Automotive Restoration for beginners
By Phil Storr


If the vehicle is over 20 or 30 years old and has not had a brake rebuild, it would be advisable to replace the brake rubber parts and hoses, you do not want to run into the back of a bus when the brakes fail soon after you finish the project. If in doubt have an expert inspect the brake system components.

If you are restoring vehicles with drum brakes you may find the drums are worn out and need replacement. Finding new or usable second hand ones may be difficult, but you can always have new ones cast by a foundry. If you are restoring a sixties or seventies car, many of these had disk brakes available as an option and it may be easier to find these at the wreckers.

Cars that were built before the Second World War were made for traffic conditions that were very different to those of today and it may be advisable to improve the braking systems if possible. For example, I have a 1936 Dodge tucked away in my garage and if I ever get around to doing it up I will fit a modern single or perhaps a dual circuit master cylinder and power boosters.

The very large hydraulic drum brakes on this vehicle require a lot larger Cylinder Displacement than modern cars and so the difficulty is finding suitable master cylinders and boosters that can shift that amount of fluid. The old Dodge requires almost 2 cubic inches of fluid displacement to apply the brakes when the brake shoes have been freshly adjusted. As the brake shoes ware out thi figure gets larger quickly. By consulting the folks at PBR I have found light truck brake components that would do the job nicely and the "old Girl" would be a delight to drive in modern traffic.

Cars with mechanical brakes sometimes had power assisted braking available as an option and it may be advisable to look for this option if restoring heavy older vehicles with mechanical brakes. Although modifications to the brake system mean the vehicle is no longer original I feel it is better to still have the vehicle on the road in use that to leave it in the shed because it is undriveable or worse, crashing it in traffic.

It is surprising how universal brake components can be. One trick we use with seventies Alfa Romeos when preparing them for serious competition is to fit four-spot calipers from Volvo or BMW vehicles. These can be fitted without much modification, and if very serious, changing the solid disk rotors for ventilated ones.

Whatever you do with the brake systems, make sure to have an expert check it to see it is safe.

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Written by Phil. Storr, last updated 8th September 2000