Project CrossTime: IDIDIT Steering Column And Quick-Release Install

Before I started road racing, I was 100-percent enveloped in hot rods. Rarely do these two worlds cross paths, and even rarer is when a manufacturer offers parts for both foreign and domestic. If you are like me, you are always looking for the next latest-and-greatest gadget for your vehicles, whether it is to make them look better or go faster. In this case, it is both. And, it came from an unlikely source (or so I thought)!

In January 2018, I met with IDIDIT during the Motorsports Parts Manufacturers Council (MPMC) Media Trade Conference. During that meeting, IDIDIT showed off some of its Pro-Fab and Pro-Lite performance steering columns, focused mostly on drag racing. They then told me about the acquisition of a highly reputable company that made quick-release steering hubs. One thing led to another, and the conversation turned toward road racing and the desire to open up that market to both its columns and quick-release hubs.

I’m always looking for parts to improve Project CrossTime. When IDIDIT came out with a Pro-Fab steering column and quick-release hub, I jumped at the chance.

Naturally, the TURNology Project CrossTime Miata was in my thoughts. I was surprised to find IDIDIT planned to make a performance column for the Miata! It makes good business sense. The Miata is the number one raced car in the world, and some of them are more than 30 years old! I told them to let me know as soon as they were available. Well, that time is now! I’ve installed it — and I love it!

Ultra-Lightweight Racing Steering Column

IDIDIT makes two types of performance columns: Pro-Lite and Pro-Fab. The Pro-Lite is typically about half the weight of an OE column and is geared toward the street/strip racer, where you still need some functionality built-in such as self-canceling turn signals, flashers, and horn wiring. The Pro-Fab column is the one I was after. It is an ultra-lightweight, direct-replacement race column using the factory mounting points and steering shaft.

The Miata factory steering assembly, with an airbag-equipped steering wheel attached, weighs in around 20 pounds. Meanwhile, the IDIDIT Performance Pro-Fab Column for 1990 to 2005 (NA/NB) Miata (P/N 1090890555) weighs in at just 2.65 pounds! Add the Quick-Release Steering Hub and a lightweight racing wheel, and you are looking at around 5 pounds for the entire assembly. That is an easy weight-savings of 15 pounds over the stock set up!

The differences are pretty easy to see right off the bat between the stock column and IDIDIT’s brushed aluminum column. Notice the longer steering shaft (towards the driver), though!

The column comes equipped with an extended shaft (towards the driver), which allows the installer to trim the shaft to length and then pair it with an IDIDIT Performance quick release steering hub to adapt it to your race car. The extended shaft allows the driver to determine a comfortable wheel position. This was a big bonus for me as I have long legs, and I found myself reaching too far for the steering wheel.

Included in the box are accessories to retain the factory keyed ignition switch, factory self-canceling turn signal, and multi-function switch on the column as well as preserve the column shroud to keep a stock appearance. IDIDIT also makes aluminum mounts for aftermarket dashes such as Racepaq, AEM, FuelTech, AIM, Holley, and others that work with the IDIDIT Pro-Fab column.

Quick-Release Steering Hub

There were two unnerving things about the quick-release hub I was using: 1) the splines on the adapter did not fit tightly with the hub splines, meaning about an eighth-inch of play in the wheel, and 2) you could put the wheel on in any position — there was no guarantee you put it on straight. There is nothing more frustrating than getting out on the track only to find out you are one spline off!

When I met with IDIDIT back in January 2018, I was immediately impressed with how tightly the splines fit together. Best of all, they said they were going to incorporate a guide pin to locate the spline so the wheel can only go on one way. I was excited to see they made that happen! And they even have an SFI Spec 42.1 Certification for it so you know it will pass tech inspection.

Here are the quick-release hub and adapter that will be welded to the column shaft. Note the notch in the splines that indexes the hub so you put the wheel on straight every time! Ingenious!

I ordered the QRSH Six-Bolt 3/4 Smooth Kit (P/N 5010000018) to fit my MOMO Racing MOD30 Steering Wheel bolt pattern. The spline adapter would need to be welded onto the shaft once I figured out where I wanted the wheel positioned.

Original Column Removal Considerations

Both the column and quick-release arrived together in the same shipment within a week of ordering them. The removal of the old column and installation of the IDIDIT Performance column is simple and straightforward. Keep in mind, you will be working under the dash, which in a Miata is a very tight space. If you have a rollcage with door bars, it makes it a little more difficult.

There are only three (possibly four) steps where you will need any “fabrication” skills. 1) You will need to clearance the keyed-ignition mount to fit the fatter IDIDIT column with a grinder or Dremel. 2) You will need to cut off or slice the rivets securing the ignition bracket. 3) You will need to weld the quick-release adapter to the shaft. 4) Depending on where you want the steering wheel positioned, you may need to cut the shaft.

Since you will be dealing with disconnecting/connecting wiring, it is advisable to disconnect the battery before starting.

(Left) Those door bars made this job a bit more difficult than it would be without them. (Right) This is how the old column looked with the wheel mounted. Note how close it is to the wiper and turn-signal stalks.

Original Column Removal

Removing the old column starts with disconnecting any wiring connectors attached to the column — ignition and airbags (if you still have the stock wheel). It has been so long since I removed the airbag that I can’t give you specific instructions on the removal, but there are plenty of videos online to show you how to do it. Follow all the instructions so you don’t inadvertently fire the airbag — that would not be good! You might also need to disconnect any wire looms that run underneath the column, even though they don’t attach directly to it.

All those wires can look intimidating but don't worry, there are only a few connectors to unplug and all of that swings out of the way. On the right, you can see where the mount attaches to a stud on the firewall. Once it is in this position, there is one bolt that needs to be removed that acts as a set screw on the steering shaft.

Once all the wiring is out of the way, there are four 12mm nuts you will need to remove. Start with the two nuts mounting the column to the firewall and the two holding the column to the dash. After removing the two dash-mounted nuts, the column will drop down. There is one more 12mm bolt that acts as a set screw to hold the column onto the steering shaft which needs to be removed. Then, a slight tug will pull it free from the splines mating it to the steering shaft.

Once we had the column out, I stood on a scale and held the column in my hand to find out how much it weighed. With the ignition and welded quick-release spline still attached, the column weighed in at 9.4 pounds.

(Left) My weight without the steering column (I know, I need to go on a diet). (Right) My weight with the steering column. Subtracting my weight yields a column that weighs 9.4 pounds!

Mocking Up The IDIDIT Column And Welding The Quick-Release

Instead of working on the ignition, we decided to check the column length and get the quick-release welded on. We reattached the four nuts, and I got in to check the steering wheel position. I liked that the column brought the wheel closer to my body and decided it didn’t need shortening.

I liked how far toward me the IDIDIT steering shaft was as it came out of the box but you can cut it if necessary. On the right, you can see the nuts securing it to the firewall. Also note, you can see the bolt in the U-joint that acts as a set screw to secure the column shaft to the steering shaft. Don't forget to tighten that when everything is in place!

I employed my friend, Sean Jacobson, to weld the spline adapter onto the shaft. I don’t trust my welding that much, and this is not somewhere you want to use trial and error! He did an expert job, taking care to tape the areas where we didn’t want any splatter — especially in the splines themselves. He welded both ends of the adapter and even filled-in the end of the column for good measure. Next, he ground the weld down flat so as not to interfere with the wheel.

Once cooled, we attached my MOMO wheel to the quick-release hub and mounted it on the shaft. It fit perfectly and tightly!

Once we tapped the adapter onto the shaft and had it where we wanted, we pulled the whole assembly back out so Sean could weld it easier. We taped all the areas we didn't want to get any slag. He also welded up the end of the column for good measure and ground the weld down flat, then we painted over the welded area to prevent rust.

The Ignition Bracket

Our next step was to remove the ignition bracket from the old column and clearance it for the new IDIDIT column. To remove the ignition bracket, you have to loosen or remove two self-locking rivets on the top. We chose to use a cut-off wheel to make a groove on top, essentially making them into a flathead screw so that we could remove them with a screwdriver.

These are the two self-locking rivet nuts that must be removed. We used a cut-off wheel to make a groove like a flathead screw and backed them out. When we reinstalled them we used Loctite.

When the bracket was free, we had to widen it about an eighth-inch on each side. We used a grinder with an 80-grit flappy pad to make quick work of the job. After that, we attached the bracket to the new IDIDIT column, and I hopped back up on the scale.

The IDIDIT column is slightly larger, so you need to do a little clearancing to get the ignition to fit around the column. We made sure it still fit tight, then used Loctite on the homemade screws before reinstalling them to secure it to the column.

Comparing apples to apples, with the ignition and quick-release adapter attached, the new assembly weighed in at 4.6 pounds. That is a weight savings of 4.8 pounds, which might not seem like much, but that is weight being removed above the center of gravity. Anytime you can remove weight above the CoG, you are doing yourself a favor.

Hopping back up on the scale told us the entire IDIDIT assembly weighed 4.6 pounds — a weight savings of 4.8 pounds overall.

Final Steps And Impressions

The final steps were to reinstall the column with the four mounting nuts, slide the turn signal/headlight box onto the column, and reattach the ignition connector. When installing the column onto the splined steering shaft at the bottom, you need to make sure the front wheels are straight, and you index the notch on the quick-release adapter so the wheel will mount straight up. The splines in the bottom of the column are fine-thread, so it may take a couple of tries to get it perfect.

Make sure to tighten all four mounting bolts: two on the firewall and two under the dash., then tighten that set screw (bolt) on the U-joint. Lastly, you can see how much further toward the driver I moved the wheel so I don't have to reach so far anymore and I won't inadvertently hit the wipers!

Once mounted, I took it for a spin around the block to ensure everything was as it should be, and it was. I have run one race with the new IDIDIT Performance Pro-Fab column and Quick-Release Steering Hub, and I am very please with the result.

I started on the outside pole in my first race with the setup and came away with a Second place. I love the new column and quick-release!

I can’t say I noticed any difference from the weight loss, but I can say the steering feels much smoother and confident. All the play I had gotten used to is gone. When I make a move of the steering wheel, it reacts immediately, and that is what you want from a racing performance column. One bonus is that the turn signal and wiper stalks are further away from my hands now. Before, I would embarrassingly hit the wipers when I had to move my hands quickly. That is no longer a problem with the longer shaft. Lastly, the brushed-aluminum column looks light years better than the old rusty one we took out of there! I couldn’t be happier with the change, and it only took a couple of hours!

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About the author

Shawn Brereton

Shawn is a lifelong car enthusiast who appreciates all things automotive. He is the proud owner of a blown '55 Chevy, a daily-driven '66 Fairlane with an '09 GT500 drivetrain, and a '96 Miata track car.
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