Jim Shaw

1957 Thunderbird Brakes

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I recently squired a 1957 Ford Thunderbird. I love it but the brakes are terrible. It just had drum brakes. Has anyone had this problem? Would you recommend putting on Disc brakes or power brakes? 

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Brakes should not be "terrible" even on a Ford. They may not be up to modern standards but should work well enough for all practical purposes. It might pay to go over them and make sure everything is working correctly, and the shoes are arced to the drums and adjusted right. If you want modern brake performance discs with power boost are the way to go. To answer your next question, I don't know who makes such a conversion and I don't know how to solve all the problems it will bring.

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Right, get the stock brakes working first. Typical car has had DOT 3 brake fluid in it since it was new, and never flushed except when repairs were made. So, the system is full of corrosion, sticking the wheel cylinder cups. I say typical, as who except a car guy reading these forums would have ever flushed a brake  system on a scheduled basis?😉

 

I had friends with 57 T'Birds and stock brakes. They all stopped well. Well is described as 1957 technology and roads. Do not expect to  stop like a modern car with anti-lock disc brakes. Just do not drive like you need to stop like a modern car and you will be fine with a working stock brake system.

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Imagine a guy handing over $3,000 in 1957 money and driving out of the dealership with his new Thunderbird with "terrible" brakes. That didn't happen.

 

It is hard to find a good mechanic to rebuild your brake system, and it is a system. But you can go just about anywhere and find someone to completely re-engineer the whole thing......kinda.

 

Step 1: peel the edge of the wheel cylinder boot back a little and see how much mud is in there.

Bernie

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Why would power assist change the braking capability?  It requires less pedal pressure but does not increase the braking area, tendency to fade, etc.

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Well, I think the key word (number) is 1957. Has anything been done to the brake system since '57. I would start with a complete evaluation of your present system. I'm sure a complete rebuild with new shoes, springs, cylinders and drums will make a world of difference if nothing has been done. If you have rebuilt your brakes and it's still hard to stop that's another story.

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Complete rebuild should cost about the same as two bumpers, yours and the other guys.

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1957 brakes will skid the tires, that is 1957 skinny bias ply tires. More modern tires may require better brakes for maximum stopping with radial tires. I agree, the stock 1957 brakes are fine within sensible limits. If it was mine I would not think of changing them, I would get them working right. But, there are a lot of people who insist on disc brakes and won't settle for anything else. Disc brakes are not self energizing. They require more force than drum brakes, and apparently this guy has a problem with the drum brakes. That is why I suggest discs + power boost. You may not like modified cars but better tires and brakes are the easiest to justify on safety grounds.

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I recently had occasion to look for (new) drums for a 57 full size Ford car.

NONE AVAILABLE !!!

So, if T-birds are the same, good luck.

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Jack, have you tried a company called Master Power Brakes, www.mpbrakes.com for new drums. They had drums for a '58, I was working on.

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I have 57 T Bird my Dad bought new now with 25000 miles. The brakes work fine and are manual. Dad converted the fluid to silicon over  20 years ago and no issues. I advise is to rebuild the whole brake system and put in Dot 5. I have two other cars a 70 Vette(10 years ago)and a 66 Impala(2 years ago) I have done this to and no issues.

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That T-bird should have the factory Midland brake booster that works properly for good brakes.

55 Ford Truck Rebuild BrakesMidland T Bird 55-57.JPG

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I had a horrible braking issue. If you applied more than a little pressure, the car veered sharply to the right. I was able to get exsisting parts serviced and it brakes fine now. I’d have to dig out the repair paperwork, but something about some warping that was grinded down. Bottom line, find someone who can service what you have. I have a ‘57 Skyliner. 

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