Restoring A Classic Boat Steering Wheel!
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!
As always Eric great info. We had the Shepherd out three weeks ago and hit 38 with max load in the boat, she should do 42 with two in her
Wow, so the new prop did the trick…if it stays warm like this you might get a x-mas run in this year!
Eric – You’ve been holding out on me. Looks like this wheel/steering column topic will be a good one for the spring Smith Mtn. Lake workshop. (Hint, Hint)
Phil I realized that the roads were cleaner in November than Feb/March so I already have Canadian Club in storage in Mount Dora, so, make sure you make the trip and for sure there will two Shepherds.
Pete I am considering it , but I already plan to show my “48” along with our newest find, a 1953 , 22′ model 110 Shepherd, one of the first Shepherd Hemi boats, so Gravenherst is a long haul in its self. We will see.
Does the wheel end up solid color or semi-translucent?
Hi Jim, It is solid. Tom said he could try other colors as well but stocks the original Studebaker colors.
Red Translucent on their site-
Don’t know that much about post war steering wheels. In the pre-war period, i think cc was limited to the 4 spoke and later the 5 spoke banjo versions, with a sort of mottled plastic look in grey/brown.
What boat models after the war used a banjo? Would be interested to know. thanks. (I thought they all used that standard 2 spoke plastic one at least in the early post war years??)
Don, I have hull #U-22-1757. Hull card says Wheel size/# 858 delivered 3-21-51 to the same dealer in Cloverdale, NY as Thayer, Scott M Henderson. I assume wheel # 858 is the 4 spoke banjo. Maybe someone else can confirm?
Wheel 858 is a 14X13.5RH1.25 Propeller
WOW! Nice, a whole lot easier than my restore.
I just got back my steering wheel from Quality Restorations in CA. Dennis Crooks did an excellent job. It is from a 55 21′ Capri and my experience was painful.
In the process of restoring the wheel I met a source of parts and a steering wheel restorer who was just really bad.
Trying to find assembly and part number information didn’t happen but finally figured out what parts were really needed.
Looks like nice work at a fair price. Always good to know.
I am always amazed at the skills people develop and preserve.
I just had my enclosure done on my Fairchild scout and sewing and etc is just beyond my comprehension…so too is craftsmanship like that displayed in steering wheel restoration .
Boggles my mind. Great post and pics.
John in Va.
Just so everyone knows, they only do the wheels used in Studebakers….
Does anyone have this above information in a printable formate. I am trying to remove and restore a 1950 baby riviara but am unable to print the above and this would be helpful as I am not sure how to remove it or restore it.
Al you can shoot me an email at email@example.com or give me a call a 571-437-7406. There are a couple of videos as well on the ACBS site that are very helpful.
As Jim eluded to, the original wheels from Chris-Craft, like the Ford deluxe wheels also used, were translucent. Although Studebaker and Ford painted their versions of these wheels, Chris-Craft did not.