I picked up a 1959 Squarebird a few years ago and now I'm out of college I have time to restore it! But the interesting part is I'm on a budget! The original engine was replaced with a 428 Cobra Jet from a 68 Turino so I'm really not going for original but just a fun driver. The restoration is going pretty well, under the hood is all painted, did a complete overhaul, the interior is really close to being finished, the outside is last. The picture below is when I first got it years ago.
My problem is the Vacuum booster is pretty aged, and I'm not sure if I want to put my hands in a 50 year old sticky booster. So my question to you gear heads is there another booster that will fit the Birds that are more common from another vehicle?
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Hi Bob! Welcome aboard! Lets find out a bit more about your vacuum booster. I am assuming that you are talking about the under the dash power booster that many of the '59's, like mine, have factory installed on them.. Or does your Tbird have an under the hood single booster and master cylinder installed in it, by chance? If it is an under the dash booster, I think it can be overhauled. If it is an under the hood booster, probably the same thing, replace it.
Does your Tbird have AC on it? If not, you might want to do what several of us have done, or are doing. Put in a dual booster and dual MC under the hood. If you have AC it gets a bit trickier because the of AC plenem in the engine well, but it can be done. And you might want to go further and put disk brakes on the front while you are at it. Howard Prout and others on here, who have gone that route, can tell you more about that. I will be doing that to my '59 in the near future.
I see you are online still or where, so I will post this.
Welcome, Bob. Check out Howard Prout's setup:
Wow you guys are quick!
I'd love to go to disc but I really don't have the money. Someday I will. The funny thing is my dad has all the break parts from a Grenada sitting in the garage but that's going on his 65 mustang and won't part with them!
It thankfully does not have a AC unit, and don't need one in the pacific northwest either!
Anyway is this dog here, single. So I'd like to replace with one or get this one working really good.
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Yup, that looks like the old single stage master cylinder and booster that you often see in the '60 Tbirds. I don't remember seeing many of them in the '59's. It might have been added after it left the factory. You can replace that with a dual mc and dual power booster system. You already have the necessary mounting bracket, it would appear. You don't have to worry about clearing an AC plenum like Howard and I have to. We got our dual MC and dual power booster from Old Irish Dave on eBay. Ours is in chrome, but you can get then natural. Here is the link to his, going for $175, as I recall. Simplyconnected knows a lot about changing over to these types of system. Maybe he can tell you more. I am headed for the sack. Good luck with your restoration work!
Thanks a bunch, I'm going to look into that. I definitely wanted to go to a dual too. I have already gone through the drum brakes so I know they are good at that end, so this will last a long time.
And just wanted to say this is a great forum, I've learned a lot from you pro's already. Its a shame you guys just replace your dashboards instead of repairing them ;) (its my next project on the "Budget Bird")
You need to do your brake system all at once, or you will end up doing it a few times, which costs even more money.
Get rid of that dangerous master cylinder. Go with a dual master and a combination proportioning valve.
With that, you will need to pipe your system. It doesn't cost that much but you need inverted flare tools, 3/16" line, and some fittings.
You can keep your shoes for now, but disk brakes can be done using your existing spindles. Just buy S-10 caliper brackets from Scarebird (on eBay). You can buy 11" Mustang rotors at your local parts store, and your original bearings will still fit. You won't need a front-end allignment, because all your suspension remains untouched.
To do this right, you need to do the whole system at once and be done with it. New disk brakes will put you through the windshield, and your Thunderbird will stop 'straight as an arrow', just like a modern car.
If you fall into some money, we can give you part numbers and instructions for everything you need to do the job. If you stick with 14" wheels, they need to be made for disk brakes (like Granada wheels). - Dave
Bob, there is a long discussion on Disc Brake Conversion in another thread in this forum. There is a lot of good information in it. I just went through this process so I know what is involved. Although I originally intended to only install a new booster and MC, I ended up doing the disc conversion at the same time - it really is the ony way to go. Scarebird is close to you, just north of Seattle - his caliper brackets are very well made and easy to install. OldIrishDave sells the MBM booster and MC at the best price around. But he doesn't have the right booster mounting bracket. ABS Brakes are advertising a booster/mc unit with a mounting bracket but I don't know anyone who has tried it. I ended up designing and making my own mounting brackets and can share those with you if you are interested. The issue with the brackets is to set the booster out far enough from the firewall to have room for the booster rod connection (about 5") and to raise the MC enough to clear the valve cover (about 5" above the original brake pedal push rod). If you want more info, PM me.
As an alternative to the fabrication needed to install a different booster you can have your current one rebuilt for around $130. (see link below for Power Brake Booster Exchange) 1 year warranty on the booster rebuild - have had mine 7 years or so with no problems. For an additional fee (around $50?) he will change the booster face to accept the 2 bolt style master cyl capable of disc/drum systems if you decide to go with discs in the future. (mine pictured below) As far as I know there is not a 4 bolt style disc/drum master cyl - I looked for quite a while - that is why the booster face needs to be changed when going with discs and the original booster. This is not an issue with the new booster - it has the 2 bolt face. In the mean time - to stick with drums - you could just find a drum/drum master cyl with 2 bolt pattern (Torino's had them I think).
Rebuilding and using the original eliminates having to change the firewall bracket and install an adjustable pedal rod - not a lot of savings money wise but maybe saves a little time. The original booster probably doesn't produce as much boost as the dual action ones but my system feels just like it did when I rebuilt it as all stock drum but now it stops like a modern car - I did the Granada disc conversion on the front when I replaced the booster. Keep in mind that if you do change to discs or decide to run a split drum system for safety there will be brake line modifications needed. Plan to buy or rent some brake line tools (double flaring tool & bender mininum). Don't leave out replacing the flex lines (3) both front and one back.
Like Dave mentioned - you'll end up doing it twice so consider the front discs at least - they are a lot cheaper than when I did mine years ago plus brackets so you can use your original spindles. I rebuilt my drum system totally then about a year later converted to front discs (NC mountian roads).
Granada spindles were the only option back then but now are not the way to go unless you have access to a really good alignment shop. My first alignment was to set like it was for a 60 Tbird but the car was all over the road with the Granada spindle setup. Luckily the shop worked with me and made changes until it drove correctly - sad part is they went out of business the next month so I'm stuck finding an alignment shop if I need another alignment.
If you go with the disc/drum booster mod and front discs I used a 75 Lincoln Mark IV brake master cyl (may want verify with Power Brake Booster Exchange that is the right one to use) with a combination valve from Mater Power Brake in Mooresville NC.
I will never ever go back to drums.
Compared a rebuild to a conversion with quick searches at NAPA and Advance - probably left something out but close. Called a local shop to inquire about price for drum turning. Used the least expensive parts I found on the sites. Turned only front drums. Scarebird brackets off ebay. The SURPRISING breakdown:::::
Rebuild STD.............................. Conversion
Master $104.............................. $17
W/C F $27 x 2........................... $36 x 2 caliper (inc pads)
W/C R $16 x 2 ...........................$16 x 2 (keeping rear drums std)
Hose F $17 x 2.......................... $14 x 2 (S10) not sure they will fit old lines
Hose R $27............................... $ 27
Shoes F $15 set......................... $0 Pads inc in calipers
Shoes R $15 set......................... $15 (keeping rear drums std)
n/a........................................... $125 Combo valve
Booster rebuild $130................... $130
n/a........................................... $50 Booster mod (estimated- think this is what mine cost)
Turn drums $30 x 2 (front only)..... $61 x 2 (new rotors)
n/a............................................$169 Scarebird Brackets (inc shipping)
ONLY $316 difference to go discs!!!!!!! Money well spent on these heavy cars IMHO.
Booster rebuilding service
My booster from these folks
The rest of the disc pics
I know, I know - my posts are tooooooooooo long.
Haha ok guys. I'll see what I can do, but student loans come first! I'll keep you guys updated on the repair status too.
But first I think I'll just be putting a dual booster on and stay away from freeways, for now anyway. I'll be going to swap meets and see if I cant scrounge up some of the parts you guys listed.
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