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Halting Power

A-body Discs Fro Stainless Steel Brakes Corporation

Jan 6, 2004

When restoring a project, we often forget to address the most important things first in lieu of the more fun parts of the project. While we would all like to remove the old 283 and replace it with a ZZ430 it's not always the most practical place to begin, especially when all you've got for stopping power is the original set of non-power drum brakes. So, in the name of safety and practicality we've decided to give you all a crash course in power disc brake conversions on your '64-72 Chevelle.

We happened to come across a box stock '64 Chevelle Malibu convertible, a perfect example of what not to drive on the freeway with stock brakes. And why is that you say? We took our '64 out to Fontana's California Speedway for a bit of Road Rage performance testing only to find out that our Malibu stopped from 60-0 in a disappointing 241 feet. Just for a bit of comparison, a stock '02 Z28 Camaro takes 129 feet to come to a stop from 60. There was only one thing to do, make the jump to power disc brakes.

Not all vehicles require power brakes. In fact, for those of you hell bent on running a cam with high lift specifications, you're probably better off without power brakes as they require about 14-15 inches of vacuum. But, if you're planning on running a streetable motor with a semi-mild cam, power brakes are the ticket!

The aftermarket brake industry is quite large, so be careful who you deal with. While some manufacturers have been in the stopping business for some time, some have not. Stainless Steel Brake Corporation has been providing aftermarket disc brake conversions to the public for quite some time. We've found their kits to be all-inclusive and their tech support to be excellent. While SSBC has many different levels of brakes, we chose the FX2 Force 10 conversion for both the front and rear. The FX2 is a system that encompasses dual piston aluminum calipers with zinc-plated 11-inch slotted rotors. Despite its physical appearance, the FX2 caliper and rotor will provide adequate clearance for a 15-inch wheel. The kit we chose also came with a dual master cylinder, 9-inch power booster, and a fresh set of brake pads.

Here at CHEVELLE we think of safety first. So, if you're going to drop in a ZZ430 or the like you'd better have the stopping power to back it down. The SSBC conversion isn't a one-day deal, but it doesn't require a degree in brake technology either. Take your time, be thorough and if your results are anything like ours you'll have your 60-0s down to 155 feet in no time!


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The SSBC front and rear disc brake conversion was an all-inclusive package that provided everything we needed minus the tools of the trade.

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We began by removing the rearend fluid and pulling the differential cover.

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After the differential is drained, loosen the pinion shaft lock bolt and remove the pinion lock shaft. A slight jostling of the shaft may be required depending on how long it's been in place. The C-clips can be removed.

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Gently remove the axles.

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The drum brakes can be disassembled and removed.

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The drum brake backing plate can also be removed.

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The new caliper mounting brackets are bolted in place. The SSBC bracketry will allow for either front or rear mounting of the main caliper. Whatever side is chosen, there must be adequate room for the travel of the parking brake cable to the new billet mechanical parking brake.

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The axles can be reinstalled and the pinion lock shaft reinserted. Use a new gasket as well as new rearend gear oil. If you plan on filling the rearend at the end of the job, make a post-it note and leave it in a visible place.

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Before installing the new rotors, it's a wise idea to clean the contact surfaces with a general brake parts cleaner to remove any contaminants that may be on the rotor's surface. After the rotors are clean, slide them onto the studs.

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We slid the new pads right onto the new calipers. When you install the new caliper, you may have to remove one of the pads and then reinsert it after the caliper has cleared the rotor.

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Next, connect the flex lines to the caliper and the hard line. Hollow bolts and copper washers are supplied. Don't snug the hollow bolt until you're sure everything fits, as the copper washer compresses slightly.

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Last but not least, connect the emergency brake caliper. As you tighten the caliper take note of how loose it fits. While it is a floating caliper, if there appears to be excessive movement, you may have to remove the caliper and extend the piston slightly. The OE brake cable should work fine. When ordering your brakes, be sure to ask for the optional brake cable bracketry.

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Right now is a great time to take a break and move to the workbench to bleed the master cylinder. Bench bleeding is not the same as bleeding the lines and calipers. The master cylinder itself must be bled before installation. As the pushrod is compressed bubbles will come up from within the master cylinder. When no more bubbles surface, the master cylinder is purged.

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To start disassembling the front end, remove the old drum brakes.

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Next, loosen the tie-rod ends and both ends of the spindle. Be sure to compress the coil spring with a spring compressor or hydraulic jack before completely removing the hardware keeping tension on the coil.

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A ball-joint spreader may be required to loosen the ball joints. Don't be alarmed when the ball joints come apart as they often make a loud pop.

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Jason, the Primedia Tech Center manager, has removed the old spindle and set the new one in its place. While we chose to use a stock spindle, a 2-inch dropped spindle can be ordered from SSBC.

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Before the new hardware could be installed, Jason drilled out the OE steering arm to 1/2 inch for the larger hardware supplied in the kit.

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The caliper mounting bracket and splash shield were held into place and bolted down.

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Before the new rotors can be set into place, the wheel bearings must be greased and installed. The inner wheel bearings require a grease seal, which is provided in the kit.

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After the inner and outer bearings have been installed, the rotor can slide into place. The original retaining washer and nut can be reinstalled.

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Gently tap the grease cover into place. Tap around the edges if possible; direct contact with the center can crush the cap.

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The new rotor is now ready for installation. We found that installing the inboard pad first made the caliper easier to place. After the caliper is in place, install the outer pad and snug the caliper in place with the provided Allen-head bolts.

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Next, we removed the original master cylinder.

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The new power booster can be installed and may require an adapter plate which will be supplied in the kit. We attached the master cylinder for fitment purposes only. After the booster was snugged we pulled vacuum from the rear of the intake manifold.

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With the master cylinder in place, we attached the new preformed brake lines which were included in the kit. Depending on the condition of your current brake lines, new lines may or may not have to be fabricated. We found that the SSBC lines worked fine with the placement of the OE lines.

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Before the brakes can be bled, a proportioning valve must be installed in the rear portion of the brake lines. No specific location is noted, however the insertion of the valve must be after the metering block.

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The brakes can now be bled. As a rule of thumb each caliper must be bled individually, starting with the caliper furthest from the master cylinder. Once the entire system was completely bled, we checked for leaks and rotational binds. If everything checks out its time for a trial run!

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Although the directions were quite straightforward it always helps to have a schematic.




Stainless Steel Brakes Corporation
Clarence, NY 14031

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