Braking systems have long been ignored as a mandatory performance upgrade. The visual impact of cross-drilled rotors and racy looking multi-piston calipers looks great and stops even the heaviest of heavyweight cars, but the price tag is often out of the typical "street cruiser" budget. Welcome to the new century, where everyone is trading in their huge rear tires and skinny front pizza cutters for 18-inch wheels and racy brakes (heck, even Popular Hot Rodding's Project X is being retrofitted to stop and handle!) So, how can we do this without shelling out big bucks and spending hours trying to retrofit our old Chevy with modern components?
Classic Performance Products (CPP) of Buena Park, California, has come to the rescue with disc brake conversion kits for everything from early Chevy trucks to 70's era musclecars. One of the big advantages of the CPP kits is that most of the major components are OEM parts. The kits are designed to be a bolt-on installation, so even the average backyard mechanic with normal hand tools can complete the upgrade in about a day. The kit includes rear disc brake calipers with a built in emergency brake (OEM parts for '80-85 Cadillac Sevilles); 11-inch vented rotors, laser-cut caliper mounting brackets, rubber brake hoses, and all necessary mounting hardware. To complete the installation in style, CPP offers cross-drilling and gas-slotting of the rotors, emergency brake cables, and custom-bent hard brake lines.
Since all four corners of our Chevy will now be "modern," it was a given to update the master cylinder and the brake booster. CPP offers a custom master cylinder/booster combo that's available in 7-, 8-, and 9-inch diameters (an 8-inch dual- diaphragm master cylinder is also available from CPP). Along with offering a variety of sizes, CPP engineered the booster to mount close to the firewall for improved valve cover clearance. The proper brake pedal ratio is incorporated into the design so the full travel of the master cylinder is used, resulting in a higher, firmer brake pedal. The complete kit includes your choice of booster size, Corvette master cylinder, and proportioning valve. To prove how easy the installation is, Chris Basset installed the rear brake kit and booster in his storage garage with basic hand tools.
Chris wanted his classic '62 Bel-Air wagon to stop without having the annoying side-to-side pull usually associated with drum brakes, so he had already installed the front disc kit before we began our rear installation. After all of the CPP parts arrived, Chris quickly went to workupgrading his wagon. The installation was fairly straightforward. Follow along to see just how easy it is to get vastly improved braking on your classic.