Having had to bugger about with this problem recently - although it is a pain get the column out. It's far quicker to refit and makes the middle bit (the actual repair) soooooooooooooo much easier!
Good - Fast - Cheap: Pick any two.
E23 735i; E30 318i; E32 735iL (X 2 - 1 White and 1 Light Blue); E34 535i; E38 735iL; R50 Cooper; R55 Cooper Clubman.
E21 318i; E32 735iL; E34 535i; E38 730iL; E53 4.4i