There is but one thing more important than horsepower and that is good brakes. Chevrolet did a good job of dialing in the Corvette’s factory PBR disc brakes, which have been very effective. However, braking performance is right up there with the power of internal combustion. It’s important. When you pin the butterflies for a blast through a canyon pass or open stretch of interstate highway there’s no other feeling quite like it. But in the end it’s nice to know there’s a way to bring your C5 to a safe stop when the fun is over.
The one thing Corvette buffs always have their eye on is improvement, with brakes being no exception. As the fifth-generation Corvette crest the age of 20, we’ve learned that a lot has changed when it comes to braking technology and friction materials. You can improve the original PBR disc brakes with new slotted and cross-drilled rotors, better pads, rebuild the factory calipers and replace the brake hoses. Or you can forget about all of that and opt for better binders from Wilwood.
If you’re going to spend the time and expense of a C5 Vette brake overhaul, why waste good money on dated PBR calipers and discs when Wilwood has a simple bolt-on solution that yields better braking? Begin first with Wilwood’s GT 48 Curved Vane Spec-37 12.78-inch rotors in front, which are manufactured from a proprietary iron alloy developed to withstand extreme temperatures with the highest possible degree of resistance against distortion, warping, cracking and wear. These guys bolt right in place of your Vette’s original vented rotors and do the job a whole lot better.
What makes these rotors better is the high-tech alloy. The formulation for this alloy is a derivative of technology and materials that were significant in the development of the extreme duty military-spec rotors manufactured by Wilwood. When you combine this alloy with Wilwood’s proven GT Series asymmetrical face slot pattern and individual dynamic spin balancing, you get smooth, vibration free performance at any speed. These Spec-37 rotors deliver increased cooling capacity and long service life for extreme braking situations, such as those found on short tracks and road course competition. They were born for the duties of a Corvette.
The best rotors are of no value without competition-grade calipers. We’ve opted for the four-piston SLC56 front calipers from Wilwood, which were developed as a high-performance street and custom replacement specifically for Corvettes. These cool, lightweight calipers deliver high-tech styling and provide a positive response and balanced pad loading, which is remarkable for a four-piston caliper. Wilwood’s SLC56 is a direct bolt-on replacement for the original equipment calipers on all 1997-’04 C5 models and 2005-’13 base-model C6s using 12.80-inch diameter front rotors. These calipers bolt directly to the Corvette spindle without the need for brackets or adapters and accept all types of factory-style banjo bolt-style brake hoses.
Wilwood’s DPC56 rear calipers for the C5 and C6 Corvette are engineered as a high-performance street and custom replacement. DPC56 calipers are a direct bolt-on replacement for the original PBR calipers. Like the front SLC56 calipers, the DPC56 bolts right onto the C5/C6 underpinnings without modifications or brackets.
Another nice thing about these Wilwood bolt-on replacements is availability. You can get them right now from Wilwood. No waiting for stock to come in for the PBRs. And, with Wilwood you get a better brake—period.
When you have completed your Wilwood disc brake install, consider the installation of stainless steel braided brake hoses and a high-performance master cylinder to round out the installation. Stainless braided brake hoses give you a hard pedal and crisp performance.
01. The C5/C6’s 12.80-inch PBRs were terrific brakes for their time. It’s time to move forward with high-tech four-piston Wilwoods, which will give our 1999 C5 better braking performance that’s just right for the Corvette’s natural habitat: the road course. Calipers and rotors come off. The calipers should be saved for restorations to come out there. Rotors go in the scrap metal bin.
02. The beauty of the Wilwood brake is installation. Rotors and calipers bolt right onto the factory spindles. No brackets. No special modifications. Check the hub and bearings for wear and tear. If in doubt, replace them.
03. Wilwood’s Spec-37 slotted rotors are not drilled as you might expect. They are slotted for frictional outgassing and heat dissipation, but not drilled, which can weaken a rotor. These rotors are side-specific. Pay attention to the arrows, which indicate rotor direction.
04. Spec-37 rotors bolt to these big brake hats from Wilwood. Use a high-temp thread locker and even safety wire for paramount safety out there. Torque these bolts to Wilwood specifications in a crisscross fashion. Do this in one-third values, then, double-check.
05. Mounting these rotors is a cake walk. They slip right onto the hubs as shown. Before installing the calipers and pads, wipe the rotors down with brake cleaner to remove any debris, including skin oil.
06. Wilwood SLC56 and DPC56 four-piston calipers are better than those old PBRs ever were. For one thing, the Wilwood calipers are lighter and certainly stronger.
07. The Wilwood SLC56 and DPC56 calipers offer ease of maintenance. You can change brake pads in minutes by removing the pin for access.
08. Calipers slip into place with ease. Use a thread locker and torque these bolts to Wilwood specifications.
Wilwood has been involved in all types of motorsports for decades. Few brake manufacturers know more about brake technology than Wilwood. This includes more than just hands-on experience from Wilwood’s design and development engineers. This goes way outside of development labs and manufacturing. The Wilwood engineering team includes manufacturing specialists, field trained technical applications people, and a broad structured network of professional car builders, parts distributors, crew chiefs, and race teams. This involvement and expertise have played an integral role in the development and production of Wilwood high-performance brake pads.
As a result, Wilwood has developed an extensive information base that has fostered development of the world’s greatest line of high-performance disc brake products. We’re talking hard facts and data, not casual observation and opinion. Extensive research has found neither a single pad compound or compound type can effectively satisfy all drivers in all conditions. Pads must be chosen based on the type of driving you intend to do most of the time. In order to meet the requirements of such a broad range of racing and sport driving applications, Wilwood has developed a highly diversified selection of compounds and pads. Selection provides incremental changes in friction values, temperature operating range, as well as other characteristics, that are capable of satisfying the stopping requirements of nearly any motorsport application.
Confusion abounds when it comes to brake pad selection. Enthusiasts want to know which brake pad to use. Wilwood tells Vette there are six basic types of brake frictions, which can be found in its website. Examine the six different types and determine which type is best for your application. Talk with Wilwood’s technical staff if you get stumped.
9. The rear brakes are set up the same basic way as the fronts. Before you is 1990’s technology in the Corvette’s PBR disc brakes. Wilwood is going to show us how to do it better.
10. The rear brake calipers and brackets are easy to remove.
11. The C5’s rear rotors, sized at 11.80 inches, get these Wilwood Spec-37 rotors. They can take the heat of a twisty canyon road or road course competition.
12. Rotor fitment is easy and without adapters or modifications.
13. Wilwood’s Spec-37 rotors and DPC56 calipers along with hand-picked frictions make your C5 Corvette better than it has ever been with performance designed to match that powerful LS1.
14. As with the front brakes, consult with Wilwood’s tech staff on the correct friction pad material for your particular driving style. Remember, you cannot have it all when it comes to brake pads. There’s no one pad that will accommodate the daily commute and the race course. Buy brake pads for the kind of driving you will do most of the time.
15. You have a choice of two colors for your Wilwood caliper brake conversion: red or black. Red for when you want it to “pop” through wheel spokes and black for a more subtle approach. In either case, you get the respected Wilwood name.
16. Regardless of the type of driving you’re going to do most of the time, opt for Wilwood’s 600 Plus Super Hi-Temp Racing Brake Fluid. It keeps you prepared for when the heat gets on. And keep in mind, it is better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. You want a brake fluid that will not boil at high brake temperatures.
Photography by Steven Rupp