Let’s look at some of the currently-available options for converting a Z to power steering…
Hydraulic Power Steering: A traditional hydraulic power steering system can be cobbled together from junkyard parts. You’ll need to scour the wrecking yard for a suitable rack, some end links, a modern power steering pump and reservoir, plumbing, and other tidbits.
This will require removal of the front subframe, welding tabs onto the crossmember, sourcing lines and fittings, fabricating an engine bracket, pulley, and tensioner, and routing the plumbing. When you’re done, you’ll have power steering – But you’ll also have a cramped engine bay, a heavier car, more drag on your engine, and multiple new points of potential failure and leaks.
Here’s another downside of hydraulic power steering: The hydraulic pump runs continuously when the engine is running, and generally requires about 4 hp – Not only are you losing horsepower, but you’re using more fuel – even when you’re simply driving straight!
Electric Rack and Pinion Steering: Commonly referred to as drive-by-wire, a complete electric steering system can be sourced from a modern car, and a few Z owners have done this. Again, however, there’s a lot of fabrication involved – and good luck figuring out the can-bus wiring setup from a modern vehicle.
The steering is integrated into the ECU and incorporates input from wheel sensors, body control module, and other sensors. This option is also fairly expensive, and components from a wrecked car may contain unseen damage from collision or the weather.
Electric Assist Steering: Not quite a full drive-by-wire, these systems supplement driver input, and are available on some modern vehicles. Unfortunately, some electric power steering assist systems fail to accommodate vehicle speed or steering input (torque). They simply function as an “on-off” switch, and have no provisions to modulate the amount of assist.
These units are typically larger and more obtrusive… and we won’t even get started on the price. A recent review of Japan-sourced electric power steering conversion units were priced higher than the original price of an early Z!
The ZPowerSteering system is, without a doubt, the best option for ANYONE who wants to enjoy the comfort and convenience of power steering in their classic Datsun Z.