Back in our October 2006 issue on page 103, we did a tech story on how to slow down a 16-ton '68 Bel Air wagon. And just like Tennessee Ernie Ford sang, "16 tons and whaddya get, another day older and deeper in debt." Now when it comes to the getting older part, there is nothing we can do about that, but deeper in debt? Now that is something we can control by using what has been touted as the "poor man's disc brakes."
Master Power Brakes, to be specific, has an advertised 11-inch inch pre-assembled rear drum setup that will fit GM 10- and 12-bolt rear ends. Discs they are not, but poor men we are, and these are an affordable alternative upgrade. Before we get started there are a few loose ends to tie up, namely wheels and tires.
If you read part one of this story, you may remember us installing the Performance Online disc brakes in the front of this war wagon in our humble residential driveway. After the said install, the stock sized wheels were just not going to fit over those new disc brake calipers so off we went looking for wheels and tires that would not only fit the bill but look as good as they worked.
I suspect that I'm like many car guys and have always liked the classic looks of wheels from the muscle car era. No carved aluminum circular saw blade looking wheels for this car. We choose the ever popular and timeless looks of the Cragar SS 5-spoke wheel. Only this time around things are just a bit different. The Cragar SS is now available in sizes larger than 15 inches. We had to test fit a set of 17x8 wheels on the front of the wagon, but when the steering was turned from lock to lock, there was between a 1/4 to 1/2-inch of clearance from the edge of the tire to the fender lip, and that was just a bit too close for comfort, so we chose to use the 17x7s on all four corners of the car.
When it came time to shoehorn some rubber around those wheels, we chose to use the popular and sticky Nitto 555 Extreme ZR tire. Nitto Tires (pronounced neat-O), especially the 555 series, has a very loyal following. We checked a number of customer review Web sites where the average Joe writes in and leaves a review of their experience with the tires. Every review that we read was overwhelmingly on the positive side. We also used them with great success on our '71 Goodmark Camaro project so we were confident that these performance tires were right for us. We ordered four 245/45ZR17s. Now that we have all necessary parts, let's finish off this wagon shall we?