Rear Drum to Disc Brake Conversion

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Hack, Grind and Burn

Before any vehicle on the market was offered with rear disc brakes, the backyard racer would utilize his grinder and Sawz-All to make it happen. For those who wish to say they did it the really old-fashioned way, it is possible to get stock rotors, brake calipers and associated hardware from the junkyard and simply fabricate everything all bracketry that didn’t exist from 1/4-inch steel plate. Needless to say, this approach isn’t for everyone, since it requires a great deal of skill and experience with a welder. However, it may be just the approach for those who wish to install front or rear disc brakes on one of those obscure makes for which no one makes a kit. So, if you have a 400-horsepower Austin Healey that you don’t want to die in, then you might want to get comfortable with a welder and hacksaw.

The Junkyard Crawl

Sometime during the late ’70s and early ’80s, manufacturers started offering select cars with rear disc brakes. Though not a common option even on today’s vehicles, this makes it at least feasible to find such components in a junkyard, though this will often necessitate an entirely new axle and suspension components.

For instance: the 1979-1994 5.0 Mustang can be easily converted to rear disc brakes and all-independent suspension utilizing the third member from a 1985 Thunderbird. Most older Chrysler cars are easily converted, since Mopar’s product strategy at the time made many components from products all across the line interchangeable. As such, one can use the disc brake package from a fully loaded Chrysler minivan as an upgrade for a hot-rodded Dodge Omni.

Research is key to this approach, since many cars have parts interchanges you wouldn’t expect, especially when those interchanges cross the Pacific. For instance, due to the Diamond Star merger of Chrysler and Mitsubishi in the ’80s, the aforementioned Dodge Omni can also use many of the same braking components as the Lancer Evolution of the same year. The 1976 Ford Courier pickup truck was created in tandem with Datsun, meaning the disc brakes of some Z-cars can be adapted to work. Do your homework, you may be surprised.

The Checkbook Champ

Many companies like Baer, SS Brakes and Wilwood offer brake upgrade kits for a wide variety of cars and trucks. For the best in reliable braking, you can’t beat buying a kit that has been specifically designed for your car. With a wide variety of pricing (Summit Kits start at $350 and Wilwood’s can run in excess of $3,000) your only limitation in braking performance is the amount of green in your wallet. Given the odds and cost of finding reliable stock components, this may be the best option if you have an aftermarket-supported vehicle.

The only downside? If you have a dare-to-be-different whip, you’re more than likely out of luck on the kit side. That’s not to say you can’t purchase the components individually and do a little fabrication, but don’t expect to find bolt-on, 13-inch carbon-ceramic racing brakes for your Geo Metro.


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