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-   -   Disk Brake Conversion Discussion (http://squarebirds.org/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=5023)

JohnG 07-27-2008 07:46 AM

Disk Brake Conversion Discussion
I have finally gotten to the point of gving up on the drum system my 58 has. It is, for all intensive purposes, perfect. Shoes are near new, drums quite new, wheel cylinders replaced etc. There is only so much stopping power there and it ain't really enough.

Awhile back I did some reading on the design of the car and learned that the effective braking area (shoes) was about the same as the 2 seater TBird, a much lighter car. Further, in the quest for the low slung visual design, the drums were also limited. So what we get is what we get.

What I would like to find out is what experiences people have had with the disk conversions. I have one listed at


Is your braking now alot better?? If I am going to go to alot of trouble then I want some seriously better results. Not just better... It would not bother me to spend extra on even higher performance calipers (2 piston or more)

The other area I am in the dark on is wheels. I gather I have to replace my front two wheels. I have stock Ford rims at the moment (14") but not originals. What do I get and where do I get them??

It occurs to me that used parts sources are drying up fast due to the high price of scrap steel, among other factors, so junkyard items that we used to count on may be gone.

So...what do you guys know???


KULTULZ 07-27-2008 09:13 AM

Just A Thought
My concern (and it really doesn't amount to a hill of beans) is the using of GM componets on these aftermarket conversion kits. It really detracts from the appearance of the car (IMO).

I would much rather see a 100% later model FORD conversion.

protourbird 07-27-2008 09:14 AM

Stainless Steel brakes has a conversion that will work with a 14X7 wheel. They also have a 4 piston conversion that will work also. Down side is that it currently is not compatible with most sway bar setups. Especially OEM.
Kits for the rear brakes can be found in their street rod section where they list kits for the Ford 9" with 28 spline axles. They will be working with me on the conversion of my 60 but I am planning on using a 17X8 wheel. I will update after I do the swap this fall or winter.
You will have to change the master cylinder and add a proportioning valve. This all comes in their kits which are the most complete on the market. You can go to SSBRAKES.com to look around at their products. Just enter your make, model, & year at the top of the page.

JohnG 07-27-2008 10:56 AM

Jim: do you replace the sway bar or have it machined??

14x7 means a narrower wheel, I think (14x8 is stock?) so can I keep using the same tires?? (I run Diamondback radials which have about 6000 miles on them)

On the comment abou the non-Ford hardware, what ends up showing?? The master cylinder?? I am guessing the calipers are hidden...no?

Probably I am looking for a "conservative" solution where on the one hand I want disks but on the other want to use as much original stuff (tires for example) as is possible.

I recall people saying you could use Ford Granada parts (I am too lazy to do a Search and hunt the threads down) but I never knew if this meant junkyard stuff or auto parts store stuff (new but aftermarket). As I live in the northeast, the idea of digging up used, rusted, 33 year old Ford parts is...well...challenging.

It would be nice to have a soup to nuts list for each option (we seem to have 2 or 3 paths at this point) that had
* parts sources
* machining needed
* wheels (size) need and source

and anything else so that some guy just tuning in here for the first time could get the job done with no surprises and great results.

(I used to road race 750cc motorcycles where you simply could not have too much front braking power. In 1980 one could easily spend $1000 on rotors, calipers, SS lines and mc.) So I have this fantasy of 4 piston Brembo brakes hidden under my front end ready at my command... The ol' Squarebird, on the other hand... I am reminded of the comment of the guy on 101 Cars You Must Drive when driving some 1930s gem said something like "I get a kick out of the vague resemblance of brakes"). In more down to earth terms, if someone - pedestrian or car - pulls out in front of me and I have to panic stop, the fact I am in this delightful old car will be totally irrelevant and perhaps a liability. If the Squarebird were produced today, emissions aside, it is hard to imagine the pathetic brakes being DOT approved.


byersmtrco 07-27-2008 07:54 PM

I have the SBC kit on my 60. It stops every bit is good as my 87 SS Monte Carlo. AND . . . in a straight line. You can be going 85 mph and stand that car on it's nose. It has NO steering pull or other ill effects.

The down side is; the orig 14X5.5 whls won't work. You will have to run 14X7's. I had to have a front swaybar custom made. The orig (little pinner Pinto size) sway bar won't work, nor will the hvy duty bars that the Thunderbird suppliers sell. The calipers in the SBC kit mount to the stock 58-60 spindles, facing the front of the car. They interfere with the swaybar links. I had to move mine forward, only an inch or so. I just have "L" shaped brkts on the frt of my lwr c/arms.

It was a headache but well worth it. With the addition of the rear swaybar, my car handles really well for what it is. Let's face it, these things are tuna boats.

I have devised a bar design using the stock mountin locations. Welding will be req, but this will mount the heavier front sway bar out of sight.

The other option is that drop n stop. He uses Granada type spindles, mounting the calipers towards the rear. You can then use the stock (or) the heavy duty version they sell. To me, that's the way to go.

As far as the master cyl, yep it won't look stock. It dosen't look GM either, even though it is an early 70's Chevelle type m/cyl.

I understand that now, concours rules are, they don't dock you for safety inprovements. Personally , I don't care. "If" my car was in any other catagory than show n shine or "driver" class, it would be in "modified".

But, by all means . . . Change over to disc !!!!

Bob M 07-27-2008 08:41 PM

John Byers
You feel that the kit from dropnstop is the way to go.
Is this a all bolt on unit and will I have to buy a proporition value?

Do you know if I would have to change the wheel size form orginal size to 14X7's ?

Do you know if my new Coker tires P215/75R-14 will fit the rims if I have to change them as I do not understand about wheel size?

Would I have to change sway bar ?

tbirdave 07-27-2008 10:51 PM

disc conversion
I converted mine about 3 years ago , I got my bolt on kit from Larry's Thunderbird, along with a power brake kit, mine were standard no power before. My mechanic said it was pretty straight forward to put on. When I did this I took off the mags that were on the car and put the original type wheels back on with wide whites and original wheel covers. I ran into a problem with the original wheels that the seller had given me when I bought the car. They were made for drum brakes and wouldn't clear the calipers. Through much frustration and research I found a set of Mustang wheels that cleared the calipers and were 14" to fit the wheel covers. I sold the original rims to Thunderbird Headquarters. I am soooo glad I made the conversion my car stops now when I step on the pedal. Hope this helps.

Penelope 07-27-2008 11:11 PM

OK, you guys have got me worried about my brakes now. Penelope has power assisted drums and I think she stops pretty well, certainly not up to my daily drivers' standard, but OK I reckon. Anyone else happy with their drums?


byersmtrco 07-28-2008 12:57 AM

Please see comments (peanut gallery below


Originally Posted by Bob M (Post 23826)
John Byers
You feel that the kit from dropnstop is the way to go.
Is this a all bolt on unit and will I have to buy a proporition value?
{yep, bolt on. The kit will come with a prop/valve. My kit came with an adjustable one (you adj the rear only with it)}

Do you know if I would have to change the wheel size form orginal size to 14X7's ?
{Yes you will, the stock wheels won't clear. For sure you have to change wheels.}

Do you know if my new Coker tires P215/75R-14 will fit the rims if I have to change them as I do not understand about wheel size?
{That tire size is fine. You "may" be able to squeek by w/14x6's. It would be VERY close though.}

Would I have to change sway bar ?
{No, but I would. That orig sway bar is comical, but you don't have to change it}

fomoco59 07-28-2008 07:47 AM

I wonder if a set of 15" wheels from a '65-66 (disk brake) TBird would fit on a conversion kit for a 58-60?

tbird430 07-28-2008 09:07 AM

I like my drum brakes. I just always try to over anticipate what might happen in front of me. I allow more space and time to react. I do hate the fact that from time to time my Bird will pull left/right slightly.... :o

I though someone on here said they used 14" steel wheels off a 1999-ish Ford Ranger? They bolted right on, cleared calipers, held the stock hubcaps, & were plentiful in the salvage yards.... :confused:

bcomo 07-28-2008 10:17 AM


Mine pulls very slightly to the right. Even though I rebuilt the entire brake system, drums, brake shoes, cylinders, master cylinders, and all lines. I tried tightening the left brake shoes a little tighter than the right, and that helped somewhat.

If you ever figure that one out, let me know.

tbirds8 07-28-2008 06:55 PM

Yes 15,s will fit. But from a 65 up. If you want to stick with 14,s a 98 ford ranger has the wheel that will work with disc brakes and your hub cap will cover it. A 74-76 mustang master cyl. will work or probably a granada would be the same. These brakes were a little lacking for the weight of these things and now people can stop a whole lot faster (and i'm comin through) What we have now is the junk yards a EMPTY with the price of scrap. I'm on ebay for a granada and I'll pull everthing off and see what works. then sell the scrap...............................

RustyNCa 07-28-2008 06:59 PM


Originally Posted by fomoco59 (Post 23835)
I wonder if a set of 15" wheels from a '65-66 (disk brake) TBird would fit on a conversion kit for a 58-60?

Well, if you want some measurements from a 65 wheel I have four laying in the weeds by my shed, tell me how you want them measured.

And fwiw, I tried the 17x8 bulliets on my 58 on the 65 once, they bolted right on and cleared without any drama or clearance problems at all.

The disc brake kit I went with requires at least 16" inch wheels, well, I think 16 would clear, when I moved the 15x7 wheels over from the 65 they were bound on the calipers of the 58.

But I do have 13.5" rotors with 4 piston calipers, the car does stop now.

tbirds8 07-28-2008 07:27 PM

Hey Rusty My 66 will out stop my 03 f-150 and my 71 mark and just about every thing else. Gota love those 4 piston disc's

dgs 07-29-2008 12:22 AM

I'm happy with my drums. I think I can lock up the wheels (even with the 9" wide tires) so more braking power isn't going to help. I do not like the dance it does when I throw out the anchor, but stopping power isn't a problem.

If I was going to do a conversion, I wouldn't do anything that wasn't engineered to work as a kit. No junkyard parts kit building. Just because they bolt together doesn't mean they will safely work together. You can end up with calipers or hoses that are under-matched to the pressure output of the master cylinder. That's one reason I stick with the drums, I know they are designed for the car and to work together.

It's not well understood that drum brakes actually produce more power than equally sized discs. The real problems with drums are the dance the car does when you stop hard and heat dissipation. Headed downhill, drum brakes can easily overheat while discs better shed heat.

Overheated brakes = no brakes.

byersmtrco 07-29-2008 02:30 AM

Mine was a "kit". I was in uncharted waters. Drum vs Disc. No comparison. Now I've had newer cars w/drum brakes that were ok. The drums on a 60 are too small. As prev stated the same as a 57. Almost 1000 lbs lighter.

All I know is, I can stop in 1/2 the distance, safely, no wheels locking, no steering wheel pull, no nuthin. I have driven down steep grades. As we know with a cruise-o-Anchor, you can't drop her in 2nd to slow you down (only low) so ya gotta ride em. I got to the bottom of Hwy 9 ( a road in the Santa Cruz Mountains for all you non Calif folks) It's a fairly steep road. I stopped in Saratoga and my brakes weren't hot. They were warm, but not hot. Before, you'd come off that hill and those drums would be smokin!!! You could light a cigarette on one of the rear hubcaps.

fomoco59 07-29-2008 07:57 AM

"Headed downhill, drum brakes can easily overheat while discs better shed heat.

Overheated brakes = no brakes."

BEEN THERE !!... Scarey

skyd 07-29-2008 10:26 AM

I went with the conversion from http://www.abspowerbrake.com/

They knew the squaresbirds, they sell a rear disc conversion kit, but they recommended not go go with it if you have the stock offset and skirts.

I had 16" wheels already so I don't recall the min. wheel size require, if any.

What convinced me to upgrade was more of the fact that my rear wheel cylinder went and lost all brakes. not close to home and late at night made it fun driving home!!!

Not that I needed disc, but going to a dual master cylinder made me feel a little safer, knowing the at the there are 2 systems now stopping the bird.

just my 2cents

tbird430 07-29-2008 11:40 AM

$550 isn't bad for a bolt on front disc kit (w/o booster or master cylinder). :cool:

RustyNCa 07-29-2008 11:41 AM


Originally Posted by tbirds8 (Post 23859)
Hey Rusty My 66 will out stop my 03 f-150 and my 71 mark and just about every thing else. Gota love those 4 piston disc's

Yeah, the brakes on my 65 are nothing short of amazing really, when ford decided to add the discs to the birds they went all out. But it does make it a challenge when you go playing with rims and the heavy overhang the calipers have.

My only real complaint on the 65 is the single reservoir bothers me, at some point down the line I plan on swapping that out.

Bob M 07-29-2008 11:57 AM

Where is a supplier for 14x7's rims I will need these if I put dics brakes on the front of my 59.

skyd 07-29-2008 02:08 PM


Originally Posted by tbird430 (Post 23878)
$550 isn't bad for a bolt on front disc kit (w/o booster or master cylinder). :cool:

not at all, compared to some of the others I have seen. I picked up the master for about $40 at napa/ bolt on. I have seen new booster/master cylinder prices around $100-140 roughly. That is my next step.

Anders 07-29-2008 08:09 PM

Discs realy sounds like a good idea. My brakes realy sucks. They have faded quite dramaticly since spring. Canīt realy "Stop", but OK, she does "go down in speed" while pressing all I can....
Brake fluid is still full. Perhaps new drum shoes is needed?
But I might make her illegal by changing to modern brakes. Need to check that.
I guess original steel wheels, without venting holes is out of questions with disc brakes, as they require a lot of air flow. Like Skyd.
Anyone know the best brake shoes avalible?

FeFranco 07-30-2008 03:12 PM

Well I see that you looked into Drop N Stop, so I figured to give you my experience. I purchased the Drop N Stop conversion a while back and installed it myself. It was easy. I did replace the spindles, as per the conversion, which was probably the tuffest part. I did replace the ball joints along with other bushings while I was at it. I also purchased the dual master cylinder and powerbooster, a must! No regrets and Dick at Drop N Stop was helpful over the phone. The stock 14" rims did NOT fit over the rotors, but I had no problem with the 1 1/8th" sway bar.

El Guapo 07-30-2008 08:52 PM

Just replaced Guapo's booster and master cylinder with a 74 Torino's.
It had a Midland but couldnt find one so I got a Bendix from my local parts store, Shucks.
Check Parts America for an online price and take that to a Shucks/Kragen.
It's cheaper to buy 'em sepratly. I think $110

rickauf 08-04-2008 09:58 PM

Get the kit from Lance at Thunderbirds southwest. My 59 convertable was undriveable. (I have a 63 bird, a 63 galaxie and had a 63 comet.. all stopped and drove fine with the factory drums) something about that 59, but after replacing everything on the front end and brakes, it still drove horrible. it was no fun to drive and sat in my garage. The upgrade was the best thing i ever did. disc brakes , dual cylinder, sway bar. my car drives like new.

I shipped my car down to Texas to have him install it (but i have no mechanical skills) he sells the kit outright. Have had it 2 years now, several thousand miles, high speed driving, driving in the mountains, etc.. all conditions.. just perfect.

in fact, i now have my 58 edsel down there having the same front end swap. looks stock.. and frankly i don't care if it's gm parts, or anything else as long as i can safely drive my wife/ kids around with confidence. I believe it is all granada stuff anyway. can use the 14 inch wheels, but they need to be off a granada, or merc/ lincoln of the same era (76 thru 83??)

i think the kit is a couple grand depending on how many parts you want from him (I think you can source a lot on your own if you are so inclined) i was directed to him on this board for this very topic a few years back.. i am surprised no one has bought it up in this thread!

anyway, call him and he can set you up, or at least tell you what you need to know. nice guy, won't try and sell u anything if u don't want. I have no affiliation with him/ recieve no kickbacks or anything like that. He just one of the few nice guys out there to work with. I would have sold my bird if he did not hook me up. enjoy your car!!!! Tell him "Dr. Rick" sent ya!

byersmtrco 08-04-2008 11:49 PM

Yep!!! Lance @ TBSW is "Da Man"!!!!
I didn't have him do mine. Didn't know about him @ that time. He solved several problems for me on the phone. Hind sight 20-20, knowing what I know now, my TB would have been on a truck to Texas in a second.

My car stops great. I can be haulin a$$ and bring her right down to a halt. And w/HD swaybars frt & rr I can go around corners too


DKheld 09-04-2008 01:16 PM

Completed disc conversion



tbird430 09-04-2008 05:33 PM

When did big brother make the new car manufactures add the dual brake master cylinders anyway? Was it 1966 or 1967?

I figured you '65 Birders could do an easy swap off a '66 Bird if they had these dual master cylinders as OE equipment. :cool:

tbirds8 09-04-2008 07:30 PM

I think it was 67. As my 66 has a single

tbirdave 09-04-2008 07:47 PM

Yes!!!! do the conversion it's amazing how much diference it makes. I got my bolt on kit from Larry's Thunderbird. As for the wheels, 14" Mustang wheels will fit and you can use your original wheel covers.

JohnG 09-04-2008 10:36 PM

What year(s) Mustang wheels would fit and also take TBird hubcaps??

The hunt for wheels seems to be the trickiest part of this...

El Guapo 09-04-2008 11:03 PM

I have both..Guapo's got disc (were on when I bought him)not shure what was used.And Chiquita has drums.I sincerly believe the disc conversion is well worth it.Both work well but the disc work far better and are better trusted.
Chiquita's getting a 428 PI and theres nothing more important than brakes and tires.Though with a clutch and 5 speed I do have a bit of an advantage

tbird430 09-05-2008 12:42 PM

On the 1st page of this thread (And I read somewhere else on this site) the 14" steel wheels off a 1998 Ford Ranger work great and are very plentiful. ;)

Howard Prout 10-23-2009 08:50 AM

I have read through the rheams and rheams of discussion on this issue and the more I read the more confused I get. Has anyone made the conversion using the exisiting spindles, tires and hubcaps? Can 14" x 6" rims be used or are 14" x 7" rims required? With the wider rims, is there a clearance problem with the upper control arms and the rear wheel wells?

simplyconnected 10-23-2009 07:54 PM

Howard, I've been waiting for others to chime-in. As stated below, you should ask Lance Herrington, owner of Thunderbirds Southwest. His phone number is 1-800-722-8697 (La Grange, TX). I believe Ray Clark knows him, and everyone says Lance is a real nice guy. - Dave

protourbird 10-24-2009 09:50 AM

You cannot run the original spindles on any of the conversions since the calipers bolt to the spindle and they have to be cast with those bosses already on them. There have been companies that have tried different ways to adapt the calipers to the original spindles but I have yet to see one that is successful. As for the 14X6 wheel the only one I know of for sure that will work is the Stainless Steel Brakes kit ssbrakes.com. Perhaps some out there can comment on the other styles.

simplyconnected 10-24-2009 01:32 PM


Originally Posted by protourbird (Post 38386)
You cannot run the original spindles on any of the conversions since the calipers bolt to the spindle and they have to be cast with those bosses already on them...

I never removed my original spindles, just cleaned them up a little and put disk brakes on them with 11" Mustang rotors. They work VERY well with no bad habits.

Jim, there are several companies that make brackets that bolt directly to your stock spindles. I bought mine from Scarebird (on eBay), and I am using my original spindles.
Check out my retrofit.
My car is a Galaxie, but they make brackets for Thunderbird as well.

I have not tried using 14" wheels because I really wanted 15" Cragar SS mags w/radial tires. I understand 14" Bronco and Mustang wheels work, but call Lance Herrington to verify.

Howard Prout 10-24-2009 08:19 PM

Thanks Dave (SimplyConnected) for the link to the great photos. They really helped me understand what is involved in the changeover. I talked to "Dave" at DropNStop (www.dropnstop.com) a while ago. They have a kit for Squarebirds that retains axle height and uses stock wheels! He said that to do a proper job I need to install an external power brake booster and a dual chamber master cylinder which they can also supply.

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