Since Project C4orce debuted in our April issue, we have been scouring the e-mails and snail-mail letters, and evaluating the suggestions and questions they contained. There's nothing like a survey, even an informal one, to drive home the point that opinions are like certain portions of the anatomy-everyone has one.
Some were good, and others were so far out in left field they were in a different stadium. Still others demonstrated that some people always miss the point, and after bouncing off the walls, land on their heads, and go off in search of another turnip truck. After weeding out those diatribes, we used the Olympic scoring method to evaluate the remaining responses-disregard the best and the worst, and rate what's left. That process provided us with a much better idea of the direction most readers will take in building their own C4orce-style project.
As might be expected, horsepower was at the top of most people's list. But a surprisingly high number of letters and e-mails also addressed brake-upgrade options. Although C4 brakes played to rave reviews in the mid-'80s, significant improvements have been made in the intervening years. When faced with the prospect and expense of a complete brake-system overhaul, the best option may be to upgrade rather than simply rebuild. Since the goal of Project C4orce is to build a high-performance, street-driven vehicle, not a four-wheel missile capable of redefining the ultimate limits of tire adhesion, the car doesn't need calipers with more pistons than the engine or rotors as large as serving platters.
Consequently, the best choice was the CX C4 upgrade package offered by Vette Brakes and Products (VBP). Included in this package are C5 front dual-piston calipers and mounting brackets, 13-inch-diameter Sport Rotors, C4 rear calipers, 11 1/2-inch Sport Rotors, braided-stainless hoses, and Hawk HPS high-performance brake pads for front and rear. If you whip out your handy calculator and add up the individual costs of all the parts included in the package, the bill comes to $1,591, but the package cost is $1,399.95. That's only about $100 ore than the combined cost of standard replacement C4 brake components.
Obviously, replacement of all brake-system components won't be a requirement on some C4s, in which case less expensive options are viable. We chose the complete package because of our car's relatively high mileage and the condition of the brake-system components. If your C4 has led a more pampered life than ours, you might only need to install new pads and have the rotors surfaced. If the calipers are serviceable, but the rotors have been to the brake lathe too many times, VBP's Sport Brake upgrade kit is an option. It includes four sport rotors, front and rear Hawk HPS brake pads, braided-stainless hoses, and two containers of super-duty brake fluid-all for $499.95 with standard front rotors or $679.95 with 13-inch front rotors. Of course, if you don't have a tight-fisted editor to worry about, there are plenty of options at the other end of the price spectrum.
Installation of CX package brake components was just as easy as doing a direct replacement of the original components. The supplied brackets make installation of the front calipers a bolt-on proposition, so the ability to operate hand wrenches without adult supervision and a knack for determining the appropriate direction to turn those wrenches are the only requirements for installation. After all the new parts are in place, the hydraulic portion of the system will have to be flushed, refilled, and bled. If installing the brake hardware proved to be a challenging experience, you're well advised to seek professional assistance when you tackle the hydraulic system.
Keep in mind, conventional brake fluid has an affinity for moisture and "wet" brake fluid has a much lower boiling point than it did when it was fresh out of the can. Switching to silicone fluid eliminates moisture-intrusion issues, but the hydraulic system has to be completely free of any conventional brake fluid, or you may step on the brake pedal one day and find that no one's home. (You haven't lived until you've redone a brake system, filled it with silicone fluid, and didn't find out that it wasn't cleaned sufficiently until you attempted to rapidly slow down from an unreasonably high speed.)
Rather than spending hours cleaning the master cylinder, you're better off using a high-quality DOT 4 brake fluid, which has higher dry and wet boiling points than DOT 3 fluid. Be sure to use fluid from unopened (or recently opened and tightly resealed containers) to minimize the possibility of the fluid having absorbed moisture before it even enters the master cylinder.
While the brake system upgrade was in process, we began shopping for new wheels and tires, and wound up at the Tire Rack's web site. After reviewing all the choices, we chose a set of Sport Edition V6 wheels and Dunlop Sport 9000 tires. We'll have more details about the wheel/tire combination in a subsequent issue.