Finally got around to addressing the loose tilt mechanism on the 97. Thanks to the advice I received here it went perfectly. For the benefit of others I will try and give a decent description of how I did it.
First thing you need to do is remove the black plastic cover that fits underneath the front of the dash pad. There are 7 plastic fasteners that you need to remove. Use a small punch or similar object that has a flat surface about 1/8 of an inch in diameter to press in the center of the fastener. Pressing it in releases it and then you can pull it out by hand. You will get the idea after you get it out and examine it. Get the fasteners out and you can pull the cover off. Do it slowly so you dont break anything.
Then remove the side covers. Use a small screwdriver and pry it off. Start on the bottom side near the window then toward the bottom front. Then the top near the window. The clips holding it on in these locations are pretty robust and will pull off. There are 2 other plastic integrated clips on the front side edge that will break if you yank hard there. I broke one off. Be easy here - and you should be able to get them off without breaking them. It is not the end of the world if you do break them as the other clips will still hold it in place, but better to keep things as tight as possible.
On the passenger side it is the same thing except there is a 7mm bolt that needs to be removed. Open the glove box door and you will see it. Take that off first then remove the cover.
Now to get the front panel assembly removed. On both sides where you removed the side panels remove the screw that holds the strap like piece of plastic attached. Then remove all of the screws that attach the panel underneath the dashboard. Once you have them all off carefully lift up on the dashpad and pull the front panel tabs out from behind the dashpad tabs. It will make sense once you are looking at it. Now the panel will be loose. It may stick a bit from age, however rest assured it is now loose. Now pull it forward a bit and disconnect the wiring connectors from the behind the round interior light knob and from behind the trip odometer button. Now you can carefully remove the panel.
Now you have to remove the big heavy panel underneath the steering wheel. There are 2 bolts on the top and 2 on the bottom that need to be removed. Just look at it for a few minutes and you will figure it out. I have found that this panel was pretty tight fitting so you may have to give it a bit of a tug to initially move it. Now, move it forward a little bit and take note of the electrical connector that is located on the bottom right side. Carefully disconnect it at the junction box connector. It is kind of a weird connector. I used a small screwdriver to get it apart. My initial thought was that it was removed from the dash but it's not. Dont pull from the dash side or you will definitely break it and cause yourself more work. Then you have to take the light bulb connector off - which just twists off. Now that panel should be free. In my situation the "pin" that fell out of the tilt mechanism was laying in the bottom of this panel - so look there and see if yours is there as well as I assume that is where it is most likely to go if it fell all the way out.
Now you need to remove the steering column cover. It consists of 2 parts, an upper and a lower piece. There are 5 screws that need to be removed to get the top half removed (I left the bottom half in place) These screws are a reversed torx type of screw. However, I used a 5mm 6 point socket - the long type- to remove all of them. There are 2 in the front 2 holes in the bottom, 2 in the front that are up near the top and kind of on the side of the cover. These 2 are the reason that we needed to remove the big bottom panel. Finally there is one more that is kind of hidden up underneath on the upper front about 7:00 from the emergency flasher button.After removing these you should be able to split the top from the bottom - do it carefully so you dont break anything.
Now you can finally take a look at your tilt mechanism and check to see if the bracket is broken, the pin is just loose, or the pin has fallen out , and perform whatever fix you need to do.
I was lucky because I simply tapped the pin back into place and the problem was corrected - it was just like new everything worked correctly.
Reassembly is the reverse of the above with a few considerations. I left the 2 front screws off that are in the front of the steering column cover so in the event that that pin falls out again, all that will be necessary will be to remove the 3 screws holding the steering column cover together to get to the location to put the pin back in - making it a quick fix.
Also when you are reattaching the front panel do not over tighten the black "straps" that attach to the sides behind the side covers. I broke the one on the drivers side by trying to tighten it. You do not need to tighten too much here.
Also be sure you lift the dash and put the tabs for the front panel behind the dash panel tabs like they were when you initially removed them. If you dont the black piece that goes underneath the front of the dash pad will not snap back in correctly.
If you take your time you should be able to get this job done in a few hours. Also if you have any radio issues now would be the time to address those as well. I had a tape stuck in the player that I got out - but I had to remove the radio.
I think if your pin needed some force to be reinserted it will probably stay in place if you dont use your steering wheel for leverage when you get in and out of the car. If it was loose going back in, then it will probably fall out again in a rather short time. If that is the case, do some research and you will find ways to address this issue.
Please chime in if you noticed anything that I may have missed as I am typing this a few days after I did it and my memory is not what it used to be.
Hope this helps