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Keep Your Rear In Line

Bolt-In For First-And Second-Generation Cars

By Mike Bumbeck

Despite the volumes written about the legendary prowess of '60s musclecars, the words always seem to gloss over some serious engineering shortcomings of the era. Brake packages were often, in a word, terrifying. One good shot was the most you got, if you were lucky. After that, it was white-knuckle time when it came to stopping in a hurry--and that was with a powerplant kicking out factory horsepower. Brake fade was the name of the game. Add a cam, some carb, headers, and exhaust, and stopping becomes even more elusive. While drum brakes are great for stopping lumbering buses and dump trucks, they're no good for gas-huffing musclecars.

The good news is that it's never been easier to upgrade your '60s- or '70s-era GM musclecar to a disc brake package. Stepping up to serious stopping power with disc brakes on all four corners is as easy as picking up the phone, calling Stainless Steel Brakes and Classic Tube, opening the boxes, and spending an afternoon under the car spinning wrenches. While upgrading the front brakes is usually a simple matter of a spindle swap, working out back requires removal of the rear axles in order to get down far enough to remove the drum-backing plates. The perfect time to upgrade is when you have to service the bearings, axles, or rear gears. It might be a good time to switch when you've pulled that brake drum off and find that gear oil has glazed your brake shoes like a day-old donut.

Upgrading or reconfiguring any stock braking system requires a methodical system approach, and attention to detail. Bolting up a brake kit, without taking into account the condition of the entire system from master cylinder to bleed screw, may be the last mistake you ever make. Spanking new calipers and rotors won't help if connected to ancient brake lines, spent fluid, and a spongy master cylinder. When upgrading to discs on the corners, don't forget to inspect and replace lines if required. Adding an adjustable proportioning valve while the hydraulic system is apart is also a good idea, and will allow for tuning of the front to rear braking ratio after everything is buttoned up. A life absent of unexpected sideways braking is always a good thing.

By Mike Bumbeck
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