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Brake conversion question...


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OK..... things are progressing nicely on my '64 Electra convertible.

The dual 4 barrel 425 is purring nicely and now I would like to tackle the braking system. I am NOT a fan of drum brakes and I am wondering if anyone has converted one of these beasts to discs brakes. I would like to go discs front and rear but will settle for fronts if I have to.

I had no problem doing it with my '65 Shelby Cobra but this is a little different.

What do I have to do and what parts are required?

Any info will be appreciated.


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With the correct lining, drum brakes used to have NO problem locking wheels up as a normal matter of course, with enough pedal pressure being applied. It might be a little harder to lock 'em down with more modern tires, but the capabilities are still there.

Every time I got into my '70 Skylark after driving my '77 power-disc-braked vehicle, I had to be careful to NOT "eat steering wheel", even just moving it in the driveway. Nothing fancy on the Skylark, just normal Power Drum Brakes of that era.

The main capabilities and advantages of disc brakes are for higher-speed stops where fade resistance can be good to have . . . think a fast car at the end of a 1/4 mile dragstrip, with a short shut-down area before you have to make the turn to the return road . . . of a long mountain highway descent.

In normal driving, drum brakes will work fine, just watch for "wheel lockup" issues. As they take less line pressure to work, they might work better with the HO425 you have. Plus, to me, drum brakes have a nice HARD pedal feel, unlike almost every disc brake vehicle I've driven that has a slightly spongey pedal feel. To me, the more consistent pedal feel of drum brakes would make them easier to modulate in a tricky situation. We drove with them for decades, even when the speed limits were well over 70mph as a matter of course . . . road racers had segmented metallic linings for those uses, too. The 1961 Chevy Impala SS had metallic brakes on them from the factory, but drag racers replaced them with normal organic linings as they couldn't hold the car on the starting line with the production brakes--the metallics needed to be heated up to work.

In the earlier times, there were great drum brake linings and there were highly mediocre linings, just as there are for disc brake pads now. Only thing about drum brakes, just as with disc brake rotors, they have specified limits of when they must be replaced. In the end, it might be easier to find disc brake rotors than drums in the future.

IF you're going to end up with a disc brake setup on the front (not sure if there's an adapter plate to mount the caliper mounting bracket to the Buick rear axle you have), you'll need to do a dual-cylinder master cylinder anyway (plus a proportioning valve), so doing that upgrade (even with drum brakes) will give you the necessary plumbing to do the disc brake deal later on.

The other thing is that the closer you can stay to a production-stock configuration, the better chances there are of things working as they should AND a later owner being able to find parts should they need them.

Your car . . . Your money . . . Your dreams . . .



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Thanks for the input guys.

I guess I have some desicions to make. Scarebird can get me the brackets I need to convert all four wheels to disc brakes for a reasonable price. of course once that is done then I still need to buy calipers, rotors, master cyllinder, park brake cables etc.

I am looking at two things. The first is that I can certainly find the parts to bring it back to stock form....... now. But what about 5 years down the road?

Secondly, I can't help but think that if drums were so good, why are all (not even just high performance) vehicles going with disc?

I am not to worried about a subsequent owner, my dad bought this new and (or nearly new) and gave it to me when his health prohibited him from completing a restoration on it. I have always loved this car. I grew up in it. It is one year older than me! So, I am bringing it to a state that it is comfortable and safe to drive and look good.

Then I am giving it back to my dad. It won't be leaving the family.

This car was almost trashed twice because of carbs flooding and the car catching fire. My dad brought it back to life both times. The only reason he parked it about 30 years ago is because it was starting to get a little rough around the edges. Over the years of sitting it got worse. He did manage to renew the engine and transmission with a good start on redoing the body. But, in the meantime it got pushed out of the shop, a dog tried to jump up on the roof and went through, then it snowed and rained for about 10 years.

I think you get the idea of what kind of shape it was in when I got it.

Even the motor with only 20 miles on it, was stuck. I tore it down. replaced gaskets, cleaned rust and gunk from all the cylinders and unstuck the valves.

My next step is replacing sheet metal, upholstery and a top and finally new paint.

And then give it back to him for his 65th birthday in september.

After all my story I guess I just wanted to give the car some extra safety and bling factor...... kind of a Foose thing ;-)

Thanks for reading,

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