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-   1955 To 1957 Little Birds - General Technical Discussion (http://squarebirds.org/vbulletin/forumdisplay.php?f=61)
-   -   Brake help for my '55 (http://squarebirds.org/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=10739)

TechStuff 03-09-2011 09:58 PM

Brake help for my '55
I have a '55 that was a barn find. I have been working at it for a number of years and have it in running condition with lots of cosmetic work remaining. I am keeping the car original so restoring and refurbishing alot.

As they stand now, the brakes are in correct operating conditions, most components being new. They just aren't all that good, at least by today's standards.

So - - has anyone reading this managed to convert to disk brakes ? If so what are some effective but economical ways to go about this? Can I keep the same tires?

While I want to keep the car original, if safety or reliability are compromised I don't mind upgrading, as in this case.

Any help appreciated!


simplyconnected 03-10-2011 01:39 AM

Fred, two things weigh heavy here. You either have to keep your car stock or not. There is no inbetween.

Having said that, I have converted both of my Ford Classics ('55 Customline & 59 Galaxie) to power disk brakes.

Power disk brakes will put you through the windshield, they don't pull to the side, they dry out fast and they don't fade. If you drive your '55 in today's traffic I highly recommend you install disk brakes.

Here's the deal (you're in for a treat)... The 1955 Thunderbird and the '55 full-size Ford Cars used the exact same spindles. Here are the Ford Parts Catalog part numbers for 1955 spindles. S=Thunderbird and A=all other Ford cars:

You can use a Granada spindle to take the place of your originals. That means you can put your original spindles in storage in case you ever want to revert back (I guarantee you won't ever go back).

The Granada/Lincoln Versailes setup bolts right on to your original ball joints and the set should include the spindles, calipers, rotors, and backplate (wind catcher). If your wheels are 15", you can probably use the originals. If they are 14", you need Granada-type wheels which are designed to give clearance for the calipers. Several steel wheels fit.

If you are serious about this retrofit, let me know and I will go into more detail. - Dave

Joe Johnston 03-10-2011 02:08 PM

We have a couple of club members that used the Granada swap and have never been happier. It works great. I chose a complete kit from a vendor that included rear wheel cylinders. Smooth installation with full instructions and the 14" wire wheels on my 57 fit with no problem. Any way you go, disks are a big improvement.

TechStuff 03-12-2011 08:55 AM

Thanks for the encouraging replies!!

Now - - has anyone put together a list of specific parts that I would need??


paul274854 03-12-2011 11:04 PM

You might consider the kits that the TBird suppliers have for sale. They do not require changing the spindles like the Granada stuff does. All the parts are enginerred for a TBird. They even have larger rear cylinders to equalize the front and rear brakes.

simplyconnected 03-16-2011 01:24 AM


Originally Posted by paul274854 (Post 53984)
...They even have larger rear cylinders to equalize the front and rear brakes.

Paul, thanks for your post, but rear cylinders need to be much smaller, because front calipers require hundreds of psi more than drum brakes.

When that kind of pressure is applied (usually from a power booster), the rear drum brakes lock up before the fronts can do their job.

The solution is a combination proportioning/metering valve which is installed on ALL disk/drum systems regardless of brand.

You have the right idea, but front brakes do about 80% of the braking. Even with drum/drum systems, the rear brake shoe area is always smaller and so are the piston diameters. We don't want the rear-end to lock up and swing around to the front.

Can you cite a company who offers disk brakes for my '55 without changing spindles? You mentioned, 'suppliers'. Who are they? - Dave

Jimz Bird 03-16-2011 03:59 AM

4 Attachment(s)
Disc Brake conversion is one of the first things that I am going t do for "Mable" (Girls always like new shoes) when I get back.

First let me recommend that you go to:

This is the link under Ray's sig and is available elsewhere.

Scroll down to the section on "Disc Brakes Conversions"

Ray has put a ton of stuff there and I have found it quite useful.

Here is a link to a post there with about 28 pages of discussion that has a lot of good points:
(Scroll down to start at Post 1) Good stuff there!

There is so much good stuff in the Tech Section that you may not be seen for days. :D

There is also a good Post and Links that Ray and Dave have put together on Combination, Proportioning, metering and residual valves.

BTW Ray - I think one of the links on Proportioning valves has changed. Here is the new one:

There are also a couple of good articles in Gil's Garage:
and here:

This last article and the info I got from here prompted me to send a question to CASCO yesterday and ask them about installing a "Residual" valve in addition to their "Kit" and "Combination Valve".

Here also are a couple of shots from their catalog. I am not affiliated and don't want to start a "But this vendor and that vendor" argument but only post them because Dave asked about specific vendors.

I have some other thoughts on replacing the spindles vs. buying a kit but will save those and post them when I get an answer back from CASCO ( http://www.classictbird.com/ ) on the residual valve.

I also think it is good to convert the rears to "Self-Adjusting"

Also a couple of considerations with the new Dual Master Cylinder:
1. a new longer heat shield should be used (Sanderson Headers look like they "aim" down away from the MC and reduce the heat - Yea, that's my excuse to put headers on my want list)
2. probably convert to DOT5
3. another reason for the combination valve is to isolate the front and back systems in case one of the systems fails you still have the other.

I added the Prestige Thunderbird page with their kit also. I couldn't find a Combination valve in their catalog but they may have one or recommend one if you talk with them.


simplyconnected 03-16-2011 12:26 PM

Jim, your info is fabulous! I didn't know these kits were out there for the '55 and I appreciate you sharing your resources.

Edit: I forgot to ask... are you a restorer? Do you perform brake or suspension work?

Jimz Bird 03-16-2011 03:46 PM

More Info Hot Off the Press - err I mean off the Internet :)

Here is the response I received from CASCO:


Good questions. The residual pressure valve makes a lot of sense in some applications. We pondered adding it when we began offering the combination (distribution and proportioning) valve. We decided not to add it, because most of the birds out there have the rear brakes properly adjusted and so the extra valve would not be much benefit.

Concerning adding self adjusting mechanism, we have not had any call for this. It might be a good add-on if the car is regularly driven. Unfortunately most of the TBirds arenít driven enough to get the benefit from a self adjusting arrangement. If you do decide to add them, and you have the time to take some pictures and provide your comment, I would really be interested in your take on it.

Jim Brown
President CASCO
www.classictbird.com "

So looks like for those of who are "drivers" or want to be when they are ready that either or there may a good consideration.

One more link:

I am not really a brake or suspension guy - although I have found Anders thread on the 58 suspension fascinating. Especially the geometry and the importance of "length":D

I just have been researching this for a while and thought some of the stuff I had found would be valuable in this thread. I am mostly just a lurker here and on the Y-Block Forum. (Seen ya there also Dave)

Thanks for the "accusation" of being a restorer. Coming from Dave - I consider that quite a compliment! :D

simplyconnected 03-16-2011 08:38 PM

Thanks, Jim... I'm also a member of the H.A.M.B. Alliance. So is Scarebird, who offers 15% discounts to their paid members.

Self adjusters really shine when your brakes are new-ish, and require frequent adjustment. I have tried 10-lb. residual valves in our '50's Ford cars and I find them to be more dangerous than helpful because there is no indication of how far the wheel pistons are extended. (We used to use the pedal height to indicate when an adjustment is needed.)

Self or manual adjusters spread the bottoms of the shoes and allow the pistons to fully retract every time.

On another note, Ray & I spoke this morning when this dawned on me: How come our members who have Y-Block engines (in their Little Birds) have never posted about valve lash adjustment? Certainly, not everyone knows how to tune a solid lifter engine! I understand the first 352 FE's fall in that catagory too.

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