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Jeff_Miller

1936 Special master cylinder blasphemy or good upgrade?

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I have rebuilt my master cylinder twice already and I just found that it is leaking once again. Obviously I'm doing something wrong and/or it may be beyond a simple honing and rebuild kit.

Instead of trying again I think it is time to have a professional look at it and possibly do something like line it with a sleeve. I'm unclear what the costs of this might be but I suspect it would likely be close to the $200 that places like Kanter charge. Doing this should restore the single jar setup of the car and allow it to stop as well as any 70 year old car with manual brakes.

But now the blasphemy vs. good upgrade question. For less than $200 it appears that I can get a power assist dual master cylinder brake assembly that has already been modified such that it is a "bolt in" assembly for my car. After riding in a single jar car that blew a rear brake line and left us waiting for the ride to end I really like the idea of having a dual master. The idea of being able to stop with a little more confidence is also appealing.

Does anybody have any experience with these types of bolt ins? Any constructive concerns that I should be aware of?

Jeff

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I took it apart (again and I sure wish I had a lift) and now I remember the sins of the past that I uncovered earlier. Sometime long before I purchased the car the master cylinder had already had a brass sleeve inserted in it. The sleeve still looks good except for a few small scratches near the push rod end that are so minimal that it is difficult to feel them even running a finger nail across them. The rebuild parts that I put in are in excellent shape so I didn't obviously mess them up when I put them in.

So why the heck is it leaking again??? I wonder if the brass might be out of round, wore oddly, or that perhaps the rebuild kit doesn't match up as close as it should. The fit of the cups and plunger certainly seem tight enough and are likely closer tolerance than the wheel cylinders that I rebuilt and that don't leak.

Jeff

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Any scratch is bad news, depending on where it is. If it extends far enough in that it might go past the rear cup, it will leak

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Jeff,

Any brass alloy is going to be MUCH softer than cast iron. That's just the way it is.

Back in the old days and even up to the 50's-60's era cars with drum brakes, the shops would hone the wheel cylinders and master cylinder, as part of a full brake job. When I worked at Bear in Moline, Ill., we never ever considered sleeving a master cylinder with brass. Would not know where to get one. When they got bad enough that a "kit" would not seal them up, we sold the customer a new cast iron one.

I am very interested in the dual jug set up you are considering. Will it be power or just a 2 jug res adapted for manual ? Will you separate the front and rear wheels ? Will there be a proportioning valve ? And the BIG question is, will it work on the 80-90 series cars ?

I'll stay tuned........

Mike in Colorado

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Hi,

I have successfully used brakeplace.com in Minneapolis, MN. They have done several cylinders for me in stainless steel.

I also have been in a car when the single cylinder brakes failed. It is, to say the least, uncomfortable. Authenticity takes second place to safety, and judging rules agree. So let me add that for my never-ending and seemingly never-progressing 1937 Cord project, I bit the bullet and bought a dual-system master cylinder and proportioning valve from Jegs.com. I sent the Cord's wheel cylinder specs to the Jegs tech guys and they promptly sent back their recommended part numbers and pricing: postage being free(!) from Jegs. I had a clone support bracket fabbed up locally to accommodate the new 2-mounting-hole cylinder, and it was all a simple bolt-in application. I still have to route new brake lines, using Ni-Copp brake line (nice stuff to work with), but that is part of the restoration work anyway.

Total cost in dollars for the change: $340.00, including the bracket. Cost in time: maybe 1/2 hour extra. Value in peace of mind: Priceless!

post-62522-143142330321_thumb.jpg

--Tom

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Edited by trp3141592 (see edit history)

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Hi,

Additional info:

1. I too wish I had a lift.

2. It defeats the purpose to install a dual master cylinder if you don't separate the front and rear wheels. Front and rear brake lines need to be independent of each other. You can tap into each of them at the block where the existing lines separate or at some perhaps more convenient location. On my Cord all the brake lines are all being replaced, so I have a lot of freedom in my application.

3. The Cord will receive remote and much more accessible reservoirs for brake fluid so that I can easily flush the DOT3 fluid each spring. I bought oilers/reservoirs at McMaster.com and will mount them to the firewall with tubing down to modified brake cylinder caps. Not authentic, but I don't care.

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4. I don't know if a proportioning valve is really necessary, but the tech guys at Jegs recommended one, so I bought it and will install it. They have more expertise in brake system design, and more importantly, brake alteration, than I do. The proportioning valve actually cost more than the dual master cylinder!

5. I don't know what modern dual cylinder, if any, will "bolt-in" in place of the existing original cylinder on your car. Many of the modern cylinders offered by Jegs have side-mounting holes that may match what your car has. The critical alignment is the push rod aligning to the center of the new MC. On the Cord, the bracket that I had fabbed up matched the original dimensions which kept everything lined up so I do not have to do any work on the brake and clutch levers and attachments. In any event, you still have to run the front brakes to one outlet in your new MC and the rears to the other.

6. This spring I will investigate upgrading my 37 Roadmonster to a dual system.

7. If you are in this hobby and do not have a friendly relationship with a fab/welding shop, start one! You NEED these people.

--Tom

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I would be real interested in the service and maintenance on the car that had the single master cylinder failure.

How old were the hoses?

Were all the hydraulic lines steel?

Had the brakes been inspected within 12 months?

When the repair was facilitated were the wheel cylinders full on redish brown mud?

How old were the linings?

Had new shoes been recently installed without deeper service of the system?

Although I am in favor of safety, I believe some level of engineering is involved in these modifications. Will the retrofit use adapters to fit 1/4" tubing to the model master cylinder?

Do I have full confidence that a collection of "safe" parts will provide a safe system?

When it comes down to who will engineer the brakes on this car, I'll pick General Motors as the engineer of choice every time.

Batavia1.JPG

Strictly on engineering credibility alone.

Bernie

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Hi,

Your '60 Buick is absolutely beautiful. Congratulations on having a gorgeous car.

The failure experience that I had was in a 1957 Studebaker Hawk. Improper brake line service prior to my ownership led to the LR steel brake line being severed by bottoming out on a bump. Using the parking brake, I stopped without damage or injury, but it was unnerving. Had there been a dual system and a brake line failure, I would have had brakes sufficient to effect safer stopping.

General Motors certainly has engineering experience, but lack of proper maintenance, such as was the case of my Hawk, certainly can de-rail the best of designs. To me, the redundancy of a properly engineered dual system just makes sense. The DOT agrees, of course, as by government mandate, all GM (and others) cars in the US are now, and for a long time have been, fitted with dual systems.

As for engineering credibility, remember that GM put the deadly Kelsey-Hayes power brake units in their 1953 Buicks. Right now 1.5 million GM cars are being recalled in China for safety issues. And there's the small matter of the Corvair...

--Tom

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Quote --- "As for engineering credibility, remember that GM put the deadly Kelsey-Hayes power brake units in their 1953 Buicks. Right now 1.5 million GM cars are being recalled in China for safety issues. And there's the small matter of the Corvair...

--Tom "

Tom,

There was nothing wrong with my Corvairs -

only the bad press inflicted by Nader's lies and fabrications !!

As with my many Buicks, my many Corvair were excellent cars.

Please don't "DIS" a good product simply because of "old wives tales and mis-information"

Edited by Marty Roth (see edit history)

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Hi Marty,

Auto historians and engineers will argue and debate the Corvair safety issue for the next 100 years, as they have for the last 50. I won't.

However, there is not much room for debate concerning the desirability of a redundant dual brake system, and that's my point. Had my Hawk been so designed, I would have had less white hairs so early in my life.

--Tom

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I'll try to catch up with comments from all the above.

The car I was riding in that had failed brakes was definitely an issue of maintenance and no, it was not my car. That said, even maintaining my car I was disappointed to find that the master had leaked twice and a wheel cylinder was weeping after I initially redid all the brakes. None of that should cause an immediate catastrophic failure but left unattended or possibly whilst in the middle of a very long drive I could see that such leaks would eventually compromise the braking system with air leaking in. As such, having a dual is really an attractive notion. Checking the reservoir on this car is not an easy thing to do so inspection after every drive is not practical, and if necessary, would likely mean I should relegate the car to a trailer and short parades instead of a driver and I'm not willing to do that.

Looking around for rebuilt master cylinders I see brass is actually used in most of the ones I've located. I suspect that the very small lines are indeed where the weeping is coming from but I'm somewhat surprised as they are much less significant than some of the stuff I found when I honed my wheel cylinders and they were holding. Tom, thanks for the tip on brakeplace.com; I'll have to look into them.

As for a dual master I would be happy to have either a manual or a power setup. I have not been able to locate a manual dual master cylinder that I thought could be easily adapted to my car but given Tom's experience with JEGs I'll have to give them a call. The dual setup I found was for a 7" power unit that comes with either a single or dual diaphragm. I believe the single would be sufficient for my car; the dual seems to be something that is needed when disk brakes are involved. The seller hasn't provided very many specifics but my research seems to indicate these types of units require 16 inches or pressure to work and the Buick manual says the car is set to deliver 18 to 20 at idle so I think this would work. Unfortunately, the more I look at the power dual master cylinder the more it looks like it won't work. I think it is really setup for a rodder that replaces the drive train with something that has an automatic transmission in it as I really don't see how the current clutch would mount. I have email into the seller and hopefully I'll get more specifics about the unit. I'll be glad to pass on the good/bad news when I get it.

I do understand that I would need to separate the front lines from the rears and of course the junction on the frame just in back of the current master cylinder is where that would happen. I was thinking I might be able to use the existing junction block for the front brakes by removing the single rear line and plugging that hole. I would then extend the rear brake line to the other output of a dual master cylinder. I wondered about proportioning valves and I decided that since there wasn't one in the car originally that I'd go without if I stick with the manual brakes. However, if I happen to get a power system I'll likely add proportioning valves if for no reason other than to help tune the system. A rodder buddy of mine put power brakes in his 1938 Ford panel delivery and with all the extra vacuum from the built engine and no valves that thing became incredibly twitchy and prone to lockups.

Thanks for all the comments.

Jeff

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In my opinion, the fact that the front and rear wheel cylinders are of different diameters already gives the correct degree of proportioning. GM understood the need for proportioning and engineered it into the system that way. Remember, they were originally fed by a single 1" or 1-1/8" master cylinder and they worked fine - for an old car. If you feed the original wheel separately, you should be fine.

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Hi,

"In my opinion, the fact that the front and rear wheel cylinders are of different diameters already gives the correct degree of proportioning."

I agree, and I have considered this. The differing diameters from front to back are intended to do the needed proportioning. The Cord's Lockheed/Wagner brakes are problematic at best, so I decided to install the proportioning valve anyway so I could fine tune the front/rear braking loads if needed. It is easier to install it now while the car is totally disassembled than to do it later.

--Tom

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I did a dual conversion on my 63 stude hawk, and a 65 Tbird. I will probably do it on my Buick, the PO went completley went through the brakes and converted to Dot5, so I feel somewhat safe for a while. Single masters scare the hell out of me.

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And there's the small matter of the Corvair...

What was the small matter? I have owned 35 + Corvairs and the only problem I had was people following me around waiting for it to flip.

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Well, you can certainly make a good case for retrofitting to a dual system for peace of mind, although I don't really know if you are really decreasing your chances of a major problem or not by doing this. I had a 1966 Fairlane while I was in college the first time, and it had a single master (with a cheesy screw-on top!) and I never had a single issue with it over 100k miles. But like Bernie said, I did maintain the hell out of it by frequent inspection and rebuilding the wheel cylinders as necessary, carefully checking hoses, adjusting the brakes every 5k miles (I removed the autoadjusters), repacking the wheel bearings and new seals every 10k miles, and a full system bleed/fluid replace about once a year - it was nice to have all of that energy back then!

Frankly what worries me more on my 1940 is the rather economical amount of brake lining and drum widths on my heavy car.

Cheers, Dave

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I just did a satellite look at Rockville, Md. Just head northeast when you go for a ride and you should be fine.

As I remember, my '39 Special 4 doors only weighed in at 3600 pounds or so. That really didn't become a "big" car until the 1980's when all the other stuff shrunk. Buick always touted the best brakes in the industry. Don't forget that top pivot pin makes them self energizing. It will spot well if the linings aren't ancient and there is not red mud in the wheel cylinder.

Oh, I just noticed your BCA member number. Are the same shoes still on the car that were on it when you joined the BCA?

Bernie

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Bernie:

Hahahahaha, yeah...I was 19 when I joined the BCA! Looong time ago! Yeah, it's pretty flat as long as you go East! Let's see, curb weight of my Beast (or, as my wife affectionately calls it, The Money Pit) is about 3900 lbs so not much more than your '38. Actually, the front brakes on mine are essentially new, as are most of the components forward of the drag link. I pulled a front drum last summer and was totally amazed...you could dine off of the backing plate...better than the brakes on my old '66 Fairlane ever looked.

post-87161-143142343328_thumb.jpg

As you can see...

Cheers, Dave

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I did a dual MC upgrade to my '37 Special. It needed the entire brake system so I figured I'd go with the upgrade. The X member wouldn't allow me to mount a dual MC in the stock location so I moved it to the other side of the X member. I used a MC for a late '60, early '70 Buick Skylark. It had the same sized bore as the '37 MC. I made a new mounting plate and had to modify the brake pedal arm and made a longer push rod. The modern two reservoir MCs do not have residual valve built in so I had to install two in line, one for the front, one for the back. Residual valves are needed to maintain a slight pressure on the brakes, without them the brake fluid will bleed back into the MC. When you mount a modern MC in the below floor position, when the MC is level or below the brakes, you need the valves.

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A beautiful beast indeed !!!

Rolled of the assembly line at about the same time that I did. :) :)

I think I will ultimately go to a dual master. I've been in a car when a single master failed. Not fun !!

I'm happy to sacrifice a little loss of originality for the safety benefits. Seat belts will also be going into my '39.

Batavia1.JPG

Strictly on engineering credibility alone.

Bernie

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<!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG/> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--> Originality is not my absolute goal, although deviations from originality can reduce the value of a collector car in some instances. My reason for retaining and repairing the original equipment is based on the specific engineering that went into the original design of the car.

My single piston cylinder was designed after many miles of the Interstate Highway System had been built. These highways were designed for 80 to 100 MPH traffic. Engineering is a licensed profession and within a decade of my car being built the US put a man on the moon. Engineering was well developed at that time.

My car has ¼” brake lines. Dual master cylinders have either 3/16” or metric ball fitting connections. How will these smaller diameter pipes and fittings work with my ¼” wheel cylinders? What adapters or transitions are appropriate? Will displacement of the of the rubber cups be affected. Does the tension of the spring between the cups make a difference? “It should work.” From the parts counter guy or “gee, it worked on mine.” just isn’t a compelling argument to throw out the factory design. I notice the list of avoided risks generally relate to unattended maintenance issues.

I have 45 years of working for a living “fixing stuff”. My greatest successes have entailed removing the “improvements” and restoring, buildings, systems, and equipment back to their original design.

So, a couple of months ago my wife and I jumped in the car on a spur of the moment thought, drove half way across the state and had lunch with her sister and her husband. Somewhere in the last 25 miles of the 200 mile round trip my wife said “ You know, it’s pretty good to just get in a car this old and take a ride this long.” She’s catching on.

Bernie<!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:TrackMoves/> <w:TrackFormatting/> <w:PunctuationKerning/> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas/> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:DoNotPromoteQF/> <w:LidThemeOther>EN-US</w:LidThemeOther> <w:LidThemeAsian>X-NONE</w:LidThemeAsian> <w:LidThemeComplexScript>X-NONE</w:LidThemeComplexScript> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables/> <w:SnapToGridInCell/> <w:WrapTextWithPunct/> <w:UseAsianBreakRules/> <w:DontGrowAutofit/> <w:SplitPgBreakAndParaMark/> <w:EnableOpenTypeKerning/> <w:DontFlipMirrorIndents/> <w:OverrideTableStyleHps/> </w:Compatibility> <m:mathPr> <m:mathFont m:val="Cambria Math"/> <m:brkBin m:val="before"/> <m:brkBinSub m:val="--"/> <m:smallFrac m:val="off"/> <m:dispDef/> <m:lMargin m:val="0"/> <m:rMargin m:val="0"/> <m:defJc m:val="centerGroup"/> <m:wrapIndent 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Edited by 60FlatTop (see edit history)

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I cannot argue the merits of your choice in modifying a good original design if it makes you feel better. I just can't justify doing it to my all-original 1937 Roadmaster Phaeton with excellent brakes, steering, and handling. When we prepped the big Buick prior to touring, we did rebuild )or replace with NOS and new kits) all of the wheel cylinders and the master cylinder (problem resolved thanks to this FORUM). We also replaced all piping and flex hoses with new, high-quality parts as good maintenance, and we generally use DOT-4 which is less hygroscopic than DOT-3 in all of our cars (but did use DOT-5 in the '58 and'63 Chevys).

They worked fine when the engineers designed them. They worked well, even when prior owners didn't give them the love and care we now give them. It sounds like the Stude had problems which NO car should have had, due to neglect or poor workmanship.

I respect your choice to modify your car for your own desire, but that being said, it doesn't make the original design unsafe.

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Marty,

When you did your '37, did you hone the wheel cylinders or replace them ?

How about the MC, hone the origional, insert, or replace ?

Just curious, as I am considering this as my "spring" project.

Fall was our annual pan cleaning and oil pump bottom plate sanding party.

It's always something.................

Mike in Colorado

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Mike,

We found NOS wheel cylinders, but ran a light hone just to polish the inner bore, and then used a kit with new rubber.

You may remember the effort and the long thread which followed the multiple rebuilds of our master cylinder because the outermost washer which retains the rod was backward, and each reassembly duplicated the disassembly until I finally did the work myself and found the problem. It was honed prior to the first of the rebuilds, but was in excellent condition.

Remember that this was a NYC Parade Car from 1937 until the 1950s, and then spent years in two collections before I got it. It is still basically an original car.

good luck with the spring project.

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How did you get the washer backwards? The pedal end of my pushrod has the receiving end of the adjustable screw mechanism pressed onto the rod rather securely and I'm not sure I could get it off without considerable force. I don't think that is what happened to mine but now you have me thinking.

Jeff

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