Bel Air Brake Upgrade
Since I have updated my 54 Belair to a firewall mount power brake booster/master cylinder and have disk brakes on the 80 Camaro rear axle I put in. It was time to upgrade to front disc brakes. For this I chose part number 910-1954, Speedway’s 1949-54 Chevy Car Disc Brake Conversion Kit. This is an all-inclusive kit which utilizes your factory drum brake spindles and includes everything needed for a seamless installation. So let’s add some stopping power!
As usual, the first step is to remove the old drum brakes and backing plates. Then clean the spindle and inspect for any damage.
Both my spindles were in very nice condition with only 36,000 miles on the odometer.
I then unpacked all the parts and separated them, kind of an OCD thing I have, just to make sure I had all the parts needed. The first thing I did was change the inner bearing races on the new rotors. I stress, these need to be changed. The new inner bearings will fit the rotors as is, however, there is enough difference between the races if you don’t change them the bearing will fail prematurely. I used a brass drift and hammer to remove and install the new race, lightly tapping around the edge until it was fully seated. After that I got my hands a little greasy.
I’m still old school when it comes to packing wheel bearings using the palm of my hand. Once packed, I set the inner bearing in the rotor and installed the grease seal using the same method with a brass drift and hammer. Do this by lightly tapping around the perimeter of the seal until fully seated. I then set the rotors and bearings aside and moved on to installing the caliper brackets and new bearing adapters.
I had already removed all the hardware holding the steering arms and backing plates on so I cleaned everything up. I used one new bolt in the front lower hole to hold the steering arm on and used the rest of the supplied hardware and spacers to attach the caliper brackets.
Mine went on without a hitch, however the instructions state if you have clearance issues with the rotor or caliper, you will have to trim the bracket for clearance. Next up was the new bearing adapters. To install these I used a piece of I ½” pipe and hammer lightly tapped mine on with no problem. They can also be put in your oven and heated up at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes and then slide on. Just make sure you don’t have any burs or nicks on the spindle. If you do, clean the spindle up using fine emery paper.
Once the new adapter was in place I went back to my parts table and grabbed my rotors and bearings and installed them on the spindle with the new washer and castle nut.
The kit also includes 2 spacers which go on before the castle nut, one for each side. These space the castle nut out for proper engagement of the cotter pin. I set the pre-load on the bearings by tightening the castle nut while spinning the rotor until I felt resistance. Then back the nut off while spinning and repeated again. Then backed the castle nut off to where the cotter pin hole lined up and installed the cotter pin and dust cap.
For the calipers I chose to grind part of the lip off around the banjo bolt to allow me a better option for clocking the rubber brake line. "Clocking" refers to finding the angle of difference between the two fittings. By removing part of the lip around the fitting face, I will have a bit more room to work when it comes to hose installation.
I installed the new brake pads and bolted the calipers to the brackets using the allen head slide bolts. The banjo bolt and brake line went on last. Make sure to use 2 crush washers on the banjo fitting. One between the caliper and hose and one between the hose and banjo bolt. I routed the brake line up to the stock tab, put in the new retaining clip and attached the 3/8-24 tube nut. And with that the installation was complete! Well, at the wheel anyway, next I have to bend up and flare some new hard lines.