As builds often go, you can either build your dream car all at once – taking your time while your car sits until it’s completed – or you can make gradual upgrades over a period of time until you reach your goal. The advantage of making upgrades over time is that you get to enjoy your car during the process; building your vision in one fell swoop often means months – even years – of working on a car with barely a light at the end of the tunnel.
The upgrade approach is how we’ve taken our 1965 Plymouth Belvedere – Project Track Attack – from a near-stock cruiser to a Mustang-beating weekend warrior at Willow Springs. It all started with the first upgrade: an OE-style drum-to-disc brake conversion at the front end. That later catapulted to a four-wheel disc brake conversion from Master Power Brakes.
But even as we made changes to both front and rear suspensions, our existing brakes didn’t stop us in our tracks and force us to replace the entire braking system, we were able to make upgrades to both front and rear brakes – gradually.
The first upgrade to the brakes was to remove the front drums and install an OE-style disc brake, with the sliding, single-piston caliper. What a huge difference that made to the Belvedere.
These brake upgrades, of course, depend on what you plan to do with the car. For a regular cruiser, the OE-style disc brake upgrade, like the Legend Series that you can acquire from Master Power, consists of a single-piston slider caliper. This upgrade is far superior to the drum brake that came on the early musclecars, and is plenty for driving to and from shows, cruises, and leisurely weekend drives. It’s an upgrade that will be very noticeable the first time you have to hit the brakes hard.
Once we started tracking the car regularly and lowering our lap times, thanks to other modifications we were making, our needs changed and we decided a big brake kit was better for our open track days.
The first brake upgrade with Master Power fit well behind our 15-inch steel wheels; they even provided a template to make sure the entire brake setup will fit inside the wheel before anything is intalled.
The next brake upgrade with Master Power consisted of fixed calipers and slotted/drilled rotors all around to fit inside of our 15-inch Mopar Cop Car Rally wheels. We reached out to Master Power for its front Rallye and rear Pro driver kits so we could step up our game. This gave us amazing braking for our faster times at the track, and while not entirely necessary for the street, they were a welcome upgrade there, too. Both kits include four-piston calipers, and all necessary hardware.
It is important for us to be able to cover as many avenues as we can. -Mark Chichester, Master Power Brakes
Then we stepped up our game even further when we added 18-inch Weld Racing wheels and low profile Mickey Thompson Street Comp tires. This helped us go even faster at the track, but our 11-inch front rotors were a bit puny inside the larger-diameter wheel.
They were sufficient for how we used the car, but we wanted to fill in the wheel a little bit more and that meant a front brake upgrade that included new, larger four-piston calipers, and bigger 13-inch rotors.
This upgrade to the front Pro Driver calipers gave us all the braking power we needed at the track, and a very cool wheel filler on cruise nights. Often times the disc brakes all around was the first thing people noticed when we pulled into a parking lot.
Master Power’s Mark Chichester said, “It is important for us to be able to cover as many avenues as we can. Our systems can be as simple as a Legend Series, for the guy that is simply looking out for safety in his classic car, through our Rallye Series that does the same thing but with more precision parts and a little more style. Follow that with our Pro Driver Series which gets up into a bigger rotor and a larger, more robust 4-piston caliper, and you’ll find out that we can truly take care of most people’s needs.”
The Master Power front Rallye and rear Pro Driver brake kits worked well inside our 15-inch wheels.
The advantage to this type of upgrade is that we continued to drive and compete in the car and we kept going faster. It also means that the cost is a bit more than if we simply started with the larger kit, because we upgraded in stages. However, we purposely did these upgrades to show the different levels that you can take a car to – and that’s what Project Track Attack is all about.
Once we installed 18-inch wheels, we wanted bigger brakes for two reasons: they filled the wheel more, but ultimately we were going faster and wanted better braking.
Making Changes The Easy Way
We’ve made a lot of changes to the old B-body Mopar over the past four years, and the latest iteration put a full coilover suspension on the car, replacing the torsion bars up front and the leaf springs in the rear.
This represents what we had to swap: all of the old parts were removed from the original backing plate and swapped to the new backing plate. It was that simple.
Since this change meant a complete new front suspension with new control arms and spindles, we had to upgrade our front brakes yet again. This suspension upgrade also included a narrowed Moser Engineering four-link M9 rearend, modified with new flanges to accommodate the big Ford wheel bearings – yes, another rear brake change was needed, also.
We reached out to Chichester again, and explained what we were doing, and he told us that we could retain our calipers and brake rotors, and swap out a couple of other parts. With rotors and calipers the bulk of the cost, this became an affordable upgrade on just about any budget.
Top: To make it easier to swap all of the parts, take a photo of the setup, you'll be glad you did because nearly all of the parts are specific to one side. Bottom: After swapping the parts, the installation to the rear was pretty straightforward and just like that our old brakes were mounted to a completely different axle flange.
Although we were dealing with new flanges on the rearend, and a new spindle up front, our brake system upgrade didn’t call for different rotors since we stayed with the same bolt pattern.
We simply swapped all of the old parts to a new backing plate that Master Power sent us, and installed that onto the new rearend. Since the flange is different – swapping from Mopar to a Ford flange – only the backing plate required changing.
A new hub and caliper brackets were all we needed for the front; we were able to use the same rotor and caliper.
Up front, a new hub was mounted to the spindle, along with a new set of caliper brackets. The same rotor was mounted to the hub, and our existing calipers mounted with the new brackets – the front upgrade was done. This was necessary due to the bearing size difference on the hub itself.
Keeping in mind that our brake upgrades happened over a few years, we do have a little more invested into our brakes. If you’re already working with larger wheels and want to go big right from the start, that would be more cost effective.
This is similar to swapping intake manifolds, adding a second carburetor, changing from single to dual exhaust, etc.; you can do it all at once if you’ve got a goal in mind, or upgrade a little at a time as your needs change, and as your project takes on a new direction.
Once the parts are all installed, don't forget to use shims to center the caliper on the rotor. This is crucial, to keep the pistons even and to make sure the rotor isn't rubbing on the caliper. Master Power provides these spacers in varying thicknesses to complete this task.
Whether you’re going for a simple upgrade to an OE-style disc brake for cruising, or taking it to the next level for some open track day fun, count on Master Power Brakes to provide several levels of braking performance, including master cylinders, vacuum pumps, and brake boosters.