Let's talk fender preservation. Let's talk numbers. According to Motor Trend's instrumented testing from back in the day, a bone-stock '67 SS350 Camaro required 156 feet to decelerate from 60 mph. In contrast, a new Chevy Cruze econobox gets the 60-0 test done in 123 feet while a '14 Camaro SS 1LE needs just 101 feet. If you think that's scary, rolling around with drum brakes and old, skinny tires can increase 60-0 stopping distances to over 200 feet. That means every time you cruise in your drum brake–equipped muscle car, it's probably the worst-stopping car on the road. Even if you have the reflexes of a Sprint Cup driver, stock muscle car brakes can't do much to save your fenders in a panic situation. Given these cold, hard facts, aftermarket disc brakes are one of the best upgrades you can make to keep your prized hot rod wrinkle-free and make it much more enjoyable to drive.
Not too long ago, a brake upgrade was nothing more than swapping a set of semimetallic shoes into your drums, which is about as effective as dragging two of your toes on the asphalt instead of one. Fortunately, these days aftermarket disc brake upgrades abound for every application known to man. To assist in the shopping process, we've put together a buyer's guide featuring brake kits from Baer, Classic Performance Products (CPP), and Wilwood, and categorized them into three basic groups: entry-level street, serious street/Pro Touring, and hard-core street/race. In response to the stock restoration and restomod crowd who seeks improved braking performance in a compact package, these companies have recently rolled out disc brake upgrades that fit behind factory wheels as small as 15 inches. They still provide a substantial improvement in performance without necessitating a larger wheel and tire package.
The next step up the disc brake ladder is a set of dual-role systems designed for serious street enthusiasts who autocross and road race on the weekends. These kits require upgrading to 17- or 18-inch wheels, but come equipped with brake pad compounds that work well on the street and at the track. In the simplest terms, these systems correspond loosely to what a modern performance car like a V-8 Camaro, Mustang, or Challenger might be equipped with from the factory. Finally, the pinnacle of our brake roundup is made up of hard-core kits intended for all-out Pro Touring machines seeking a championship in SCCA Solo 2 or a win at the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational. These systems boast massive rotors, and often require aggressive race pads and R-compound tires in order to fully reach their potential. For the sake of simplicity, we've arbitrarily designated these three tiers of brake kits Stage 1, Stage 2, and Stage 3 for this buyer's guide.
Ditch The Drums, Keep Your Wheels!
Great things can come in small packages. To create its SS4+ brake systems, Baer simply took one of its big-brake kits and scaled it down to fit behind a 15-inch wheel. The result is some very impressive hardware featuring 11-inch two-piece rotors and aluminum four-piston calipers. For improved heat dissipation, the rotors are slotted and cross-drilled in a directional pattern. To minimize weight, the kit also includes 6061-T6 aluminum rotor hats and hubs. The calipers use four cross-bolts for maximum stiffness as well as hard anodized pistons, dust and weather seals, noise suppression springs, and an internal crossover design. In case you decide to get more serious later down the road, the calipers are fully compatible with many readily available brake pads. Prices start at $995 for front kits and $1,255 for rear kits.
CPP Disc Conversion
For stock restorations and retomods where maintaining factory aesthetics is of critical importance, you can't go wrong with CPP's entry-level disc brake kits. As one of the most complete brake systems on the market, they include 11-inch drilled and slotted rotors, single-piston cast calipers, stock or drop spindles, a master cylinder, a booster, an OE-style proportioning valve, steel-braided hoses, and optional pre-bent hard lines and emergency brake cables. They're available for most '64-72 muscle cars and will fit behind 15-inch wheels. Prices start at $1,199 for a complete front and rear system.
Wilwood Dynalite Pro Series
Thanks to its extensive background in the drag racing market, Wilwood knows a thing or two about packing tremendous braking power behind a 15-inch wheel. The company has recently revamped its line of Dynalite Pro Series street brake system for hassle-free, bolt-on-and-go fitment. The kits include two-piece 11-inch rotors—available with or without cross-drilling and slotting—and aluminum hubs that position the wheels within an eyelash of the factory location. While upgrading from factory drum to disc brakes can sometimes alter track width, the Wilwood Dynalite system limits this change to a miniscule 0.19 inch. The race-proven Dynalite four-piston calipers are built using a stress-flow forging process that realigns the metal's grain structure within the contour of the caliper body for more consistent grain flow. Furthermore, the caliper's radial transition design eliminates sharp edges between the piston housing and caliper bridges, thus reducing deflection and caliper separation under load. The result is increased clamping efficiency and reduced pedal travel. Other notable features include corrosion and heat resistant stainless steel pistons, high-temperature seals, and stainless bridge plate. Pricing for front and rear Dynalite kits starts at $769.
Performance To Match The Pro Touring Look
Although the Pro+ big-brake kit falls mid-pack in the Baer hierarchy, with monster six-piston calipers and 13- to 14-inch rotors, it performs more like a hard-core race kit. It fits behind 17-inch wheels, too. Perfect for those seeking aesthetic parity at all four corners of their g-Machine, the Pro+ kit is designed to maintain proper brake balance when using equally sized rotors and calipers at the front and rear. The two-piece directional rotors include a billet aluminum hat, which bolt to pre-assembled 6061-T6 aluminum hubs. Likewise, the Pro+ two-piece forged aluminum calipers use six cross-bolts for rigidity, stainless steel pistons for durability, and dust and weather seals for longevity on the street. Rear Pro+ kits incorporate a banksia (drum-in-rotor hat) parking brake assembly, as well as self-centering brackets in applications with C-clip axles. Prices start at $2,295 for front kits, and $2,345 for rear kits.