If You Want Your Classic Muscle Car To Stop As Well As It Accelerates, Do A Four-Wheel Disc Brake Conversion

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A lot of muscle car enthusiasts are only concerned with modifying their engines. The roar of an old school carbureted V8 is intoxicating, and the sensation of being pinned to the back of your seat when you floor the accelerator is addicting. That makes it easy to forget about an equally important aspect of your classic car's performance: the brake system.

Many classic cars were equipped with four-wheel drum brakes. However, by the height of the muscle car era, a lot of manufacturers began installing front disc brakes on their sporty models due to the numerous performance benefits. Nevertheless, the disc brakes they used back then leave much to be desired when compared to modern systems. Furthermore, if you want your classic car to deliver truly modern performance, you should convert the rear brakes to discs as well.

Drum Brakes: Heat Is the Enemy

Drum brakes use a round metal drum with the brake shoes enclosed inside. The drum rotates along with the wheel. When you press the brake pedal, brake fluid forces the shoes to press against the inside of the drum. That creates friction and forces your car to slow down. The problem is that friction generates a lot of heat. All of that heat builds up inside the enclosed drum and causes your braking performance to fade during heavy use, such a during bouts of spirited driving.

Disc Brakes: Ventilation Is Key

Disc brakes work in a similar way, except the braking components aren't enclosed. The exposed brake disc rotates along with the wheel, and a caliper is attached to the edge of each disc. When you press the brakes, brake fluid forces the pads within the caliper to press against the disc and slow down your car.

The benefit is that the entire disc is exposed to the open air. All of the heat generated from the friction of the pads against the disc is ventilated out of the wheel, which keeps your brakes from overheating and improves performance. Even if your muscle car has front-wheel disc brakes, you've probably noticed your braking performance degrades when you're being heavy on the pedal, such as when you're driving spiritedly on twisty roads. Swapping out your rear drums for discs will help eliminate brake fade and give you more stopping power.

Performance Disc Brakes

It's also a good idea to swap out your front disc brakes for a modern set of performance brakes. Performance disc brakes feature larger discs that further help with heat dissipation. They also feature larger calipers and brake pads to generate more friction and give you more stopping power. Additionally, a lot of performance brake systems feature multi-piston calipers instead of the single-piston setup found on most classic cars. That means their are multiple pistons within each caliper that press the caliper against the disc whenever you hit the brake pedal, which gives you more stopping power and increased pedal feedback.

Your big American V8 engine is no doubt the heart and soul of your muscle car. Nevertheless, your brake system is equally important if you want well-rounded performance out of your classic ride.

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