Most people associate performance with horsepower and torque, but it’s hard to stop a fast car once you overcome the vehicle’s factory braking system. While some Chevys, like the Z06 Corvette, come equipped with excellent brakes from the factory, experienced drivers and those who like to test their speed and handling abilities often find that OEM brakes quickly fade when put under extreme performance conditions.
Several factors, such as clamping force, a larger brake surface area, and heat dissipation, all play important roles in improving braking consistency and stopping power. Aftermarket systems like Wilwood’s Superlite 6 brake kit for example, are able to offer improvements in all these categories in a number of ways.
One of the most notable is the use of a two-piece, billet aluminum, six-piston, fixed caliper. This caliper is lighter in weight, stronger than performance mono-block designs, and costs much less to manufacture. This makes a brake upgrade like this one significantly less expensive than other aftermarket six-piston systems. Compared to the floating, two-piston caliper, like those on the ’02 Z06 Corvette, the Wilwood caliper can deliver higher clamping forces that are distributed evenly across the entire brake pad.
Wilwood’s larger diameter 14-inch cross-drilled and axial vented rotors also dissipate heat faster and clean the brake pad to provide improved grip more effectively than the factory rotors. The drilled and slotted rotors come with Wilwood’s rust preventative E-coat finish. The E-coat wears off the pad contact area easily but has excellent adhesion everywhere else and is unaffected by high heat exposure. While these rotors are made from cast iron, the center hat is manufactured from aluminum to further reduce rotating weight.
Installing better brake components like these may seem like a big undertaking, but most aftermarket systems are designed for each individual application, making installation rather easy. In this example, Wilwood took our Z06 Corvette and upgraded the factory front and rear brake calipers and rotors with the Superlite 6 system in the front, and its Superlite 4 brake system at the rear. This upgrade involved unbolting the original floating brake calipers, which allowed the removal of the factory rotors. Like the front, the rear rotors are also a hat design, but fit over a parking brake system that utilizes the inside of the rotor’s hat as a surface for the parking brake shoes.
In either case, the Wilwood rotors and hats need to be assembled and are tightened using a torque wrench to the appropriate inch-pound specified in the Wilwood installation instructions. To mount the billet six-piston calipers Wilwood provides an aluminum caliper mount bracket that attaches to the factory spindles. This solidly mounts the calipers and allows the use of Wilwood’s large 14-inch diameter rotors.
Wilwood’s calipers use the race industry standard 1/8-27 pipe thread fluid inlet; so braided stainless hoses replaced the factory rubber lines. This involved removing the factory hose from the fitting where it’s attached to the hard line leading to the master cylinder. The new brake line is also attached to the back side of the Wilwood billet caliper with fittings that are provided in the kit.
The new rotors and calipers are then mounted onto the Corvette and the brake system is bled to remove all of the old brake fluid, and to ensure that there are no air bubbles in the system. Wilwood used its own high-performance brake fluid, which has a dry boiling point of 626 degrees F, the highest in the industry. The great thing about the fluid is that it only costs around $18 per bottle, a bargain for this level of performance. Think of it as cheap insurance against boiling your fluid at the track or on a canyon road.
Once the brakes on our Corvette were bled, our Boze Alloy ZE Forged wheels were installed with a spacer to provide added clearance between the back of the spoke and the face of the larger caliper. According to Wilwood, however, the Superlite 6 brake system will fit behind the OEM wheels on 2000 and up.