MY MATE Johnny 2-Pack seems to have absorbed a couple of lifetimes worth of wisdom. His knowledge is the result of his meandering through several careers – high-school art teacher, TV set constructor for the ABC, opal miner at NSW’s remote outback settlement of Lightning Ridge, carpenter/ builder and panel beater/ spray painter… That lastlisted job giving him his nickname ‘2-Pack’ after the type of paint used by the crash repair industry these days.
So unlike many others, when Johnny speaks, it’s because he has something to say, not because he has to say something. And after driving my ’82 Mitsubishi Sigma for the bottle-shop run a couple of times, Johnny said that I should install power steering.
He had a point. The Sigma was built in the era when things such as electric windows, central locking and power steering were either expensive options or simply not available on Aussiemade family cars. And even though I grew up with nowcollectible 70s and 80s cars such as Kingswoods, Falcons and of course Sigmas, I cursed my Sigma’s heavy steering every time I drove it – it was heave-me-out-of-theseat cumbersome.
Johnny backed his opinion by mentioning that anyone under about 30 years old these days has grown up with power-assisted everything – even toothbrushes! – so as lovely as my one-owner, shed-find, factory-spec , time-warp Sigma is, the heavy steering might scareoff some potential buyers if I ever wanted to sell it. My Sigma has the comfort of air-conditioning, so power steering would be the cake under the icing! (geddit?)
So I decided to retro-fit power steering. I found what I needed – the pump, hydraulic lines, steering box and steering column – at a specialist Mitsubishi wrecker in Adelaide.
However, I live 1600km east of Adelaide and although the wrecker feller was willing to remove everything from the donor car and package it, freighting heavy car parts can be expensive.
Quite conveniently, Johnny 2-Pack’s brother Mark (yes, being Johnny 2-Pack’s brother, he’s known as Marky 2-Pack!) lives in Adelaide and volunteered to collect the parts and deliver them to me during a holiday road trip.
With all the required components delivered from Adelaide, one afternoon I jacked the Sigma onto chassis stands, removed the standard steering system and swapped-in the later-model power-assisted components.
At the same time, I stripped the front struts and installed fresh Monroe gas dampers, matching them with a new pair of Monroes under the rear. After 35 years, the old shockies were loose and the car handled like a bowl of milky Weetbix.
Job done! It’s no Brock Commodore, but with its factory-spec power steering, four fresh tyres and a quartet of sharp dampers, my timewarp Sigma is now a capable and comfortable regular driver.