Today's vintage musclecar packs more power, is driven faster, and most of all, is asked to stop a whole lot quicker than 40 years ago. And as retro as those drums may look through your mag wheels, the original brake system can't be counted on to stop quickly should trouble arise. In other words, a decrease in stopping distance can mean the difference between a close call or some crumbled Chevy fenders.
However, there is good news. Master Power Brakes has a disc brake kit (available for all popular GM musclecars) that can convert your ride from those low-performing and slow-stopping drums to a stop-on-a-dime, four-wheel disc-brake dancer that rivals many new-car braking standards. The kit comes with easy-to-follow instructions and a handy tech line to call, if needed. To see how this installation works, we used a '65 Chevrolet Biscayne that still wore the factory four-wheel drum system. Master Power offers several kits for this application. For ours we chose three of the options, including a front disc brake conversion kit that bolts to the existing drum spindles, a power-operated tandem master cylinder kit complete with the proper proportioning valve, and a rear disc brake kit that bolts on to the stock rearend housing. If you opt to use the GM rear disc brake rotors, you'll need to have your axle flanges turned down to 5 7/8-inch o.d. to gain the needed clearance inside the hub of the new rotors. If you have aftermarket hardened axles, check with the axle manufacturer first.
Whether you own a full-size Chevrolet, Chevelle, Camaro, Nova, or other GM car, chances are there is a Master Power Brakes kit available for your specific application. Hang on as we show you the ins and outs of adding a power four-wheel disc brake system onto our lead-sled Biscayne. We just hope the T3 headlights won't fly out when we hit those new disc brakes hard.
If you are using Cadillac Eldorado-style rear calipers (as we did), there are some important things you should know. These rear calipers adjust off the parking brake, which is incorporated into the caliper. You must set the parking brake every time you park the car so that you utilize a one-way clutch inside the caliper piston. When the parking brake is applied, the clutch senses when there is a 0.030-inch or greater clearance between the friction material and the rotor on the inboard side. When there is in excess of 0.030 inch, the clutch turns inside the piston, adjusting it out, keeping the rear brakes adjusted. If you do not set your parking brake every time, you will start to lose brake pedal (low and spongy) and the adjuster mechanism will not work.