JonPHG

1959 Manual Brake Conversion

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Hello form merry old England...........

 

I have a '59 with manual brakes......the convertible........

I hear a lot about conversion to dual circuit and also adding a booster.

 

But have never actually seen definitive details of what people have done.

Either manual dual circuit or dual circuit with a booster.

 

Please does anyone have details of a real actual conversion they have done?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

 

Thanks

Jon

 

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I just did a full brake job on a 60' Electra and bought a rebuilt powerbooster on exchange.  Ran Napa master and wheel cylinders and rear shoes, new lines/hoses.   They didn't list fronts so I had them relined.  The brakes are fantastic.  

 

5 years ago I restored a 59' Cadillac 75 series limo.  Same master cylinder/booster as the Buick had.  I replaced the single master cylinder and booster with a newer combination with dual reservoirs from Ebay.  Owner insisted on dual reservior.   I had to re-drill the firewall for the new booster pattern.  Not a hard job.   Brakes weren't very good.  I had to fuss with them and add residual valves in the front.  They have a lot further stroke than the original and it was hard to keep them from hitting the floor.  Those cars from the factory only have a couple inches of pedal stroke before it his the floor and these kits need more.  I made them workable but I would refuse to do it next time.  Supposably the mc was sized to the wheel cylinders.  I don't remember the sizing.  

 

Just do a complete system with new lines/rubber hoses/wheel cylinders/mc/booster and have a properly working emergency cable and don't look back.  Most of the aftermarket stuff is just there to seperate you from your money and is junk half the time.  

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I rebuilt the power brake system on my '60 Electra about 6 years ago, maybe 7. The booster was rebuilt, new hoses, wheel cylinders, and shoes relined. Every couple of years you need to flush the dark brake fluid out until clear comes through.

The last of the wheel cylinders and hardware for my '64 Riviera brake job should be in this week. Same thing, all original configuration.

 

If your non-power '59 brakes don't feel right they probably need service. The car never would have left the showroom with poor braking and a Buick price tag.

 

I have seen these modified "car builders" in magazine pictures and on TV. Sorry, but appearance and body language still matter to me. If I was sitting in a diner and one of them came in I would ask the waitress for a menu; I wouldn't just say "Give me what he's having".

 

The last post makes good, predicable, points.

 

Bernie

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I did miss the manual part at first.  Shouldn't be hard to do a conversion.   Power booster and maybe the firewall plate is different between the two.   This car as well as the Caddy had vacumm tanks, not sure if they do on standard brake cars.

 

I'd rebuild what you have and go from there.  I'm with Bernie that the factory wouldn't sell a Buick is the brakes sucked from the factory.  

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Thanks for the replies guys.

 

You're right the current brakes work okay as far as they go.

Issues are they are manual and require quite some effort to stop the car.

My good lady finds this disconcerting when she is used to driving a modern car most of the time.

Second, and I know this does tend to be contentious with restoration guys, they are single circuit and this isn't as safe as dual circuit.

 

Grey car has power brakes, '59 is a one year booster design, sits under the floor and is nothing like a regular booster unit.

The pedal set up is different from manual brakes and the boosters are hard to get and rebuild, especially from the UK.

So changing to that design is not really a good option and the effort wouldn't solve the single circuit issue for me either.

 

Thanks again guys.

I'll keep investigating and thinking about it.

 

FYI

I have talked to Master Power Brakes, and they don't have a standard conversion because of the '59 single year design issue.

They do for '60 onwards.

For my '59 they recommended a complete new custom pedal assembly, 8" booster and 1-1/8" Corvette dual master cylinder.

Means quite big firewall and mounting modifications for the pedal assembly......not really liking that.

 

Thanks again gents, I will keep thinking and investigating..

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by JonPHG (see edit history)

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They ran single master cylinders for over 50 years and you don't hear all the "remember when" stories of what death traps they were.   You just keep up on the system and have a proper emergency brake.  

 

I hope you have better luck with that crap than I did.  I lost a lot of money on that job getting the brakes to actually work and lock up.  I know the mc size was 1" or 1 1/8" and the booster was around 8".  I think a lot of those companies size everything on theory and it doesn't always translate into your particular pedal angles and such.  

 

I have a 59' GMC that put "swing pedals" in with a modern booster and master cylinder running 4 wheel discs.  Worse brakes I've ever driven.  This kit was supposedly the bomb.  It was a bomb all right.  I tried 3 different 2stage boosters and two different master cylinders and the brakes still suck.  It's my shop truck so I have where they work and almost/barely will the lock the brakes up.  I had to keep raising the pedal off the floor until it's an awkward step up onto the brakes.   It's on the list for a hydroboost system if I ever get around to it.  

 

That might be the only way I added power to your 60' is with a hydroboost setup.  More power out of less travel.  That is what your fighting.  

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35 minutes ago, Janousek said:

You just keep up on the system and have a proper emergency brake.  

 

Agreeing with Janousek on the working parking brake.  I have had the unfortunate experience of a broken brake line in vehicles with dual reservoir MC's.  The panic moment is when the pedal travels past the point it used to stop at.  By then you only have a few fractions of a second to apply the parking brake for a controlled stop.  I have no reason to question Janousek's experience.  So whatever you do, make sure you have enough room for the pedal to travel far enough to benefit from the dual reservoir concept.  In the two instances I've experienced, on cars built with the systems at the factory,  the brake pedal ultimately sank right to the rugs.  The two times I experienced it in a vehicle with a single reservoir I knew to go right to the parking brake. All equally scary.  Luckily, no crashes.  

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How old is the brake shoe lining material on the manual brake car? I have found old lining material loses its gripping power when it gets old, hard, and glazed. Or the last major brake service?

 

I have read all the write ups about dual master cylinders and disc conversions. I had not even thought about adding power brakes. But I think it would be a band aid to some maintenance problem. If anyone is just doing normal driving and feels insecure about the braking action, something less than re-engineering is needed.

 

Bernie

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Thanks again for the comments gentlemen.

 

Indeed I dragged the car out of a barn about 18 months ago.

The brakes were locked up and the master cylinder lid was so seized that it broke trying to get it undone.

So I gave the brakes a full service and changed the master cylinder for a newly rebuilt one that I got from a supplier in the USA.

 

I didn't change the shoes as they were almost new in terms of lining thickness and not at all contaminated with oil or brake fluid.

I gave them a clean and reused them.

As you say indeed the fully maintained and serviced brakes work fine

As well as can be expected for a 60 year old car with manual brakes.

What I am trying to achieve is an increased level of safety along with improved feel from the brakes so my wife feels more confident driving the car.

 

Here's a thing........... I did have that elusive, never heard of brake failure.....the new master cylinder failed after 30 miles of use.

Driving into town the pedal started to feel strange and then went to the floor.

Luckily I was going slowly and with use of the parking / emergency brake I drove to a parking lot without incident.

 

When I stripped the master cylinder I found the main seal ripped to pieces...... 

Looks like on polishing the bore the rebuilder created a sharp edge on the fluid port and this ripped the seal.

So I junked the entire thing and rebuilt the original myself with a set of seals from Cars Inc. and it works 100% fine.

 

I fully agree with the comments that there are a lot of poor conversions out there.

For successful changes and upgrades we need to understand the relationship between pedal ratio, pedal movement, the subjective thing we call feel and the pressure / volume characteristics of braking systems.

 

I will keep investigating and let you know where I get to, what decision I come to, and if I do make any changes what they are and how they work out.

 

Thanks again for your comments gents.

 

 

 

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