Fellow Woody Boater, neighbor and great guy, Eric Zelman, took the restoration of his steering wheel to a new supplier to us and the results are wonderful. You may recall Eric from his insane over the top restoration of a Wagemaker. He is now under way on his U22. Take it away Eric.
I thought this might be interesting to those embarking on a restoration journey this winter. I started on a 1951 U22 a year ago using a combination of “hobby time” and “professional services” for the portions of the process that I’m not comfortable with. The following will focus on one small but prominent feature, the steering wheel.
The removal of the wheel was a chore. I reviewed a couple of videos on the ACBS web site and found them helpful. Noting the process of removing the throttle lever and the important retention clip at the bottom of the tube.
I worked through the removal of the horn ring, finally figuring out that it just had to be rotated approx. 30 degrees to free it from the 3 retention blocks. Now the hard part; the tapered shaft and key seemed to have fused with the wheel hub after 64 years. I had gone through this process before with a runabout but this wheel was going to be much more stubborn. After a few applications of PB Blaster and a couple of days of pressure from a make shift adapted gear puller there was no movement. I started to crank on the center screw even more and more, there was movement but the wrong kind. The eye portion of the eye bolts were actually opening up, unrolling!
It was time to bite the bullet and get the right tool. I found a slotted heavy bar puller on ebay, rigged it under the hub and with a few more shots of PB Blaster and turns of the screw it popped!
As most of you know refurbishing a wheel can be expensive, sometimes exceeding $1,000. My chrome was in good shape so I really only needed the urethane replaced. I tried a test spot of the epoxy putty process as I had done on a rubber coated wheel in the past and it did not seem to yield the results I wanted.
Turning to the internet and researching the use of car wheels on boats I found that my 4 spoke banjo wheel was from a 1939-1940 Studebaker. A few more clicks searching for Studebaker parts brought me to the Shrock Brothers web site where you can read more about Tom & Dave Shrock, their restoration projects and parts We determined that the later model hollow center Champion horn button would work. I packed up my wheel, horn button and retention block assembly and off to PA. The wheel is first stripped and the stainless spokes polished.
Then the clean core is placed in the mold and pressurized pot for the urethane injection.
After curing for a few weeks, the urethane is buffed and ready for installation as is or a finish coat of your choice. Tom explained that the original wheels were either supplied in ivory or black.
He remounted the metal base plate in my new horn button and replaced the 3 cracking rubber retention blocks between the rings. The rear of the hub was also refinished.
The Shrock Brothers were very easy to work with and the process took less than 6 weeks. My parts were just over $500 including Tom mounting the new rubber retention blocks and back plate on the horn button. I hope this helps one of you with your project!