Power assisted steering for an RV8

Peter Garton (Woodcote Green 1238) from Germany has had a PAS system fitted to his RV8 and explains how the process went. (Dec05)

The steering on the RV8 is really quite heavy and is really noticeable when one is manoeuvring in a car park or at the kerbside trying to get in to a parking bay. Older drivers like me really have to struggle with the wheel and deal with the large turning circle. Thus the idea of having the PAS fitted was one I considered. Although PAS was not a factory fitting, the idea of PAS for the RV8 had been considered by Rover Cars at Cowley back in 1994 when Steering Developments in Hemel Hempstead were engaged to research PAS systems for the model.

The idea of PAS had been considered by Rover during the development of the RV8, but had been dropped on cost grounds

Engine bay is packed. (Photo: Peter Garton)

The first major problem Steering Developments encountered was the serious lack of space available under the RV8 bonnet for both the PAS unit and steering rack installation with the mounting bracket. This is particularly the case with the model exported to Japan which had the additional air conditioning equipment fitted as standard. Having been to Japan I can readily confirm that without air conditioning, you die!! So Steering Developments had to find a power steering rack which had an identical pinion angle to the manual rack. They researched several alternatives from the BMW 325, Volvo 360 and the Ford Escort and Fiesta. They opted for the Ford version because of its simplicity of mounting and the optimum orientation of the hydraulic porting. It was necessary to use a left hand drive unit which they turned over to achieve the correct relationship of pinion to rack! With that unit they managed to position the PAS rack within 10mm of the manual rack. The turning circle was increased to 12.6m from the standard 10.95m with 2.75 steering wheel turns rather than the original 3.

They chose the Saginaw TC power steering pump which was driven by the standard pulley used by the air-conditioner. The oil temperature was controlled by a "trombone" type cooler located in front of the radiator. There were other modifications necessary such as re-routing a cooler hose, the removal of the rack mounting feet to permit the fixing of the PAS rack mounting bracket, the removal of the lower steering column pinion and lastly the removal of part of the radiator plastic cowling. The technical readers of this initial summary of the development work on a PAS system for the RV8 will recognise the whole system had to be belt driven. As we now know, this work was all for nothing because Rover came to the business decision that the additional costs when added to what was already a hefty sales price for the model, were beyond the limits set by the marketing team.

Deciding where to get the PAS conversion done and getting everything organised

There had been several notes from RV8 members around the World who had a retrofit PAS installed utilising PAS units varying from those fitted to an Opel to the EPAS unit fitted to the MGF. In my case I decided to go for the MGOC hydraulic type which does not require a belt drive. An additional factor in my decision was their people at the workshop in Cambridgeshire had already gained valuable experience with installing PAS units on RV8s as well as MGBs. As my wife had never been to Cambridge before - we live in Germany - it would also be a convenient opportunity to see the sights there while the works were in progress on the RV8. After confirming that all the parts were available, we booked an appointment with workshop and were advised the job would take around two and a half to three days all in. So we drove down to Calais from Koblenz with an overnight stop on a chateau run by Best Western and set off via the ferry to Dover the next

Close gap between the ball joint and the wheel rim needs care. (Photo: Peter Garton)

Doris Garton with Will Maskell who installed the PAS system. (Photo: Peter Garton)

morning nice and early. We arrived at the workshop around two in the afternoon. Work commenced on the RV8 straightway!

The steering rack and pump used for the conversion originate from Peugeot/Citroen (PSSA Group) and was one of the small selection of alternatives readily available on the market for the reasons outlined above. All the other units examined were too wide for the relatively narrow RV8 track! The mounting assembly for the steering rack is extremely critical and can only be achieved by using a jig which lines everything up accurately. The old rack is literally cut off and the new one welded on via three brackets. The pump is mounted up on the wing on the driver's side and is jacketed in a special material that reflects heat and also insulates the pump.

A word of warning at this point
- as mentioned, the track and new rack measurements are critical which means in practical terms that the outer ball joints are very close to the inner wheel edge. We are talking of about 2 to 4 mm! If the front wheels have been balanced using the standard "knock on" weight clips, there is a serious danger that these could hit the end of the ball joint on rotation and literally rip them off thereby damaging the ball joints. These conventional balance weights should be replaced by the self adhesive type which is positioned further inside the wheel rim. Note also the EPAS unit is not adjustable as it is not necessary.

After the job was done, everything had to be perfect because we faced a long drive back to Koblenz in Germany - around 550km in fact. Initially we had sufficient time in hand to visit Ely which is quite close to the workshops so we were not too nervous of trying everything out for the first time. The steering has certainly been transformed and is a much lighter but not too light. The pump has a light whine to it but this is not disturbing. At an extreme lock position the PAS makes itself heard, but there again so does the PAS on my Mercedes! Also the turning circle has been reduced in the sense the turning circle is now greater. The parts and installation used in the PAS conversion have a 12 month warranty which is in fact a standard guarantee for engineering components.

We were extremely well looked after by the staff at the workshop who kindly transported my wife and I to and from our hotel in Cambridge. I am mentioning a few of the names of the people involved simply because we are not all mechanics or technicians and welcome the opportunity of talking with someone who can explain things clearly and simply to the layman. Our visit and the organisation of our booking were coordinated by Roger Parker who went to enormous lengths to see that everything would fall neatly into place. Roger is not always there, as many people already know, but he is supported by Jonathan Kimber. Ian Wallman is the workshop manager who is supported by Rod Wells. Our conversion was undertaken by Will Maskell. They were polite, obliging and informative, and nothing was too much trouble. The time taken was two and a half days all in and the total cost including VAT was around £2,620. The EPAS unit was £702 and the PAS kit for the RV8 was £1,442.

How RV8 owners can remove their air-conditioning from reimported RV8s is a puzzle to me

For our return to Germany, we drove off early on the Friday morning heading down the M11 to our overnight stop in Canterbury. It was very hot and we landed fair and square in the middle of a long tail back just before Junction 9. We let the RV8 tick over for quite a while anticipating a stop and go trip to the M25. The actual stop part turned out to be 2½ hot and sweaty hours without moving! We later left Canterbury via Dover and Calais and in blazing sunshine drove virtually non stop back to German - some 5½ hours with the air-conditioning going full blast all the way. How RV8 owners can remove their air-conditioning from reimported RV8s is a puzzle to me. My wife says there is really no serious problem with leg room on the passenger side - she is not a midget by the way! With the roof up, the inside of the RV8 becomes a furnace so long distances on the Autobahn without the air-conditioning would become a nightmare. The was not the slightest sign of anything associated with the PAS conversion getting too hot which hopefully will put members' minds at rest on that potentially scary point.

For members travelling via Calais who for one reason or another find it necessary to overnight around the Calais area, will find at exit 2 on the A26 to Arras road, there is the Chateau de Cocove. It is a Best Western hotel which is located in its own quiet grounds with an excellent restaurant.

Members visiting Ely who have looked around its wonderful cathedral, can then stroll down the hill - Ely was once an island surrounded by tidal waters and was also an important port. At the bottom of the hill on the left hand side, there is the Peacock tea house which is brilliant. They serve real tea - not those horrible tea bags, I am old fashioned - and scones with clotted cream, crumpets and other tasties such as toasted muffins!!

See also David Driver's experience with PAS on his RV8. More
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