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.
CPP Big-Brake Kit
For not much more money than an entry-level disc brake system, CPP offers a complete big-brake kit that fits behind 17-inch wheels and packs tremendous value for the dollar. The front brake kit includes 13-inch drilled and slotted rotors, and twin-piston PBR calipers that have far greater pad surface area than the popular C5 Corvette calipers. The rear kit features 12-inch rotors and single-piston calipers. Also packaged with CPP's comprehensive system are forged aluminum front hubs, a master cylinder, a proportioning valve, hoses, and pre-bent hard lines. Prices start at $1,498 for both the front and rear brake kit. For those who only want to upgrade the front brakes, CPP offers a similar system that includes 2-inch drop spindles for $799.
Wilwood Superlite 6R
With roots tracing back to short-track, Late-Model Sportsman, Modified, and rally competition, it's truly incredible that Wilwood offers its forged Superlite 6 calipers in big-brake kits for dual-role street/track muscle cars equipped 17-inch wheels. These impressive systems include 13-inch drilled and slotted two-piece rotors, aluminum hubs, and massive six-piston narrow-body calipers. Computer-generated solid modeling and FEA stress analysis technology yields a caliper that weighs just 4.9 pounds, but packs a big bite. One-piece stainless steel pistons minimize heat transfer from the pads into the caliper body for reduced fade, staggered bore diameters balance braking loads for even pad wear, and square-faced bore seals maximize sealing area to more effectively control piston retraction. Moreover, radial caliper mounting provides two planes of adjustment as well. Prices for front and rear Superlite 6R big-brake kits start at $1,903.
Although wheel diameter can provide a fairly accurate gauge of whether or not a brake kit will fit, infinite variations in backspacing, wheel width, hub width, and spoke design mean that it's not a fail-proof method. In other words, it's quite possible that even though you have wheels that should be big enough to clear a certain model brake caliper, you may need a wee bit more clearance. Baer's wheel spacers provide an easy fix. Machined from billet 6061-T6 aluminum, they're available in thicknesses ranging from 0.250 to 1 inch in all common lug pattern configurations. Price start at $59 per pair.
When Winning Is The Only Option
Improving upon Baer's Pro+ brake system is no small task, but the Extreme+ kit delivers some serious race-spec clamping ability. It boasts many of the same perks as the Pro+ system—like directional two-piece rotors, dust-sealed six-piston calipers, an integrated parking brake, and aluminum hubs and rotor hats—but ups the ante big time with mono-block calipers that are machined from a single piece of 2618 billet aluminum. While Extreme+ kits come with standard 14-inch rotors, they can accommodate rotors up to 16 inches in diameter. For those who need even more braking force, the system can be upgraded to “R-spec” hardware that includes notched pistons for enhanced cooling, additional caliper machining to reduce mass, and proprietary full-floating race rotors that trim three pounds apiece and enhance longevity. Prices start at $3,795 for front kits and $3,650 for rear kits.
For the growing number of race cars masquerading as Pro Touring street cars, Wilwood went back to the drawing board and engineered the W6AR big-brake kit, its biggest-of-the-big system available. Notable goodies include six-piston calipers, 14-inch rotors, aluminum hats and hubs, and radial mounting. Compared to the Superlite 6R, the brawny W6AR caliper features greater piston area, increased pad volume, and the ability to accommodate up to a 15-inch rotor. Additionally, hot rodders can chose between two street pad compounds and four high-temperature race compounds for precise tuning of brake response and heat resistance. The W6AR big-brake kit also maintains compatibility with factory ABS systems. Prices start at $2,235.
Not only are 40-plus-year-old stock pedals ugly, they offer no adjustability and aren't exactly positioned in a way that's conducive to three-pedal downshifts. Whether you need a new brake pedal, a clutch pedal, a gas pedal, or all three, Wilwood has a catalog full of options in multiple configurations. Machined from billet aluminum and E-coated black, Wilwood pedals are available in several brake pedal ratios. In addition to adjustable pedal pads, the Wilwood units feature an integrated balance bar assembly for easy brake bias changes, and your choice of forward- or rear-facing mounting bases for easy fitment. Prices for brake and clutch pedal assemblies start at $213.
CPP Hydra Stop Booster
Big cams can kick out big power, but the downside has always been compromised engine vacuum that isn't sufficient for running power brakes. Hydraulic brake boosters are a great solution to this problem, and CPP now offers one of the slickest units on the market. By tapping into the power steering system, CPP's Hydra Stop brake booster sends 1,800 psi of line pressure to each wheel. The kits include a hydraulic assist unit, a firewall bracket, a master cylinder, and all necessary fittings and hoses. Also available are Hydra Stop units with integrated proportioning valves. Prices start at $749.
CPP C5 Spindle Brakes
Let's say you're just getting your feet wet autocrossing, but want some room to grow with your brake system. Then CPP's C5 spindle brake kit could be the perfect solution. In its standard configuration, it features CPP's own C5-style spindles, 13-inch rotors, and twin-piston C5 Corvette calipers. Should you ever outgrow these brakes, however, the CPP spindles are fully compatible with several monster six-piston caliper options offered by Baer and Wilwood. The spindles use taller ball joint positioning for improved camber gain as well as a sealed C5 aluminum bearing hub assembly that eliminates flex and piston pushback. Prices for the complete front brake kit start at $649. CPP also sells the spindles and hub package separately for $349.