This looks like a very promising setup for those of us 404 guys looking to upgrade to power steering. I'm currently contemplating the 406 route maybe through Von or a ram setup and this is a fresh look for sure. Anyway, assuming the price comes in about the same as one of those systems it would be well worth it especially considering all the work saved mounting rams and pumps as others have mentioned.
A few things I'm curious about both technical and not. I know you plan on giving this device a thorough field test but I'm wondering do you see any ill effects on the 404 box due to the torque multiplication from the drive motor on the steering shaft. I guess I'm curious because presumably this motor can generate far more input torque into the stock steering box than any of us could with our own muscles. I'd be particular interested in what happens when the tires are bound and someone cranks down on the wheel or repeated pivoting of the vehicle on the rocks especially vehicles with over sized tires. I guess I just have no idea what forces the stock box can take, I know its a big mechanical box but I'd imagine this device would really let one find the limits. Possibly getting ahead of myself but if things went well do you envision EI offering upgraded steering rods?
Anyway, so that's my somewhat technical rant/curiosity my other one is when do you imagine will see test data or if all goes well production models?
I don't know enough about the systems to be considered any type of expert. Like I mentioned we are just beginning our investigation of the systems. Brian my engineer took a trip out to Colorado and test drove a Pinzgauer with a an EPAS system installed. The work had been done locally, but based upon his observations and positive evaluation we went looking.
I can speak to the concern of the stock 404 steering box. It is built very strong. So strong in fact that we don't sell that many steering boxes.....evidenced by hundreds of New boxes sitting in inventory! Failures under normal circumstances are rare.
In addition in the late 1990's we offered a power steering system that mounted a Char-Lynn hydraulic torque generator into the steering column of the 404. We delivered in the range of 15-20 full kits. These units were used hard and I do not know of any gearbox failures as a result of the additional forces put through the box. Small sample, but definitely gives me a positive feeling. That system had some major drawbacks....think 1970's Cadillac with a trunk full of bricks.....
If you do some research on the link I provided it looks as though the EPAS units that we are talking about have a clutch system built in. If they receive too much resistance the clutch will slip. This is applicable to your question about being tight against a rock. It is also one of the reasons we are pleased to see a "specialist" company that takes these types of question into consideration when making up the motor/gearing combinations for the various applications.
My shop has done a number of the 406/416 type conversions. They can be done very nice, but they are a lot of work and not for the faint of heart. Not to mention you are cutting your frame and pretty much making modifications that cannot easily be reversed.
The other thing that you may want to discuss with those that are running the 406/416 systems on the 404's are the steering arm failures. I know of at least 5 conversions who have all had steering bolts break out of the knuckle causing some issues. If I'm not mistaken Eric Messersmith has torn his bolts out of his knuckles on at least 3 occasions...?
In regards to production/delivey/etc. I do not know when or if we would even offer this type of system. Initially, we are trying these out ourselves to see what we think, but I am not even sure if we would offer them. In todays world it is about Liability. We had to renew our liability policies this year with a new carrier as our business has grown to the point where the parts sales are substantially more than the dealership vehicle sales. With that renewal came a 66% jump in premiums. Blindsided does not even begin to describe it. What was very interesting was the insurance companies interest in exactly what parts we are selling, to who, and the risk they are taking on. Realistically if we do pursue offering this kit we would probably not have initial testing done for 4-6 months.....However, there is nothing stopping anyone from being the guinea pig themselves.....again I posted the source for a reason
Hopefully this helps. Cliff Notes: I think it's going to be a viable option on the 404, but will not know for quite sometime.......