SJF1948

'53 Super Power Brake Conversion

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I am converting my 53 Super to Power assisted front wheel disc and looking for recommendations. Not interested in the factory PB system, but I am considering an under floor booster/pedal set up such as the universal kit supplied by Speedway Motors. For the brakes, I'm also considering the conversion kit supplied by ScareBird. I like the idea of using off the shelf components. There is the possibility that the under dash swing pedal set up with firewall mounted booster may be a better choice???? Watcha think?

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If you are intent on doing this read (and understand) this first.  Just don't use the original master cylinder like Scarebird says you can do.  Any "universal" kit will require more modifications like changing the fulcrum/pedal ratio.

I can help you get the stock system working better than the conversion (but you did not ask for that).

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When I bought my Buick almost two years ago, I had one thing in mind for this car. Keep it as much stock as I could, both in appearance and design, AND make it safe, reliable, comfortable, and fun to drive.

 

I want to be able to get in it, push the accelerator to the floor and have it start as designed. I want to be able to cruise on down the road like folks did back in the day. I expect to change the oil more frequently, do a more frequent and thorough check of fluids and filters than we've grown accustomed to with today's cars. This to me is part of the challenge and attraction to restoring and driving a 66 year old classic.

 

If I am to enjoy driving even on the shortest road trip, (here in the South it tends to get warm, add 95-100% humidity to 95 degree temps, well, you get the picture), A/C is a must. 4/60 is not like it was when I was growing up. Nobody mentioned Heat Indexes back then, I guess we didn't know how hot it was!!!! 

 

And most importantly, safety. I want to be able to stop as efficiently and safely as I can. Yeah I know, a lot of miles were put on cars back in the day, and most of them stopped when needed. I've driven my share of manual drum brakes, but I've come to appreciate the reliability and control of power disc brakes. There are just too many inattentive, distracted drivers on the roads today. So power disc brakes (front for now) is high on the list. I only wish someone would devise a stand alone (no computer required) ABS for the classics.

 

And just so you don't think I'm a lost cause, I'm not totally committed to the conversion, just gathering information. Guess I should have said I am considering converting......

 

All this being said, I do respect your opinion on a properly set up stock manual brake system, and I would definitely be interested in hearing your recommendations. Great link by the way.

 

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Ok, let's get your Super ready for a road trip.

First have the drums checked to see if they are still serviceable and can be turned at least one more time.  Then have your brake  shoes relined (clutch/brake rebuilder) with specified linings:  specify softer, more aggressive material that will stop 2 tons of Buick with the least effort (over-the-counter linings are too hard).  Have the new linings arced to fit specific drums and use a brake caliper to set the initial adjustment with final adjustment after assembled.  Adjust again after a few hundred miles and then as needed. 

Replace all brake hoses and any questionable steel lines.  New wheel cylinders are available at reasonable cost.  Have the master cylinder resleeved and rebuilt.

Clean all traces of old grease from the bearings before repacking.  (modern grease is not compatible with original grease and will liquefy all over your new linings.)

Change the seals in the rear axle and repack the bearings (you don't want leaks to contaminate the new shoes)

Drill a hole in the bottom of the torque tube and tap for a screw so that you can drain or monitor for transmission fluid leaking past the torque ball (which can get into the differential and past the axle seals).  The outer torque ball retainer can be replaced with leak free unit with vulcanized rubber along with the seal for the front of the torque tube.

Have a wheel alignment done:  If it is toe-out you will get all kinds of pulls to right or left during hard braking.

Flush the brake fluid every 2 years and inspect the linings.  You may not have to do anything else for 100,000 miles.

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Good job, Tank!

 

Only I might add that you could swap Roadmaster front brake assemblies, 52-55 for wider drums and shoes.

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All good info! I put in a rebuilt vacuum power booster from a early 50’s Cadillac in my 51 Super and did the shoes and drums as Tank suggested, stops well but I stay off freeways. Another comment on the torque tube: I drilled a hole tapped for a small fitting and put on a clear plastic tube turned vertical so I can monitor the fluid level.

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Forgot about air conditioning for your road trip...

Lots of sources for parts:  under dash or trunk mounted evaporators; condensers; hoses and fittings; compressors....

The last time I checked no one supplies a bracket to mount the compressor on the early nailhead.  But you can adapt any past mount: 55-56 factory ac or aftermarket ac to the available Sanden style compressors.  I'll check with a friend who made a run of 55 factory ac mounts.

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Thanks for the info Tank, I have started doing a teardown/inventory/status/ of my brakes. As you may have figured, I have not put my car on the road yet.

Rear Brakes.... looks like a total rebuild. Drums are definitely over the resurface limit, linings completely worn (2 1/4" wide), cylinders (1" bores) haven't seen liquid in them in a while! So a complete rear overhaul is in the works.

The fronts on the other hand are in good condition. The cylinders are fairly new 

(11/8" bores), new linings (2 1/4" wide), ball bearings, new hoses, steel lines are plugged, will probably need to be replaced.

My questions at this point are:

Since I will be buying new rear drums, would it be worth the money to locate a set of finned drums that would fit, keeping the 2 1/4" wide linings? Any advantage to this?

Would it be worth the money to upgrade to Roadmaster front brakes with 2 1/2" wide linings? I am sure it's more than simply putting wider linings and Roadmaster drums.

Speaking of drums.....  would a replacement be all cast iron or the composite drums I now have. 

By worth the money, I mean would there be an increase in braking performance in these upgrades to justify the added expense?

I definitely will upgrade to roller bearings if possible. I know the Scare Bird kit includes these.

As I was going through the brakes, I realized there are no automatic adjusters. These would be on my list to add if possible. I had a couple of VWs, not a fan of having to adjust brakes every 1000 miles or so!!!!!

If I stay with the drum/drum set up, I will probably upgrade to a dual MC

I do agree that the advantage disc have over drums is their ability to handle multiple hard stops if needed, with much less fade. I will probably never tow anything, but a road trip to the Smokies or the Ozarks may be in the plans. 

As this project continues, I'm sure I'll have at least one or two more questions.....

 

 

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6 hours ago, SJF1948 said:

Speaking of drums.....  would a replacement be all cast iron or the composite drums I now have.

 

The '53 would have had cast iron drums in the front originally, so if you already have the cast aluminum with the iron lining, things have already been modified.  Do you have roller bearings in the current front drums already?  

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To add the bigger Roadmaster brakes, you will need drums, shoes AND backing plates.

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8 hours ago, SJF1948 said:

Thanks for the info Tank, I have started doing a teardown/inventory/status/ of my brakes. As you may have figured, I have not put my car on the road yet.

Rear Brakes.... looks like a total rebuild. Drums are definitely over the resurface limit, linings completely worn (2 1/4" wide), cylinders (1" bores) haven't seen liquid in them in a while! So a complete rear overhaul is in the works.

The fronts on the other hand are in good condition. The cylinders are fairly new 

(11/8" bores), new linings (2 1/4" wide), ball bearings, new hoses, steel lines are plugged, will probably need to be replaced.

My questions at this point are:

Since I will be buying new rear drums, would it be worth the money to locate a set of finned drums that would fit, keeping the 2 1/4" wide linings? Any advantage to this?

Would it be worth the money to upgrade to Roadmaster front brakes with 2 1/2" wide linings? I am sure it's more than simply putting wider linings and Roadmaster drums.

Speaking of drums.....  would a replacement be all cast iron or the composite drums I now have. 

By worth the money, I mean would there be an increase in braking performance in these upgrades to justify the added expense?

I definitely will upgrade to roller bearings if possible. I know the Scare Bird kit includes these.

As I was going through the brakes, I realized there are no automatic adjusters. These would be on my list to add if possible. I had a couple of VWs, not a fan of having to adjust brakes every 1000 miles or so!!!!!

If I stay with the drum/drum set up, I will probably upgrade to a dual MC

I do agree that the advantage disc have over drums is their ability to handle multiple hard stops if needed, with much less fade. I will probably never tow anything, but a road trip to the Smokies or the Ozarks may be in the plans. 

As this project continues, I'm sure I'll have at least one or two more questions.....

 

 

Measure the drums before discounting.

Finned drums while a nice upgrade, opens another can of worms.

Roller bearings?  Only if you convert to disc brakes...no substitutes for the ball bearings which are available and very serviceable.

My 55 has the same brakes as yours.  After the initial break-in, I only need to adjust every 10,000 miles.

Dual MC? the theory is that if one circuit fails the other will still stop the car...but don't count on it:  a friend with a 2001 F250 lost the fluid to the rear brakes and had no brakes at all!

I drive mine all over the passes in the Rockies.  I could induce brake fade if I had my head "up and jammed", but if you drive smart (Low range, stab brakes to haul it down only as needed), there is no problem.

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21 hours ago, old-tank said:

Dual MC? the theory is that if one circuit fails the other will still stop the car...but don't count on it:

 

You might get some slowing action due to the dual master cylinder, but if you felt the need for disc brakes for multiple panic spots your driving style might defeat that theory.

 

I get tech questions on 1991 to 1996 Buick Roadmasters, average 1-2 per month. Those car come with discs, dual master cylinders, and ainti-lock brakes. When the front to rear line blows you will loose the brakes, if not completely, they will seep down rapidly.

 

Since many of these cars are becoming long term collector cars owners should know there is a steel plug in the anti-lock unit that can rust through because of water in the stagnant brake fluid behind the plug. On my daughter's car that plug blew and immediately lost all braking capability. That is a hard one to inspect or prepare for. The pits in the plug occur on the fluid side. Maybe periodic flushing and a gentle tapping of the plug with an awl, but you need to know the plug was good to start with. This would apply to most anti-lock systems.

 

One other point on a recently acquired car, if one flushes the system and adjusts the brakes as a "new to me" service they could shift the riding surface of the wheel cylinder rubber cups so they ride on a different location on the bore. That could be a pitted area that allows leakage and in a couple of days you will find the shoes wet with fluid. Wouldn't be the first time.

 

Bernie

 

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This spring I performed a complete stock rebuild on my '51 Super's brakes including new front and rear axle seals, EXACTLY like Old Tank suggested above. Instead of rebuilding my master cylinder, I installed a repro one from CARs inc. in NJ.

 

She stops great. I see no need to "upgrade" anything. I just keep an eye on all components and drive defensively, like riding a motorcycle.

 

After reading Old Tank's  post I do intend to drill and install a fitting this winter to monitor any tranny fluid leaking though. That sounds like a clever idea.

 

Good luck.

 

 

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60flattop:    Adjusting style of driving is only the minor problem..    Where I drive,  “it’s the out of state”  “tourist drivers”  that will get you.     I’m stuck living in this area because frau wants to live here.    Family close by and hospitals also.   Getting old sucks.    I’ve tried to keep a ‘reasonable’  spacing to give me ‘time’ to slow down and stop.    Today,   I was going in the middle lane,  on a 6 lane divided highway (only way to get anywhere) and watched a red pickup suddenly darted  from the left fast land  crossing all lanes,  all the way to an off ramp because he wanted to get off right now.   Needless to say,  several cars had to dodge him by changing lanes quickly.   A typical day in Florida with the snow birds getting here in full force.    So I keep my brakes in the best way I can for the traffic.   

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What shoe materials are you talking about - being ‘soft’ and aggressive.    Love to know the manufacturer so I can keep my brakes it best stopping condition.    Brakes are cheep compared to broken cars and broken body - mine in particular.......

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