As with many builds, over the course of their construction and seemingly endless installment of bolt-on parts, things inevitably change. Such was the case of our 3rd Gen Camaro. It began life in the Power Automedia garage as “Project No Bucks” with the everyman approach to making upgrades to a daily driver on a tight budget. The premise behind this project was a realistic scenario that many car enthusiasts experience.
A dream of champagne performance on a beer budget. Almost everyone can identify with that type of build, especially in the current economy, right? As we progressed through the first couple of upgrades, we were constantly asked, “Why?”
It seemed as if our lowly third generation Camaro with the smog legal 305ci small-block Chevy was getting much love from the peanut gallery. In fact, the project car was taking on a Rodney Dangerfield persona.
If the sun faded Camaro could talk, it certainly would be saying, “I get no respect, I tell ya. No respect at all.” The more unflattering comments that were directed at the project car, the more we wanted to restore the Camaro’s reputation. A decision was made to shut the critics up and give the project car it’s “man card” back.
We changed the project car name from “No Bucks” to “Project Respect” and began the search for upgrades that would raise the street credit of the much maligned ’91 Chevy Camaro. Starting with a decent foundation to work from is critical to the success of any project car, so our search began with the fundamental upgrades that would provide a solid platform for future upgrades.
This took us to suspension, rearend and braking. It’s a no-brainer that you must have a reliable high performance rearend when the car’s future holds a serious race engine in the plans.
Selecting an appropriate rearend for the project car was not difficult given the parameters. It needed to be a product that demanded respect, could handle all the power that we could throw at it and stay true to the GM lineage. The most obvious answer to those questions was Moser’s 12-bolt rearend.
Rest assured, we’ve got the upgraded rearend swap story, here. For now, we are explaining how we came to the decision on brakes and shocks for our project car. The rearend that you select plays a major role on these components.
The Parts Bin
As usual, before any of the planning and installing can get under way, it’s best to begin the task of identifying which brake kit you’ll need. From full-tilt drag racing applications to daily driving or heavy-duty track days, Baer has a specific kit to fit your vehicle. We spent some time digging around the Baer Brake website to get an idea of which kit would be most appropriate for our 3rd-gen Camaro.
While Baer has a myriad of available options for specific applications, we were after a kit for our ’91 Camaro RS; Project Respect. With four kits available, Baer has taken the time to develop specific kits for nearly any task. To give you a better idea of their specific kits for the 3rd-gen Camaro, we’ve gone ahead and listed it here, below. We made sure to list out some of each kits unique, finer details as well as what to expect within each package.
The SS4+ front Drag Spec system was designed due to a need for a small, lightweight brake for the ever growing and popular radial classes. Many customers have adapted brakes that are really designed for vehicles weight under 3,000lbs to these heavier, fast cars with little luck. This system is the first of its kind designed to be used on 3,200+ lb cars, and work properly. Offered for a wide variety of early domestic cars, Baer also offers direct bolt on SS4+ Drag Spec systems for late model muscle cars. Baer also offers direct bolt on kits for the ’10 Camaro and the ’93-02 Camaro (needs 1998+ spindles).
The Track4 is Baer’s most popular front offering, and replaces the Track 2 piston system that was offered previously with the PBR based calipers. The Track4 is only available with 13-inch 1pc rotors and is a great brake upgrade for those looking to fill their 17-inch wheels, update their car to a modern brake system and create a great visual impact. Baer systems come complete and ready to install. For customers purchasing the Track4, be sure to check out the SS4 as a matching rear option with park brake.
The Pro+ will allow you to upgrade to a 2pc rotor (a popular upgrade due to cosmetics and weight savings) and give you the option of upgrading to a 14-inch rotor. This is the first system Baer offers, which will allow the exact same looking brake front and rear. Baer builds all its own calipers and can spec the rear piston sizes to function properly but also allow the use of a standard 2-port firewall mounted master. Rear piston size, like the front correctly minimizes pad taper issues.
In c-clip applications, Baer’s patent pending Verislide self-centering brackets provide the only proper engineering solution to mounting opposed piston calipers on c-clip bearing in housing style axles. If you like the Pro+ 2pc look, but don’t have the budget to purchase a Pro+ rear, look at our SS4+ rear option. This is a cost effective, cosmetically matching rear option as well.
The Extreme+ is Baer’s flagship offering, featuring a forged monoblock caliper that is mounted to a 14- or 15-inch 2pc rotor. The Extreme+ employs current state of the art race technology usually only found in high-end race calipers, which Baer now brings to the road going street market. The 6S line represents Baer’s most aggressive road offering and is suitable for virtually any level of track use.
Extreme+ rears are also available for that exact same looking brake front and rear. Baer also staggers the rear piston size (like the front) to correctly minimize pad taper issues. Like the Pro+ applications Baer’s patent pending Verislide self centering brackets provide the only proper engineering solution to mounting opposed piston calipers on “c-clip” bearing in housing style axles.
Get a Plan
This would be a good time to mention whenever you begin a project car build, you have to get a good idea of the components you will be using. We talked to Rick Elam at Baer Brakes about doing a brake upgrade. “Typically we advise people to start with the front brakes,” said Elam adding, “the front brakes is where eighty percent of your stopping power comes from, so it makes sense to focus in that area first.”
The SS4 rear brakes are a good fit with any application.
We already had a plan for the front brakes, which we will upgrade and present in a future project car update. For now, we wanted to focus on the rear brakes and suspension. In this case, we knew that we wanted a 12 bolt GM style rearend.
In defining what major components you are planning on using, there will be a direct effect in the choices of other components that you can easily select and install without trying to re-engineer the whole car. Rule #1 of building a project car: Have a plan!
Talk to the Experts
Armed with the knowledge of which rearend our project car was getting, we could then move on to the subject of brakes. Our plan was to install a respect earning powerplant in place of the lackluster stock 305ci smog motor. That means that we would need stopping power and shocks to match the upgraded performance.
We talked to the tech crew at Moser about which brake systems had been fit and tested on the 12-bolt, and as luck would have it, Baer Brakes had worked with Moser to ensure there was an exact fitment for this rearend.
“We do a lot of information sharing with companies that manufacture rearends,” said Elam, “in some cases, our customer doesn’t know what housing block is on the car and we work with them to get it figured out. We are not above calling the manufacturer of the rearend housing to see if they can provide the details on the housing block so we can get the right fitment for the customer.”
Baer Brakes SS4 Brake kit for ’82-92 Camaro F-Body fit the bill nicely with our components. We were using a Ford Torino big bearing flange end on the axle tubes which matched perfectly with the SS4 brake kit. As Elam explained to us, “The SS4 rear brakes are a good fit with any application. They are built to exceed DOT specs, they not only have a pressure seal but we built in a dust seal so they can be safely used on a daily driver, and they are rigid so you can use them on a road race car without having to worry about the calipers flexing.”
Features of the Baer SS4 Brake Kit:
- Fits with most 15-inch diameter wheels.
- S4 – four-piston, 2-piece billet aluminum with four cross bolts – stainless steel pistons and abutments.
- Caliper Finish: billet aluminum – anodized clear – red logo. Other optional powder coated finishes available.
- Drilled and slotted one-piece rotor – 12-inch diameter – 1.0-inch thick – curved directional vanes, finished with zinc plating.
- Parking brake system included.
According to Elam, “Key features of the SS4 brakes are the four-piston aluminum calipers with stainless steel sleeves and deep pistons. The stainless steel acts as a barrier for heat, and limits the heat transfer while the aluminum helps dissipate heat quickly. The curved directional vane rotor helps control brake heat, which can be a problem with OE type equipment in higher performance applications.”
Elam also pointed out that the Baer SS4 brake kits come as a complete kit with all hoses, lines and fittings. Add these features to the rigidity of Baer Brakes mounting system and you have a quality rear brake system ready for whatever you can throw at it.
Straight Forward Installation
Installation of the Baer Brakes SS4 kit was extremely straight forward. The calipers can be mounted in four different positions (one position ahead of the axle and three positions behind) giving the installer some options in case clearance is an issue. The instruction manual is clear and easy to understand with pictures showing each step. As always, if you run into difficulty, help is a mere phone call away. Baer Brakes technical help line is quick to respond to the needs of their customers.
Finishing The Suspension Upgrade With Front Struts
When the Moser 12-bolt rearend was installed in our project car, we upgraded the rear shocks with a pair of QA1 Gen F rear shocks (Part #TS704) that sport a 18-position adjuster for rebound and compression. To match the front suspension with the rear, we selected QA1’s 3rd Gen GM Aluminum Adjustable front struts (Part #HS606-12300) which are designed specifically for the 3rd- and 4th-Gen F-body Camaros.
The HS606-12300 struts offer the same single adjustable option as the rear shocks we installed previously on our project car, meaning that rebound and compression are adjusted simultaneously with the turn of a single knob. Overall, this allows quick adjustments and 18 valving options to choose from. In our case, While the aluminum struts are no longer available, QA1 offers single and double adjustable steel struts that are made in their Lakeville, MN facility.
Features of the QA1 Aluminum Shocks and Steel Struts:
- Made in the USA.
- Easy bolt-in installation.
- coil-over (Steel Strut Pro Coil Systems include coil-over sleeve to transform non-coil-over strut to a coil-over).
- Ride height adjustable.
- Rebuildable and re-valvable by QA1 factory or authorized service centers.
Installation of the QA1 Struts
Regardless of what you might think, installation of QA1’s gas struts is pretty easy. QA1 has simplified the process by manufacturing the strut assemblies so they are specific to the driver’s (left side) and passenger’s (right) side of the car, with each strut indicating the orientation with a L or R on the closure nut.
Installing the struts is as simple as removing the front wheels, pulling the old struts out, assembling the new struts by the installation instructions and mounting them in the strut tower of the car. We chose to add the QA1 Caster and Camber plate (Part # CPK106) for extra adjustability in the suspension which added a couple of extra steps but well worth the time and effort.
If you plan on using the QA1 Coil-Over conversion kit, the caster/camber plate is required for assembly. Once the struts have been installed, whether you are using a caster/camber plate, coil-over conversion kit or just a strut upgrade, you will need to take the car to the alignment shop and have the car realigned.
Of course, with any brake upgrade, it’s vital to test the vehicle for the results. More importantly, “seasoning” a set of the new Baer’s were in order first. This would allow the brakes, including the rotors and brake pads to bind to the surfaces of each other, allowing the friction material to make the correct contact with the rotor. While we haven’t showcased the bedding of the brakes, as this is a very strict process, make sure to check out the Baer brakes website for their complete and recommended procedure.
Unfortunately, we were too quick to pull the trigger on the Baer brake upgrade and neglected an opportunity to test the Third-Gen Camaro with the factory brake components or stock rubber. In our case, we were able to call in some favors within the aftermarket industry and pulled some archived numbers from Camaro Performer’s Magazine. So, what did we find? On average, depending on the condition of the factory Camaro brakes and rotors, stops from 60 mph were anywhere between 153 feet cold to just over 175 feet after repeated stops. This tells us while the factory brake system is doing its job, initially, as the brakes became heated the stopping distances became longer.
With the new Baer kit installed and seasoned, we were off for some performance brake testing. Using an iPhone app which measures forward and lateral G-forces, we were able to consistently measure braking distances from 60 mph. After three repeated stops from 60 mph, the Baer brake-outfitted Camaro performed flawlessly, impending lockup. Our best stop measured in at 132.7 feet. That’s a cool 20 feet shorter than a factory Camaro. Better yet, the brakes never faded, squeaked, smoked or failed. Now that’s something we can rely on, all from a bolt-on brake kit that sees both street and track use.
Before And After Testing
- Stock brake system: 60-0 mph, 153 feet
- Baer brake system: 60-0 mph, 132.7 feet
Wrapping It Up
We were pleased with the results of this round of upgrades. The car’s stance was greatly improved and the pure aesthetics restored respect to the proud street machine. Combine the static looks with improved braking and suspension performance, and these were “must have” upgrades for anyone that owns a 3rd Gen Camaro that wants to impress.