In drag racing, precision and durability are paramount. Every component, every gear, and every mechanism must function seamlessly to ensure your hot rod functions and drives to the highest degree. Strange Engineering offers high-quality drivetrain hardware as well as other drag racing components such as brakes, shocks, and yes, even steering hardware. And it’s the latter that we’re going to focus on today.
Strange Rack-And-Pinion Steering
Strange Engineering’s drag race rack-and-pinion units are engineered exclusively for drag racing doorslammer and rear-engine dragster applications. Some chassis builders also use an elaborate system of steering knuckles to work around a front-engine steering design to implement a rack steering system. In lieu of modifying a factory steering rack, Strange Engineering has taken leaps in design, material quality, and craftsmanship, resulting in their motorsports-specific designs.
Known for their silky-smooth range of motion and almost zero backlash, Strange steering boxes are created using only heat-treated, high-strength, hardened steel and aircraft-grade billet aluminum. The pinion side of a rack-and-pinion unit rides on a system of ball bearings, which delivers a seamless feel in the driver’s hand.
Another quality aspect of Strange drag race steering boxes are the self-lubricating bronze bushings supporting the rack, and another heavy-duty bushing supporting the pinion shaft. Heavy-duty and nylon-reinforced neoprene boots seal each end of the steering rack, eliminating moisture and debris from the internal steering mechanism. Additional material and design benefits with these racks include a hardened 4140 chrome-moly pinion gear that is made in the USA and precision-machined directly at Strange Engineering’s Morton Grove, Illinois facility.
The inner tie rods for all of Strange’s rack designs are machined from stainless steel, which helps ward off any corrosion from outside elements. On the inboard side of the tie rods, a .375-inch spherical joint finds its place, while the outboard end boasts right-hand threads. The steering box housing is meticulously CNC-machined from billet 6061-T6511 aluminum, which is a lightweight yet strong aluminum alloy offering great structural integrity.
Dragster Rack Designs
There are two basic steering rack part numbers, each with various widths. The dragster steering racks are offered with 11- and 14-inch tie rod centers to accommodate multiple dragster, altered, and funny car chassis designs.
These small but mighty drag race-only “dragster” units weigh a tick under 2.5 pounds and use stainless steel .375-inch spherical rod ends with right- and left-hand threads for toe adjustability. The steering ratio is 12:1, with 2.620-inches of lock-to-lock rack movement.
Doorslammer Rack Designs
More recently, Strange Engineering developed its new doorslammer-style rack, offered with a 19.5- and 24.5-inch width distance between each tie rod mount. These widths accommodate front suspension/steering requirements for various door car chassis.
The gearbox side of the doorslammer steering box housing is pre-drilled at the steering case with .375-inch bolt holes on 1.312-inch centers, thoughtfully designed to facilitate seamless integration to the typical Ford Pinto/Mustang rack mounting specifications. The Strange units connect the steering shaft and knuckles using the same 9/16-inch, 26-spline pinion of the popular Ford predecessor. The overall outer case is once again machined from billet 6061-T6511 aluminum.
One key feature integrated into the freshly designed rack is the opportunity to “clock” the steering pinion’s angle as it mates to your car’s steering shaft. The typical Ford factory rack housing limits you to an 18-degree angle upward from the steering base — an 18- or 20-degree pinion angle points toward the driver in relationship to the vehicle centerline.
With the Strange Engineering steering rack design, you can “clock” the vertical steering input angle with a choice of zero degrees (flat with the mounting face) or at either 20 or 40 degrees of upward angle. This design does not affect the angle of the clevis ends that mate your steering’s tie rods to the rack. The clevis ends can also be clocked to match your steering pinion angle to maintain the proper relationship with your inner tie rod ends.
The Strange clevis ends are machined from billet 6061-T6511 aluminum, black anodized, and accept the typical race car standard 3/8-inch high-misalignment rod ends.
Drag Link Steering
Another steering option offered by Strange Engineering is a Pitman-arm-style steering box for funny cars, altereds, and many front engine dragster chassis designs. Like Strange’s rack-and-pinion units, the outer case is machined from billet 6061-T6511 aluminum and finished with a sleek black anodizing.
These Pitman-style steering boxes have an integral steering shaft that is available with a width of 13, 14, or 15 inches from the centerline of the steering shaft to the tip of the Pitman shaft. The worm gear is CNC machined from 4140 steel and is nitrided and REM polished. Nitriding is a heat-treating process that creates a case-hardened surface to deliver superior durability, and REM eliminates imperfections left by the machining process by using vibratory equipment and patented solutions to remove the “peaks” left on metal parts.
Mated to the worm gear, a 17-4 stainless steel sector shaft connects the steering gear and the Pittman arm. This shaft is .750-inch in diameter and splined to securely match to the Pittman arm. This spline on the steering shaft gives you plenty of adjustment for aligning the Pittman arm with the remaining drag link steering assembly.
The Strange Engineering steering box has multiple mounting choices: a two-bolt pattern on the pitman shaft side, and a four-bolt pattern on the opposite side. Many chassis builders implement mounting plates on both sides of the steering box for utmost support.
Steering Ratio Explained
We haven’t mentioned the various steering ratios of the rack-and-pinions to this point; the theory is the same no matter the steering mechanism described, whether it be rack-and-pinion or drag-link steering box designs.
Similar to describing the gear ratios in your rearend, in the steering mechanism design, the steering ratio compares the amount of rotation at the steering wheel to the same measured rotation at the steering box output.
With the drag-link steering boxes described above, man racing chassis used a factory steering box for these applications. The steering ratio for a factory-style steering box is usually around 20:1 — this was a necessary ratio for a larger, heavier automobile.
With the Strange steering box being designed from a clean sheet of paper, these new boxes offer a 10:1 ratio. This ratio spells out 10 degrees of steering wheel movement for one degree of output at the Pitman arm. Compared to a 20:1 OEM-style steering box, where 20 degrees of steering angle is needed for the same 1-degree angle output, the steering quickness is improved dramatically.
The ratios calculated for a rack-and-pinion steering system are a little more complex. The steering ratio is determined by the overall diameter and number of teeth on the pinion gear. The ratio shows the number of revolutions each pinion gear makes relative to the distance of movement by the rack that the pinion moves.
Take, for example, the Strange Engineering steering units for doorslammers. They have a 22:1 ratio, which means that the motion of the pinion gear moves 22 times the distance compared to the movement of the rack. These ratios are carefully designed to offer as quick steering as possible without impeding the steering “feel” at the steering wheel or requiring massive biceps to turn a corner.
Strong And Lightweight With High Speed In Mind
Even the slightest amount of backlash can affect your steering judgment in high-speed racing. The combination of strong materials, stringent manufacturing specifications, and exceptionally close assembly tolerances ensures that these steering boxes provide a driving experience that’s smooth, responsive, and free of any undesirable play.
With this backlash minimized to almost zero, these Strange competition steering units allow the driver’s hands to feel the feedback of the steering motion, all while having the confidence of durability and longevity in a steering mechanism essential for competitive racing.