Corvette C1 Drum Brakes - Power To The Pedal

How To Make Significant Improvements To Drum Brakes

Tony Kelly Feb 1, 2004 0 Comment(s)
Vemp_0402_01_z Corvette_c1_drum_brakes Rolling_into_abs_shop 1/8

Just rolling your car into the ABS shop is an experience. The building covers about a half-acre, and it has been around for many years. It's all redwood framed and as solid as anything made of concrete. (Termites don't like redwood or concrete.) ABS does lots of custom installations. The day we were there a '60 Pontiac, a '61 Buick, and several old trucks were having their brake systems upgraded.

Call me a dinosaur, or say that I have my head in the sand, but I keep finding ways to make drum brakes work better than original. Sure, I could just jump right up and convert to discs-which is a great way to go-but there are alternatives, and they make our solid-axle Corvettes better each time we add something new. For those of you who share my desire to keep the outside as close to stock-looking as possible, but who have concerns about the drivability and safety of original components, I have to say there are many suppliers who are providing equipment for just that purpose. In street rodding, this is known as a "resto rod," although that term often includes discs and some very mild body modifications. Of course with street rods, the brakes and axles nearly always have to be changed from the original. With solid-axle Vettes, at least the drivetrain and suspension can be rebuilt and will usually support any moderate horsepower increases.

I've done some upgrades to the drums and shoes, but the pedal pressure was still what you get in mid-'50s-to-early-'60s Chevys of all styles. It takes some getting used to after daily-driving a car with power assist, and it can fool some people. I don't know if there have been any wrecks from that, but it can sure be scary! One of our earlier upgrades was to install a dual-master cylinder, which is good for peace of mind. Now, I've found a power-brake unit that mounts easily with all the clearance needed for the hood, headers, and coolant tank-and it even leaves space to change plugs. It's from ABS Power Brake, Inc., in Orange, California. They put their units together for the application needed, including cars with "smoothed" firewalls. For those cars, the power booster and master cylinder is often hidden behind a false panel in the trunk. My Corvette didn't need to go that far, but it does feature a bracket with a "bell-crank" arrangement that sets the vacuum diaphragm down low enough to clear the hood. It also allows for a wide variety of pedal travel. The entire installation can be accomplished in a few short hours, but it feels like a whole different car-and a better one-when it's done.

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