Brakes are important. In daily use, your C6's brakes are quite effective in preventing you from wrapping your prized Corvette around a telephone pole or wadding it up against some wanker's minivan. But when put to more demanding use, the stock brakes aren't quite up to the task. And for those who show their cars, even the most gorgeous wheels will suffer from a supporting cast of crusty calipers and rotors.
While any putz can slap a big-brake kit on a car, we wanted to see what could be done to maximize the performance of the stock braking system while dressing it for show duty. Several companies offer upgraded rotors for base-level C6s, but there are surprisingly few choices for Z51-equipped cars. After much searching, we finally came across Disc Brake Australia (DBA), which offers rotors for base, Z51, and Z06 C6s.
DBA has been building stock-replacement and upgraded brake rotors for more than 30 years. The company's high-performance units utilize the patented "Kangaroo Paw" ventilation system. With traditional designs, heat is removed as air flows through the rotor, passing between straight or curved cooling vanes. Due to their limited surface area, these configurations are not ideal for heat dissipation. DBA's Kangaroo Paw rotor design features 144 precisely positioned diamond and teardrop pillars in lieu of traditional vanes.
In addition to improved strength, the pillars also create a more efficient brake-cooling system by increasing the rotor's surface area. They also provide greater strength across the rotor and reduce the tendency for disc distortion. More-efficient cooling improves brake pad and rotor life, and helps reduce brake fade. Finally, the DBA rotors are supplied as specific left- and right-side parts, unlike the factory Z51 jobs
For the rear of our street-driven C6, DBA recommended its 4000-series rotors. Available in cross-drilled or the slightly more durable wiper-slot version, the 4000 series is a great choice for street or track applications. As with all DBA performance rotors, they feature Thermo-Graphic paint markings to facilitate effective heat monitoring.
Up front, DBA recommended a pair of 5000-series rotors. The company calls them the "ultimate braking solution for the car enthusiast looking for race-quality performance in a product that is easily mistaken for a quality piece of modern art." That might be overstating it just a tad, but these rotors are seriously impressive pieces. It's a shame they're mostly hidden behind the wheels.
Every DBA 5000-series rotor is manufactured from a combination of the finest quality cast iron and aircraft-grade aluminum. The lightweight 6061-T6 aluminum mounting centers shed heat far more efficiently in heavy braking situations than do traditional all-iron rotors.
The final touch involves aircraft-grade stainless steel NAS bolts to complete the union between the disc and mounting center. We selected the slotted SL/SR configuration for maximum performance, but the 5000-series is also available in a cross-drilled-and-slotted XS version for performance with a little extra style.
Though it doesn't offer any performance enhancement, color-matching the factory calipers to your car's paint (or painting them a contrasting shade) is an easy and affordable way to make your Corvette really stand out.
With modern powdercoating techniques, virtually any color can be attained, including metallics. Mike Golding, proprietor of ThePowdercoater .com, says that most powders used for decorative coating are manufacturer rated for 250-to-300-degree (F) operating temperatures. "In my experience, unless you're a hard-core road racer who spends a lot of time at the track and you really use your brakes, the powdercoat will hold up just fine. I do high-performance driving schools with my car, and the powdercoat holds up better than paint."
And these calipers do look as though they've been painted. Our subject car's owner selected Daytona Sunset Orange Metallic calipers to flow with the flames airbrushed on the car's body panels. The calipers looked like jewelry out of the box and have held up perfectly to heavy use.
Lines and Pads
Our friends at Zip Products hooked us up with a set of their stock-replacement braided stainless steel brake lines. These have been a popular upgrade with Corvette owners for more years than we can count.
Zip also recommended a set of Carbo-tech Bobcat 1521 high-performance street-compound brake pads. According to Carbotech, "The Bobcat compound is known for its awesome release and modulation, along with unmatched rotor friendliness. Like our AX and XP line of compounds, Bobcat 1521 is a ceramic-based friction material offering minimal rotor damage and non-corrosive dust."
The key to the Bobcat pads' outstanding performance is the compound's virtually perfect linear torque production, which provides incredible braking force without ABS intervention. Its ideal operating temperature ranges from ambient to 900 degrees, making it a great pad for the street or autocross, where there's seldom time to get any heat into the brakes prior to needing them at the peak of their powers. (Carbotech does not recommend this compound for track use, however.)
Follow along as we show you how easy it is to upgrade your C6's brakes. Allow yourself a few hours for the job, and be sure to follow the bed-in procedure provided with the pads.