359 Peterbilt tilt telescoping steering column, big hole and mega cab

Discussion in 'Trucks [ Eighteen Wheelers ]' started by dallas2254, Nov 29, 2022.

  1. dallas2254

    dallas2254 Bobtail Member

    3
    3
    Apr 26, 2012
    Bellevue,wa
    0
    I have two 359 Peterbilt trucks that I drive as hobby trucks. I do not like the steering column and I do not like the lack of leg room in the cab (for a 6'1" tall driver). I have toyed with the idea of replacing the steering column with a new one found in later model trucks that would not change the appearance of feel of the truck interior and found the answer. I also added the 'mega cab kit from the Day Cab company and that was the trick to more leg room. The other 359 peterbilt was converted to a day cab years ago and I converted it back to an original 359 63 inch sleeper truck as it was when new and then 'big holed' it and that made more room for the seat to go back. I thought I would show the world that it is possible to have a corvette dash peterbilt and also have the luxury of a tilt, telescoping steering column and more leg room. The steering column fix is and easy and less than one day project with the right parts from the junk yard and a welder.

    All you need is a steering column including all the mounting brackets and U joints and steering rods off a 2006 Western Star 4900EX or similar model years. This is the same steering column used in the 1987 379 peterbilt (special order tilt steering column but very hard to find and not the bulky looking ones found in later model 379's). You can get the Wester Star steering columns for less that $500 along with all the hardware but you have to get all the brackets an du joints with it including at least 10 inches of the shaft that connects onto the u joints if you don't want to cut up the 359-steering column. It also helps to have an extra steering column off a 359 Peterbilt just in case you want to convert it back to the original steering column down the road since you will also be modifying the length of the existing steering column from 30 inches to 6 inches. If you don't make and mistakes cutting the 359 steering column you won't need to have an extra one around. I have an extra one now because I did not make any mistakes, but I just did not want to screw up and have a non-working truck if I screwed up. I didn't.

    The mounting bracket that supports the Western Star tilt telescoping steering column can be modified easily to fit under the dashboard of the 359. Some welding is required in shortening the mounting bracket by 2 1/2 inches so that you can mount one end of bracket to the firewall (as it is mounted in the Wester Star and the other end with a 2 inch 'L' bracket welded to the other end of the Wester Star steering mount bracket can be bolted to the two screw holes that held the original 359 steering column in place. I then made an extension plate with mounting holes to move the new steering column from the Wester Star up about 3 inches and bolted it in. Very solid.

    Next you need to take the existing 359 steering column (2-inch round column and remove the steering shaft and end bearings and shorten it to 6 inches long. The steering shaft you will shorten to accommodate to put a u joint onto the end of the Wester Star steering column and another ujoint on the other end to attach to the power steering slip joint located below the bell in the floor. The existing bell on the floor stays and you just put the 6-inch shaft back in the bell and that holds the alignment of the new steering column and the two u joints inline. The Bell will not completely close as it would with the original steering column but it will hold the lower driveshaft and two u joints in place due to a very slight change in alignment when doing the conversion to a tilt wheel. I have included pictures of this process. Very easy, especially doing it twice in two days to two different 359 trucks. One of my trucks has a 8V92 silver engine so the firewall is flat but the other 359 has a 3406C cat engine so the fire wall is stepped where the mounting bracket needs to bolt to it so additional modification was needed. Both trucks are short hoods.

    After driving both trucks for a while, I can report that there is no slop in the column, it is rigid and has no play. My older truck is a 1979 359 (the one pictured) and has a ross air assist steering system and came with a huge original steering wheel and takes a lot of revolutions of the wheel to go stop to stop. Now it is so simple to turn the steering wheel and make quicker turns with the smaller steering wheel. The other truck is a 1985 359 with the cat engine and the stepped firewall to accommodate the bigger engine in a short hood.

    The feel of the truck while driving down the road is so much better now. With the extra leg room and the steering column that now fits the way I want to hold the steering wheel, I feel like I am a lot closer to a modern ride with the look of a 359. So much easier to get in behind the dash now that the tilt wheel just moves completely out of the way of the I am currently installing a '12 gauge custom' air ride suspension under the front of the day cab using brand-new custom-built leaf springs. I could not find any info on in internet, and I did not want to risk cutting up the existing front leaf springs because they are 3 1/2 inches wide and a lot shorter than a 379.
     

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    Last edited: Nov 29, 2022
    BoxCarKidd and ‘Olhand Thank this.
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  3. ‘Olhand

    ‘Olhand Cantankerous Crusty

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    Jan 18, 2011
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    I just love good old barnyard engineering
    Well done sir
     
  4. Catmando

    Catmando Road Train Member

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    Mar 15, 2021
    Iowa
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    Coming from someboy that has driven nothing bit 359s for the last 35 years
    The steering colum is not a sercet
    JMO but the 359 you big holed... you ruined it and after you drive it long enough .. and you noticed that the door doesn't close properly.. then you will know what mean by how you ruined it
     
    Oxbow Thanks this.
  5. dallas2254

    dallas2254 Bobtail Member

    3
    3
    Apr 26, 2012
    Bellevue,wa
    0
    more pictures of the trucks
     

    Attached Files:

  6. dallas2254

    dallas2254 Bobtail Member

    3
    3
    Apr 26, 2012
    Bellevue,wa
    0
    I appreciate the input and wonder the same thing but I did buy a huck gun (very expensive) and used some very strong binding adhesive so it is pretty solid and I don't think the cab will stress. It is not connected directly to the sleeper. This truck is really just the start of a show struck and not going to be used in any commercial capacity, so it was more for the experience of having a sleeper truck to work on and enjoy looking at. I am not in the trucking business and have had a successful career (suit and tie) that I am now semi-retired and back to playing in the sandbox.
     
    Catmando Thanks this.
  7. bad-luck

    bad-luck Road Train Member

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    Baltimore, Maryland
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    Mr. MacGyver great job!!
     
  8. Catmando

    Catmando Road Train Member

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    Mar 15, 2021
    Iowa
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    The A pillars bend.. because once you big hole a 359 you have weakened the Structural integrity of the cab ..
    But hey ..its not my truck so to each his own
    Again JMO.
     
    Oxbow Thanks this.
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