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GM High Tech Performance
1966 El Camino Brakes - Brakes In a Box
Give Your Feet a Break & Stop With Confidence
Jun 1, 2008
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1966 El Camino Brakes - Brakes In a Box
The job is easy, but it will take up the better part of your weekend. To get the ball rolling, we propped the car on four jackstands and removed the tires and the drum covers to reveal the shoes and springs inside. We began with the driver's front and placed a hydraulic jack with a block of wood underneath the A-arm for support. We also disconnected all the brake lines.
To remove the hub from the front wheel, we took off the dust cap by splitting it away with a large flat-blade screwdriver. Under the dust cap is where the cotter pin, crown-nut, washer, and bearing all sit. These must be removed to take the hub off. Once these are removed, the hub will fall off.
With the hub out of the way, we removed the two bolts behind it, which hold the tie-rod arm from the steering to the back of the spindle. We removed these next, using a wrench on one side and a ratchet on the other. With the tie-rod arm out of the way, we could then remove the other nuts.
The last nuts to be removed on the driver side are from the upper and lower A-arms. We then took out the cotter pins but didn't remove them; we loosened them just enough to give us wiggle room. With a little luck, the ball joints will pop away from each arm on their own. In our case, only the upper ball joint popped loose and we had to rent a ball-joint remover from a local auto parts store. We stuffed it between the lower ball joint and the spindle, and with a couple quick thrusts from a large hammer, it popped loose.
Next we removed the old drum from the suspension. If you have any worn ball joints or bushings, now is the time to replace them. Our lower ball-joint bushing was completely missing, as was the tie-rod bushing dust cap. We also had to fight with the arm that was still attached to the tie rod. After removing the cotter pin and crown nut, a tie-rod tool was used to split them apart.
These kits from Master Power come fully assembled and ready to install. We're showing you the driver side, but the passenger-side install is identical. We started by guiding in the lower ball-joint stud through the bottom spindle and threaded on the nut, just enough to make sure the disc brake wouldn't fall out. We raised the lower control arm until it met with the upper ball joint, then we guided in the upper stud through the top spindle and threaded on the crown nut. We tightened down all the nuts and replaced all the cotter pins with new ones. That's it.
Removing the rear drum takes the same technique as the front but with an additional step. You'll have to remove the axles to get the rear drum assembly off. We removed the rear cover and popped out the C-clips to release the axles. Our original set was a bit warped, so we replaced it with fresh 28-spline axles from Superior Axles. These factory replacements are priced at $230, are 28 percent stronger, come with studs, and boost our confidence in our new assembly. Stay tuned for a detailed step-by-step piece on this procedure in an upcoming issue.
With the rear axles out, we loosened and removed the four bolts retaining the drum/backing plate to the rear axlehousing. It's simple; we just used an impact gun on the front and a wrench on the back. The new kit does not come with hardware, so be sure to keep the bolts with their associated nuts and lock washers in a safe place.
We wanted to make sure the new drum backing plate had a nice, flat surface to attach to, so we used some degreaser and a wire brush to remove surface rust and burs from the axlehousing.
The Master Power Brake kit dwarfs the original rear drum by 11/2 inches. We went from a 91/2-inch drum to an 11-inch drum. Just like the front kit, the rear comes assembled with springs and shoes and is all new parts, not remanufactured ones.
When we first lined up the holes to bolt on the new 11-inch drums, we were a little concerned that the inner diameter of the Master Power backing plate was larger than the outer diameter of the stock 10-bolt axlehousing it was being bolted onto. Master Power's tech line explained that these kits also fit 12-bolt rearends. As long as the bolt holes line up, you're good to go. We bolted the new drum backing plate and tightened it all down using the stock hardware.
We locked in the axles and buttoned up the differential cover. We also reinstalled our rear brake lines. Finally, we slid the new drum cover over the studs to finish off the assembly.
MANUAL TO POWER
To get this sled stopping like it should, or at least to modern-day standards, we also ordered Master Power's booster and master cylinder kit. First, we loosened the four 9/16 nuts that held in the original manual master cylinder and pried it away from the firewall. In our case, the piston rod that ran through the firewall to the pedal fell out. Next, we disconnected the stock piston rod fork from the stock pedal location by pushing out the stock pin. Master Power even supplied us with a new one so we could toss the original piece.
Like the front and rear brakes, the master cylinder kit and booster come fully assembled with the bracket that mates up to the firewall already attached. We fed the piston rod through the original opening in the firewall and tightened the new booster and master cylinder down with the original hardware, using the 9/16 nut and lock washer. This particular kit will sit at a slight upward angle, so know that it's completely normal.
For the fluid to get to its specific location, be it the front or rear, we had to install the universal distribution block. The good news is the supplied hard lines will only fit on one way. We made sure to position the distribution block with the proportioning valve facing the front of the car, while the hard lines will face the inner driver-side fender.
We began by threading in the new hard lines but made sure to leave them somewhat loose so we would have enough wiggle room to move the hard lines as necessary when we installed it in the car.
To arrange the lines, they must be criss-crossed over one another. Then we threaded in the hard lines to the bottom of the master cylinder. This may take some massaging and patience to get in, but it will fit. We should mention that the kit also comes with a universal bracket, but we're not going to use it at this time, at least not until we shoehorn the big-block we have on standby.
With the master cylinder and brake booster at an angle, the piston rod that attaches to the pedal will follow the same path. In our case, we could simply reattach the brake pedal into the original hole set by the factory. We inserted the new pin and locked down the cotter pin as well. This will give us our 4:1 pedal pressure ratio. Anything more than 4:1 would probably send us flying through the windshield.
Originally the '66 came with measly 14-inch rims and P195/60R14 tires. It would have been nice to utilize them with the new brakes, but they just wouldn't fit. We didn't want to go crazy with large rims or huge tires, so we went with a plus-1 rim all around. Our rolling stock of choice were Vintage Wheel Works V40 rims, 15x7 in front and 15x8 out back. The only differences between the two are their width and backspacing. To fit over the larger 11-inch rear drums, the rims were ordered with a minimum of 3 1/2 inches of backspacing, as specified by Master Power Brakes.
For tires, we wrapped Goodyear rubber on all four corners. We weren't going for any sort of Pro Touring look here; this sled is going to be a driver. So we ordered P215/60R15 Eagle GT-HRs for the front and P225/60R15 Eagle GT-HRs for the back. While these aren't the stickiest tires offered, they will definitely fit the bill and get this thing moving down the road for initial testing. CHP
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