To manual steer or to not manual steer

A popular thing to do for STS2 Miatas is convert them to “Base Models” that did not have power steering or radios or power windows. This is done to make the car lighter. And the absence of a power steering pump frees up a horsepower or two. I have been debating whether or not to do this “conversion” on my car. The only downside to converting to a manual steering gear is that they have a higher ratio. That means you have to turn the steering wheel more to make the wheels turn a given amount. Not good when you are trying to hustle the car through a tight slalom. But auto racing is all about compromises.

I had been hearing from the top runners in other parts of the country that the steering ratio wasn’t that bad. But I heard over the winter from another competitor local who had driven a CSP Miata with manual steering that the steering “was a lot to deal with.” He had bought a Miata and was going to move into the STS2 class as well and suggested not doing the conversion. Since I really didn’t want to spend the money I thought that was reason enough to change my mind. He ended up changing his mind and and doing the swap. He did it a few days before our annual banquet and I ran into him there and he starts telling me how the steering is easy to move and the ratio really isn’t that bad. After ribbing him because he had me convinced not to do it it comes out that the CSP car had a power steering rack with the power steering pump removed. And the “lot to deal with” was the amount of effort it took to turn the wheels because you were fighting the friction of the seals and still pumping air & fluid from one side of the rack to the other. Grrrrr.

Now I was back to my original question, to spend the money or not. I decided it was worth it because while I don’t have the resources right now for an all out effort I shouldn’t leave something such as this on the table. Getting this done, with the other stuff should bring me up to about 90% of “full prep.” Most of the rest of what I can do involves trial & error testing of different spring/swaybars and shock/alignment/tire pressure settings. That is when it starts to get real involved time & money wise. That’s just not possible right now and I’m OK with that. I can still win locally and may still be able to grab a low trophy spot at the national events if somebody has an off day & I’m on.

My car started life as an “A package.” That means it came with power steering and leather wrapped steering wheel & shift knob. Technically I have to remove my leather wrapped steering wheel & swap it for a base one. Uuummm, NO. I’m usually all for following the rules but there is no advantage to the leather steering wheel so go ahead and protest me. Now the challenge is to find a manual rack. I was hoping my dad could hook me up since he works at an autoparts wholesaler. Having worked in that industry when I was younger I knew that you could by re-manufactured steering racks, even manual ones. It’s just a matter of if someone made them for this particular application. Apparently one company does, but they have none in stock and no idea of when they may make some more. Booo. So my choices are to find one at a scrap yard or recycler, find one used through a private party, or buy from Mazda which ain’t cheap even with my motorsports discount. So on the hunt I go. Kinda related to the manual steering conversion is the front crank pulley which will be the subject of my next post.