 bux....even with the machine shop making the center take off adaptor block so I used the stock tie rod ends...

So you don't have an answer to my question? Regarding when to install?

I did the install with the engine out of the car, and in storage, really...but on a stand....so the car was naked, pretty much....I had to go measure the engine for clearances off the mounts....and found I was about 1/4 inch too high....

so I dinged the stock steel stamped oil pan to clearance the rack, the bellows were rubbing....woopie doo......:lol:
so I dinged the stock steel stamped oil pan to clearance the rack, the bellows were rubbing....woopie doo.
LOL! Sir put the Hammer down and step away! :wink:
OK so seems oil pans don't like the FR cradle . Thinking with the BB comming I'll wait install that.
Then see how the cradle fits. Rebuild to fit if needed. 4130 tube! Hmm?
so I dinged the stock steel stamped oil pan to clearance the rack, the bellows were rubbing....woopie doo.
LOL! Sir put the Hammer down and step away! :wink:
OK so seems oil pans don't like the FR cradle . Thinking with the BB comming I'll wait install that.
Then see how the cradle fits. Rebuild to fit if needed. 4130 tube! Hmm?

Now we know why Gene is not a TV repair man anymore :lol:
so I dinged the stock steel stamped oil pan to clearance the rack, the bellows were rubbing....woopie doo.
LOL! Sir put the Hammer down and step away! :wink:
OK so seems oil pans don't like the FR cradle . Thinking with the BB comming I'll wait install that.
Then see how the cradle fits. Rebuild to fit if needed. 4130 tube! Hmm?

Now we know why Gene is not a TV repair man anymore :lol:

OH, GOD, decades ago, I put a 19" portable TV on a hillside and shot the thing with a .44 mag, stupid set exploded with such force, the only thing left was the metal hoop with the handle/antenna on it....all the plastic was literally disappeared from view, glass too.....

hell of a hammer, eh???

on the other hand, a drunk Texas cowboy in Ft. Worth '70, emptied his .38 into the screen of his color TV when the Cowboys were loosing.....serious...

HE got very lucky, the bonded saftey glass actually held, and the set played on.....that damn thing had NOT held, he'd been real dead....

story of a child about 6-8 y/o something took a fireplace poker to a cartoon villain....kid was killed....

When tossing a TV set, take a hammer to the neck of the tube to relieve vacuum.....right on the end, it's safe to do it there,....but nowhere else...:crap::gurney:

As to the rack install, mine was the power rack, same as steeroids unit...came outta a '92 Grand Am in a junkyard for 35 bux in early '02.....the rack was much cleaner than the rest of the car, so it was a 'find'....I made my own brackets, which are a hell of a lot simpler, smaller, lighter, stronger then anything Steeroids/VBP made.....also the input linkage is simpler with only TWO universals, so no center link support bearing, nothing to adjust....all of it a mix/match of junkyard parts from Lumina vehicles....vans, cars....whatever....those joints are WAY in hell overpriced from Flaming River....they are a 30 buck part, but FR gets some stupid high price....junkyard.....

I been a junkyard engineer for some decades now....:1st::shocking: I ain't exactly Mr. Megabux.....

The cradle won't hit the oil pan, if you use the right pan. The last pic I posted is the canton pan that clears, the engine is a 502 ramjet.

Vetttezuki notched his cradle because of the LS1 oil pan.
The cradle won't hit the oil pan, if you use the right pan. The last pic I posted is the canton pan that clears, the engine is a 502 ramjet.

Vetttezuki notched his cradle because of the LS1 oil pan.

Yeh, them expensive cast pans obviously can't be dinged too well....

but a stock steel pan with that convex lip to the front, can be flattened a bit without going apeshit....:amazed: