A whopper can be almost anything that is extraordinarily large. "Whopper" is also a common term for a big or outrageous lie. One fast food chain uses that word as the name for their largest calorie-laden cholesterol bomb. For my purposes and at this moment, I think the definition "extraordinarily large" is apropos.
Most rational people would probably consider the Wilwood front and rear "Big Brakes" that were installed on my '00 coupe a few months ago (see "Late Braking News!" in the Oct. '03 issue) way more than adequate. Actually, most rational people would likely deem a C5's stock brakes as offering more-than-sufficient stopping power for street duties - but we're fanatics (the semi-lunatic fringe) and "rational" is an adjective that is rarely used to describe folks like us. More and/or bigger is better-wretched excess is barely adequate. Most of our ilk could certainly understand Tim Allen's fictional alter ego on the sitcom Home Improvement with his trademark, slightly Neanderthal-ish "R-R-R" grunts and his endless quest for "more power!"
Which is exactly why I wasted no time, once the parts were available, in stepping up from merely really big to "Holy (expletive deleted), those suckers are mammoth," 14-inch front mega-brakes for my coupe.
Wilwood's 14-inch Big Brake Front Kit is an outgrowth of their 13-inch, full bolt-on system for C5s. It uses the same billet SL6R (Superlite six-piston radial mount) caliper and is a main component in the 13-inch system. These calipers are CNC-machined with three pistons each on the inner and outer halves of the caliper. The differential bore design for the stainless-steel pistons (the "leading" pair on each half are 1.12 inches in diameter, with a huge 1.62-inch "following" piston) provides better-balanced pad loading than can be had with multi-piston calipers using a single-size bore and piston throughout. And that feature gives much more even wear, which, in turn, extends the service life of the pads and the rotors, and the stainless steel pistons are both highly corrosion resistant and quite effective at dissipating heat. The SL6R calipers' design, with five high-strength steel bridge bolts and replaceable bridge plates, promotes high-clamping efficiency under severe loading without deflection, dampens harmonic vibrations, and eliminates bridge wear-which means you have a caliper that works extremely well while providing a long service life.
The calipers mount to the stock spindles with CNC-machined brackets that are nearly identical (except for spacing the caliper a half-inch farther away from the hub) to those used in the 13-inch kit.
When we refer to a brake setup as "13-inch," "14-inch," or whatever, the overall diameter of the rotor is our point of reference. Thus Wilwood's new 14-inch Front Big Brake Kit sports rotors that have an outside diameter of approximately 14 inches. Like the 13-inch rotors (which actually measure 13.06 inches), the new 14-inchers are assembled with two major components-a zinc-washed (for corrosion resistance on all areas of the rotor that aren't burnished by pad contact) iron rotor and an aluminum alloy "hat." Two different 14-inch rotors are offered-each intended for somewhat different usage. Both feature the same directional vanes for maximum heat dissipation. The SRP, which is what Wilwood installed on my '00 coupe, is directionally drilled and slotted, and it's the more street-oriented of the two systems. The GT rotor, which features an asymmetrical slot pattern and no drilled holes, is recommended for open-track and serious competition driving. In keeping with the different intended uses of the two rotor options, the SRP system comes with Wilwood's "Q" compound PolyMatrix brake pads (for the lowest noise and dust levels from a high-performance compound), while the GT systems come with PolyMatrix "E" compound pads, which feature higher-friction values and an extended-operating temperature range (they can handle a lot more heat) for track usage. In either case, the larger diameter (14-inch versus 13-inch) gives the SL6R calipers improved leverage, which equates to increased stopping power-all else being equal.
To keep unsprung weight minimized with the larger rotors, the diameter of the aluminum rotor-mounting hat is increased by roughly an inch on the 14-inch rotor. The hats still mount over the stock hubs and each is attached to the rotor with a dozen special stainless-steel 12-point bolts.
Just like the 13-incher, the 14-inch systems are true bolt-ons; are fully compatible with the factory master cylinder, front-to-rear proportioning, and ABS (anti-lock); and do not change the track width at all. The 14s also fit onto all '97 and newer C5 hubs and spindles, including the Z06. There is one important difference, other than the "gee-whiz" factor, and that is wheels. The 13-inch systems were carefully engineered to fit within all '00 or newer OEM wheels-Z06 again included-and will also clear the optional N73 Magnesium Wheels. The new 14-inch front system requires that the front wheels be replaced with wheels of at least 18-inches of diameter. Most aftermarket 18s should clear the Wilwood 14-inch system. All of HRE's 540 series in 18-inch diameter will fit with no problems. I would strongly recommend that you check with both Wilwood and your wheel manufacturer of choice before investing many hundreds, even thousands of dollars in a new set of wheels.
Since the 14-inch systems use many of the same components as the 13s, our swap was about as straightforward has could be. We returned to Wilwood's Camarillo (CA) headquarters, where R&D center technician Tony Porto breezed through the conversion. There was no reason to remove the SL6R calipers from the car. Tony unbolted them from the 13-inch mounting brackets; substituted brackets for the 14-inch system; swapped big for even bigger rotors; then bolted the calipers back in place after checking and adjusting the caliper alignment with the new rotors. Then, after dropping in a fresh set of pads, marketing guy Allan Nicholas and I headed out to bed-in the new parts. Holy (expletives deleted)!
The ultimate proof of a part or system's worth is how well it works. Before the 13-inch system was installed, we ran a series of braking tests at our secret test track (a very lightly used and limited access nearby industrial street), using my Tesla G-Tech Pro accelerometer as our measuring device. In stock form, the '00 coupe repeatedly stopped from 60 mph in 122 feet, with traces of brake fade increasing with each stop. After the "old" Wilwoods were installed, and still on the OEM Goodyear Eagle EMTS (run-flats), we returned to "Kimberly International Raceway" and proceeded to knock down a series of stops from 60 mph in 109-111 feet with no trace of fade and no scent of overheated brakes. A few weeks later, with our new and extremely sexy-looking rolling stock in place (grippy 275/35 and 295/35 Yokohama AVS Sports mounted on 18x9.5- and 18x10.5-inch HRE 549s), we made an encore appearance at the same locale. Per the G-Tech Pro, our coupe was on the verge of breaking under the 100-foot barrier with a series of 60-0 stops in the 101-103 foot range-all with perfect control.
Several weeks elapsed before the weather (I wanted to test on a warm and sunny day, like the prior thrash sessions) and my schedule (which included an 11-day, 4,300-mile road trip in the C5-the brakes performed flawlessly!) permitted another round of brake and tire abuse. It was worth the wait. I made three stops heading west, flipped a U-turn, and did three more 60 to 0 stops heading east. The stops weren't quite retina detachers, but I sure gave the inertia reel on the driver-side harness a workout. Here are the results, as I scribbled them down on a note pad that I tucked between my seat and the console: 101 feet, 100 feet, 101 feet, 99 feet, 101 feet, and 98 feet! Wow! And this is on street tires with Wilwood's street compound pads!
In the second paragraph I talked about rational. These brake systems are NOT for rational people, even rational Corvette owners. For those of us who want the best, most powerful, biggest, and can afford the cost of admission (or are fortunate enough to work on a car magazine), well, here's a fantastic set of C5 binders. They work perfectly doing daily-driver/commuter chores, while at the same time, provide track-worthy stopping power. I've racked up approximately 9,000 miles on the '00 coupe since the original big brake system (13-inchers all around) was installed last spring. The rears haven't been touched; we probably put 3,000-3,500 miles on the 13-inch fronts before going completely bonkers with the 14s. These things are incredible-no muss and no fuss for everyday driving, and they have prodigious stopping power (with no discernable fade) when it's wanted. Hell, with the "Q" compound street pads, they're less dusty than the stock brakes!
The only thing I have to worry about is that soccer mom in her Suburban behind me if I ever have to stop fast on the street.