In every gearhead's mechanical life, there are certain "aha" milestones. A few of mine: The revelation that a numerically higher set of gears will accelerate the car faster without any engine work. Then there was the discovery of throttle oversteer when I gassed it hard while making a right-hand turn in a busy intersection. Or how about the first time I put a blower on a V-8, then christened it on the street with a felony burnout? Some of my "aha" moments are fond memories, others are embarrassments, and still others are downright dangerous.
There are three particular "aha" moments in my hot rodding life that were both embarrassing and dangerous at the same time. All of them have to do with inadequate brakes. In all three instances, I could've gotten hurt or wrecked my car, but I was lucky enough to come out unscathed. (Actually, there were a lot more incidences, but these are the scariest.) See if any of these rings a bell.
Has This Happened To You?
Baer's Track-4 is made for...
Baer's Track-4 is made for a variety of muscle cars including Chrysler B- and E-Body, Ford Mustang ('65-04), GM A-body ('64-77), GM fullsize ('58-76), Corvette ('84-96), GM G-body ('78-88), and GM X-body ('64-74). The price range is pretty wide, starting at $895 (for cars upgrading from an existing Baer PBR Track kit), then to $1,195 (uses OEM spindles and hubs), and from there going to $1,395 (includes new spindles and Baer aluminum hubs). You can also get the Track-4 with a variety of spindle modifications for an additional charge.
The year was 1982, and the car was a four-door '72 Malibu-with manual drum brakes all around. I'd had the car for a few months, and found the brakes adequate, but not great. They worked OK, so I never gave them a second thought. Then driving to work one day in a gully washer downpour, I rolled through a deep puddle, then tried to stop for a red light. No freakin' brakes! It was like someone smeared axle grease on all the brake shoes. I ran the red light, and thank goodness no one was in the intersection. I burned one of my nine lives that day.
A few years later, I bought a brand-new '87 Mustang 5.0L LX. It was awesome fast for its day, and I had a weakness for being goaded into high-speed hooligans on the highway. When a Nova pulled up beside me on the last light out of town, we hit it. I got out on the guy, but he was still dogging me. This went on for a few miles, and by the time my exit came into sight, the speedo was buried. I started braking, and by the time I got it down to 70, the brakes were spent. The car shuddered violently, the rotors were warped, the fluid was boiled, and I was along for the ride. Being a young idiot, I still tried to make the exit, and slid the car sideways across three lanes of traffic. I dodged a bullet again. Heart racing, I pulled to the side of the road, got out, and looked at the stupid 11-inch brakes. They were ticking, and glowing cherry red.
The meat of the Track-4 kit...
The meat of the Track-4 kit is Baer's proprietary T4 caliper, a fully machined extruded alloy billet caliper with four pistons and an internal fluid passage for balanced braking force. The zinc-washed slotted and cross-drilled rotor measures 13 inches by 1.10 inches thick, and is directionally vaned for cooling. They key to good braking is two-fold: generating maximum torque, and managing the heat for repeatability. The Track-4 does both at an affordable price.
Fast-forward to 1999. I was running my '93 Firebird at Watkins Glen in a late-day session. My lap times were going down with every circuit, and the stroked 396 LT1 underhood was pulling uphill through the esses like a freight train. I was feeling like Neil Bonnett as I hit 140 at the top of the backstretch. Somewhere between the 400- and 300-foot brake markers, I stabbed the brake pedal, and it went straight to the floor. I plowed through the "bus stop" cones going about 120, and brought out the yellow flag to end my session.
It took these instances, and a few more "minor" ones to convince this hardheaded editor that good brakes aren't a luxury; they're a necessity. As my examples show, the power underhood clearly dictates what you need for brakes, and it doesn't even matter if you're road racing or autocrossing, because let's get real, you're going to "hit it" just like I did. More snot underhood is clearly a shout-out for better brakes. In the case of Project Laguna, we were clearly headed for a déjà vu experience: with a 560hp solid-roller small-block underhood, 4,000 pounds of curb weight to manage, and dinky 15-inch wheels, I had set myself up unwittingly to star in the next Jackass movie. I gave Baer Brakes a call.
Here we can compare the vast...
Here we can compare the vast difference in caliper mass, piston volume, and swept area of the stock GM D52 single-piston caliper (above), and the Baer T4. Note how the Baer T4 caliper has different sized pistons; the leading piston is the smaller one, which allows even pressure and pad wear. This maximizes pad life and reduces distortion on the pad backing plate. The T4 caliper uses the same OE pad size as a '98-02 Camaro, so you can get replacement pads anywhere.
This angle view of the stock...
This angle view of the stock GM D52 caliper and the disassembled Baer T4 shows the huge difference in mass, a critical factor in managing heat. The two-piece design of the Baer is extremely rigid, and bound together by six aircraft-quality fasteners. Note the upgraded finish-for an extra $100, you can get the T4 calipers media blasted and nickel plated.
Baer also offers a smaller...
Baer also offers a smaller S-4 caliper for rear brakes, and this little detail is the kind of thing that gets Baer high marks. Check out the small Delrin bushing-this provides a sacrificial surface for the rotor in situations where there is end play in the axle. It prevents damaging rotor-to-caliper contact while cornering.