How To Upgrade Classic Brakes

By: Paul Tuzson, Photography by: Paul Tuzson

Presented by

UC 289 Tool Time Lead UC 289 Tool Time Lead

Upgrading classic brakes is an unseen investment in safety

From Unique Cars #289, Sept 2008 

Fitting a brake upgrade kit

Brake upgrades are among the most popular performance modifications applied to classic cars. There are a couple of reasons for this: most obviously, older cars generally have such poor braking systems that an upgrade is often essential for safety. But in addition to that, fitting a brake upgrade kit is extremely easy, constitutes a major performance enhancement and is relatively inexpensive.

Also, the difference a modern braking system makes to an older car is dramatic. If you’ve been struggling with an old, original-equipment brake set-up, you’ll be in no doubt about the value of your purchase after you’ve fitted a brake upgrade.

As we said, fitting a brake kit is one of the easiest modifications you’ll ever make to your car. Hoppers Stoppers in Victoria is one company that specializes in kits for virtually every type of mainstream Australian classic car from the 1960s and ’70s – and many other types besides. Each kit contains everything needed for the conversion, right down to the last nut, bolt and washer. What’s more, all components are Australian-made.

Here, we’re showing how to fit a front-end Charger kit, but the basic installation procedure for each of the kits is either the same or very similar. When there are specific steps needed for particular models, they are explained carefully in the instructions supplied with each kit.

Clearly, removing the original brake system is the first step. If you have access to a hoist, as we did at Hoppers Stoppers, then great. However, that probably won’t be the case for most readers. Instead, jack up the front end of your car and support it with heavy-duty axle stands at the points recommended in the factory manual. Make sure it’s secure and doesn’t move at all. The bolts holding old braking parts in place can be quite tight and the force needed to get them undone can cause a car to move about considerably if it isn’t firmly supported...


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Remove the front wheels to reveal the old system. (It helps to loosen the wheel nuts a turn while the tyres are still on the ground.) Undo the bolts holding the original calliper in place and remove it.

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You'll have to undo the factory rubber brake line and then remove the retaining clip to completely remove the calliper from the car.

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Remove the dust-cap covering the disc/hub retaining nut and remove the split pin. Bend the tab on the nut locking collar up out of the groove in the stub-axle and remove the locking collar. Undo the retaining nut and remove the outer bearing retaining washer. You should then be able to slide the disc off the axle.

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The kit doesn't contain the disc retaining components you've just removed, so you must retain the originals shown here. The dust shield seen in the background isn't used in the kit and should be removed next, after the three retaining bolts have been undone.

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In order for the new components to seat properly, the stub-axle should be completely clean. It's likely that the build-up of general road grime will be quite severe and call for the use of a scraper.

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The new discs supplied with these kits are mounted on adaptor hubs also supplied in the kits. The bearings on which the hub rotates have to be packed with high termperature axle grease.

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This can certainly be done by hand, but the best way is with a bearing packer. This ensures that exactly the right amount of grease is pushed into the bearing. If you do it by hand, make sure the grease is worked right through the rollers and that it emerges out of the other side like this. The inside of the hub is also filled with grease.

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The hubs have a seal that should be pushed into the inward facing side of the hub and the pre-greased, larger inboard bearing is set in place. In some kits, the supplied seal is an interference fit and must be tapped into place.

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The spindle is also pre-greased and then the hub is pushed onto it until the grease seal at the rear of the hub assembly seats against the base of the spindle.

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The smaller outer bearing is fitted over the protruding threads of the spindle and pushed into the pre-fitted bearing cup.

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The bearing retaining washer is re-fitted and then the retaining nut is fitted and tightened.

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How tight? The hub must turn freely but not have any free-play. So, it shouldn't wobble on the spindle or be able to move in and out. When it's done up to that point, the weight of a large shifter or spanner like this provides the appropriate final tightness.

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The nut retaining collar is re-fitted and the appropriate tang is bent down into the groove on the spindle. A new split-pin is fitted.

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All the kits are based on some type of adaptor and spacers that mate the new components with the old. In this kit, a laser-cut steel adaptor plate is bolted to the original 'ears' of the axle upright as shown and done up tight.

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Apply some grease to the slide pin at each end of each cradle and insert all the pins as shown. Note that there are anti-rattle shims at either end of the cradles. The cradles are supplied with these in place but if for some reason they aren't fitted, they must be.

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Spacers are fitted between the adaptor plate and the cradle and these determine the position of the cradle (and pads) in relation to the disc. The disc muyst run in the middle of the cradle and it's likely that it will. However, manufacturing wasn't all it could be in the old days and sometimes there are variations between axles, even from side to side on the same car. If the cradle is too far outboard, the spacers must be reduced in thickness.

They must be turned down in a lather. I fthat's not available as a possibility for you, measure the distance by which the cradle is off-centre and call Hoppers Stoppers. They'll send you out a pair of spacers reduced by the appropratie amount. It's unlikely this will be necessary, but it could happen. Conversely, if the cradle sits too far inboard, shiims must be fitted between the spacers and cradle to move it further out. The disc is held in place with just one nut.

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Once the correct inboard/outboard spacing has been confirmed, the pads are iftted into the cradles before they are bolted to the adaptor plates, although this can also be done when the cradles are on the car.

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The entire surface areas of the pads should make contact with the swept area of the discs. Here, the pads are off the outer edge of the disc. This is because the 'ears' on the uprights are too large and the spacers are fouling on them.

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The solution to the radial pad positioning problem described above, is to reduce the size of the 'ears' so that the spacers can move further onto the upright. This is done with a grinder fitted with an abrasive disc. Work in small amounts and constantly check your progress by refitting the cradle.

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This clip must be fitted correctly. Instructions are supplied and there's even a photograph of how it should look. Basically, it's inserted like this (above).

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This demonstrates how the bolts pass throught he calliper and into the cradle. The bolts are, however, fitted on the car when the calliper is positioned on the cradle.

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Replacement stainless braided brake hoses are supplied and when the calliper and cradle finally fit, they are fitted. The calliper can be mounted upside down. To avoid this, remember that the calliper must be positioned so that the bleed nipple is at the top. This is absolutely essential.

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The finished installation. The disc is still held in place with just one nut - when the wheel is fitted it retains the disc. Although this is a fairly comprehensive overview of what's involved in fitting one of these kits, it should be noted that it's just that - an overview. There are other fitting details in the instructions and it's essential that these are followed to the letter.


Rebuilding cars is all about compromise. Once one of these kits is fitted, your car is obviously no longer original. Of course, it will stop much more effectively which would make you much faster around a track on club days and safer on the road. It's just a matter of how you use your car. If absolute authenticity is important for you, then you'll probably just have to put up with all the drawbacks of old-style brakes. But if enhanced performance is important to you, you'll fit one of these twin-piston systems. You can find out more at or by calling 03 9748 6950; the company ships everywhere in Australia.



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