Upgrading drum brakes on a 1966 Mustang

A simple upgrade that brings comfort, confidence and safety to an early Mustang

Story Nic Conley - May 11, 2011 09:00 AM

Image1 The customer was complaining of having to stand on the pedal to slow the ’Stang down, and this is why: Big, bulky drum brakes with no power assist.
Image2 After removing the drum and hub assembly, disconnect the tie rod from the spindle and remove the four bolts holding the backing plate to the spindle.
Image3 Since we were this far, we went forward by replacing the control arms and shocks. After cleaning the spindle, we’re ready to start bolting parts on.
Image4 Caliper mounts are installed on the spindles first. Make sure a bit of thread locker gets used here.
Image5 Wheel studs are screw-in style and installed onto the billet hubs. These hubs have both Ford (5x4½-inch) and Chevy (5x4¾-inch) bolt patterns, so check and double check which one you are using. You must disassemble the hub assembly to change them later.
Image6 Pack the bearings and install along with a new seal.
Image7 The rotor hat is then bolted on using special fasteners.
Image8 Install the rotor and hub assembly and tighten the spindle nut to specs. Make sure to check the clearance between the new rotor and the caliper mount you installed earlier.
Image9 These bolts hold the calipers to the mounts. The washers are actually .030-inch shims to center the caliper.
Image10 Mount the caliper without washers to check the clearance first. Use the washers on either side to center the caliper with the rotor. This keeps the brake pads wearing evenly and prevents the caliper from contacting the rotor. Tighten the bolts. A touch of thread locker here won’t hurt either.
Image11 Aerospace Components supplied us with flexible stainless steel braided hoses that hook right up the stock hard lines already on the car. It couldn’t be easier.
Image12 Here are the finished front brakes. They look sweet, and should be a huge improvement over the drums.
Image13 Next, we remove the crusty, rusty single reservoir master cylinder and give it the ol’ heave ho.
Image14 The new brackets are bolted on with the supplied hardware and tightened down.
Image15 The booster is installed and the linkage attached to the pedal. Also, you must locate a vacuum source from the intake manifold to supply the new booster. We found ours just behind the carburetor.
Image16 The dual reservoir master requires another brake line and a new “T” fitting for the front brake lines. We simply purchased lengths of pre-assembled steel line and bent them to fit the car. Notice the “T” fitting for the front lines. Remember, the front brakes are plumbed to the large reservoir in the master cylinder. All that’s left is to fill and bleed the system. This is a critical step, so take your time and do it right. Otherwise you will have NO brakes. The performance of the brakes on this Mustang has tripled, and takes no pedal effort at all. And it stops straight every time.

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Believe it or not, one of the most neglected systems on cars is the braking system.

Ironically, the non-power assisted drum brake systems found on a good number of classic Mustangs was not even adequate for the conservative power levels of the era, much less a 347 stroker making 400-plus horsepower.

One pass down the quarter mile at anything over about 90 mph will demonstrate very quickly how inadequate they are. And if you’ve ever driven one in the rain, then tried to panic stop, you better be holding on to the wheel, otherwise the car will dive to one side or the other. The factory disc brake systems were much better, but you’re still dealing with 45 year old technology.

Aerospace Components has been in business for 25 years and was originally contracted by the U.S. government to manufacture defense, guidance and space station components. Now, they are the premier builder of drag racing brake systems. They have a first class customer support team, and use what they sell. They currently own and operate half a dozen dragsters and race cars utilizing their own products.

The decision to use Aerospace Components was an easy one. The product is unparalleled in quality, support, and function. And, they were actually very reasonably priced. We chose their street system with vented rotors, billet calipers and mount, and flexible hoses. All the hardware needed is in the kit. This kit is available with slotted and cross-drilled rotors, but the owner opted for the solid units to keep it clean looking.

While we were at it, we opted to go ahead and upgrade the manual, single reservoir master cylinder to a dual reservoir unit mounted on a small, but powerful vacuum booster supplied by Stainless Steel Brakes. It fits perfectly into the ’66 Mustang, and will greatly improve the brake feel and performance, as well as provide a much safer system on board.

Performance Solutions in Boise, Idaho, has done several of these, and had this one done in short order. Even a novice could have this one finished over a weekend with no trouble.

When we were done, the difference was astounding. The Mustang stopped on a dime and gave eight cents change. The pedal feel was effortless, and it hauled the car down quickly and smoothly, without so much as a quiver from the steering wheel. Anyway you slice it the brakes are now much more powerful, much more dependable, and much safer. Oh, and they look great too!

For Your Information:

Aerospace Components

(727) 347-9915

Performance Solutions

(208) 853-7223

Stainless Steel Brakes Corporation

(800) 448-7722

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