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Brake Upgrades for Classic Cars & Restomods

posted Feb 25, 2019, 6:59 AM by Blog Admin   [ updated Feb 26, 2019, 10:24 AM ]

Brake Upgrades for Classic Cars & Restomods are one of the more common upgrades we (PRO-SPEED) perform on a regular basis.  There is good reason for this... brakes on old cars are terrible!  Back in the 1960s and 70s, muscle cars were meant to go fast in a straight line. Drag racing was very popular and racing culture drove (pardon the pun) the design of many vehicles back then.  Unfortunately, little regard was given to simple safety items - like the ability to stop safely!  There are many ways to upgrade the brakes on classic cars and musclecars which we'll go into in this blog article.

Wilwood Rear Disc Brakes
For starters, many 60s and early 70s cars had drum brakes, front and rear. Some had them only on the rear.  Drum brakes are not all that bad, and many cars and trucks still have them on the rear. They don't work that well on the front of most vehicles though.  They do grab pretty well the first or second time brakes are applied, but they are very susceptible to brake-fade (loss of grip due to overheating).  They also tend to go out of adjustment often which can cause the brakes to pull left or right when they are on the front.  Disc brakes on the front of older cars are a far superior solution as they self adjust as they wear, they don't generally fade and the clamping force is much higher that that of drum brakes.  Upgrading to disc brakes on the rear of most cars is also a nice upgrade but is not as large of boost as swapping front drums for discs.  Rear brakes only tend to do about 20-25% of vehicle braking.


When looking at disc brake upgrades, there are many options and they vary by the car.  Some classic cars had disc brake available as an
Wilwood Front Disc Brakes
option or were standard on higher end performance base models.  When this is the case, there are usually complete stock style disc brake kits that can be purchased for a reasonable price.  Some cars never came with them, this is where you need to look into other aftermarket options.  Wilwood, SSBC, CPP, Baer and many others make kits for the most popular musclecars out there.  Wilwood for instance offers a full line of disc brake conversion kits which come in multiple levels of performance.  Pay attention to rotor and caliper size, larger brakes do stop better but as they get bigger, you need to check and be sure they'll fit inside your wheels.  A lot of the kits we install, we wind up doing a wheel upgrade as well because the client wants the most stopping power they can get. There are many systems that will fit inside of 14 and 15 inch wheels though.  Rear disc brake conversions are popular now too. Not only do they add stopping power but they looks great on a car with open style wheels.  Rear wheel drive musclecars getting a disc brake upgrade must have the rear axles removed to install the brake mounting brackets, so plan on doing axle seals and possibly bearings while there. 

Brake Hydra Boost

Master Cylinders & Power Boosters - You will almost always need to replace the master cylinder when doing a disc brake conversion to accommodate for the change in bias.  An adjustable proportioning valve is highly recommended as well to fine tune the amount of brake bias applied to front versus rear. This needs to be plumbed in to the brake hard lines and is usually no simple task for DIYers.  Some kits will come complete with everything you need, including a master cylinder and power brake booster (if converting to power brakes), some don't.  Adding a power booster to your new disc brake conversion is highly recommended.  Standard brake boosters use engine vacuum to provide the boost to the brake system.  These typically work fine for most street cars with stock engines. When you get into oversized engines with not much room under the hood -- or engines built with big camshafts that don't make much vacuum, you'll need to consider other options.  If there is a low vacuum situation, this can sometimes be cured using a vacuum pump and reserve tank.  If other cases, consider the ultimate power booster, the Hydra-Boost.  Hydra-Boost taps into power steering pump hydraulics to provide brake boost and they work extremely well.  These boosters were originally invented for diesel trucks because those engines don't make any vacuum.  Hydra-Boost has become a very popular option for hot-rodders over the part several years and we really love the results you get from them.


Master Cyl with Vacuum Booster
When you are planning to upgrade your classic car or musclecar, one of the most important things to consider is upgrading the braking 
system.  This is a key essential when building any restomod.  As stated, there are several options to accomplish this.  Disc brake conversions are available for the front and rear, stock style and performance options, or add power brakes using vacuum or hydra boosters.  You should not skimp on cost when it comes to an effective brake upgrade and you should seriously consider having this work done by a professional shop that is experienced with brake conversions on older cars. It's not the same as brake jobs on modern vehicles and it's not DIY friendly.  In terms of importance, it's right up there with suspension upgrades and improvements, if you can't stop the car safely, nothing else really matters.  Consider the population of vehicles on the roads these days (especially in Northern Virginia), do you really want to be driving a high-powered muscle car that can't stop effectively in an urgent situation?

Restomods - What are they and how are they different from Restorations?

posted Jan 4, 2019, 7:38 PM by Blog Admin

Restomods - if you're an enthusiast of classic cars and hot rods, it's a term you've likely heard thrown around a lot.  The most simple definition is a classic car or truck restored and modified to include modern technology. The purpose is for the vehicle to be faster, more reliable, handle better, stop better, be safer, have modern conveniences - you know, all those things you want that muscle car to have but didn't come with from the factory back in the 60s or 70s.  The dream for many hot rod enthusiasts is to own the perfect "driver", the classic car that has the look and sound of an old-school muscle car but drives, stops and handles more like a modern car.  It's difficult to achieve that with older technology.

Think of it like renovating an old house, if you are going to trouble of reviving an old car, do you really want to outfit it with old technology? Would you put old fashioned single pane windows in your old house?  How about an old computer, would you rebuild one and put the same amount of memory and hard disk space in it as when it was new?  Nope.  Unless you're seriously concerned about preserving the originality of an older car, there is almost no reason not to upgrade an old drum brake system to power disc brakes - or add a few modern conveniences (cup holders and phone chargers anyone?)  Of course there are always exceptions where it doesn't make sense to go restomod - such as rare models or collectible cars that are worth more preserved in their original gear.

mustang fastback restomod - pro-speed
Restomod upgrades for classic cars come in all shapes and sizes. It could be simple things like upgrading the stereo with a retro looking unit that has bluetooth phone and streaming music features or simply switching out the old worn lap seat belts for a set of three point shoulder belts (a very common job for us).  Other popular options to consider are drum to disc brake upgrades, manual to power brake upgrades, air conditioning systems, power steering upgrades, suspension upgrades, engine and transmission upgrades, interior enhancements, heat and sound deadening upgrades, LED lighting upgrades, instrument panel upgrades and wheel and tire upgrades.

Other more advanced upgrades can involve swapping to a more modern engine or transmission.  Some of today's muscle car engines make much more power than those from the old days and they do it more reliably and more cleanly (less emissions and less oil leaks.)  A transmission swap could mean changing from a manual to automatic (or vice versa) or adding overdrive in the form of extra gears for much better highway cruising and fuel mileage.  Chassis stiffening using frame connectors and torque boxes definitely make an older car feel safer and more modern.  Swapping out carburetors for Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) is a popular enhancement to bring cold and hot start up reliability, consistent idle quality and improved throttle response to your older ride.

Wilwood Rear Disc Brake Upgrade
For those worried about originality and maintaining the vehicle's value, there are a few simple answers.  If you have the storage space, keep the original parts that come off the car. For example, if you have a collectible car with an manual transmission but you drive it a lot and really wanted an automatic, go for it. Just hang on to the old transmission in case you ever need to sell the car or have it appraised. Same goes for original engines, axles, brakes, carburetors, etc.  The other thing to consider is that the values of Restomods is at an all time high and climbing according to publicly available auction data.  

Consider this, restoring a 1968 Camaro with a six cylinder back to factory spec could cost you four or five times what the car is worth, but dropping an LS or Small Block (V8) engine with a modern transmission, suspension and brakes in the car and now you have a ride that is worth something a lot closer to what you have to spend to get it there.  And you now have a car that is much safer and more enjoyable to drive - a win win!

No matter how you plan to restore or upgrade your classic car or hot rod, it's important consider upgrades and improvements. Call it a restomod, call it upgraded, either way it's best to consider all of the aforementioned options during the process.  The best feeling in the world is to drive a very nicely enhanced and restored classic car that is safer, more powerful, better handling and has more modern features that the days of that car's past.  Feel free to reach out to us and discuss any of these options and the best way to get there with your classic car or restoration project.
EFI Fuel Injection Upgrade


PRO-SPEED builds, services, upgrades and restores the hot rods and classic cars of your dreams.

Please visit the PRO-SPEED Autoworks Website & Facebook Page to learn more & check out some of the Restomod projects currently underway.  

Contact us today about your restomod project - info@prospeedautoworks.com - 571.250.5908

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