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Upgrading my front discs

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  • Upgrading my front discs

    Five years ago I did a front disc brake conversion on my car using a kit from Toms Classics. They sell on ebay and uses the existing spindles. It has a special bracket to hold a GM D154 type caliper which is very popular among custom car builders. It's from a Chevy S-10 and similar models. The kit also comes with adapters for the S-10 rotors which have slightly larger diameters than the TBird.

    The conversion went fine and has worked well. The car stops about as well as with the huge OEM drums. The big advantage is that the rotors cool better and are therefore less susceptible to fade. The caliper fit inside my rims with plenty of room. I have 15" rims from a '65 model. Apparently Tom's kit is designed to work with 14" rims. The rotors are 10-7/8" diameter and the caliper piston is 2-1/2".

    Last week I took the car up to Grandfather mountain and on the way down the brakes started to fade and I could smell the pads burning. I live up here now and do a lot of mountain driving so I need to upgrade.

    Scarebirds sells a similar kit to Toms and advertised for a 14" rim. Several companies have similar kits. Scarebirds also sells a kit for the same year Lincoln Continental, and they advertise that as working with 15" rims. This uses rotors from a 77-79 Cadillac Seville which are one inch larger, and calipers from a 89-91 Chevy 2WD full size pickup which have a 2-15/16" piston.

    It's been my understanding that the Lincoln and Bird of that era were on the same assembly line on the same chassis. The Conti was just a little longer. Therefore the special bracket should fit my Bird. Scarebird isn't accepting calls because of the Covid thing, and chance are they are unsure of this fitment anyway. So I've ordered that kit and will report back on my findings.

  • #2
    So you are going to upgrade front brakes again. See, this is something I dont want to do twice. I finally found the correct wheel cylinder, with an angled bleeder screw on it.

    Unfamiliar with brake fade or smell of burning pads. Would u just need better pads and rotor, plenty of vehicles running that setup like the s-10 u speak of. Merely curious, my bird has been on Jack stands for months trying to find the correct wheel cylinder.

    Is it due to not enough cooling? Or too much drag, etc. I have no answers just questions. What does wilwood, or baer, or etc. Any of those companies say about this problem.


    • #3
      Before I ungraded to discs the fade on the drums was dangerous on these steep mountain roads around here. My first upgrade (Toms Classic) was OK for a while, but since then (five years ago) I have the car here permanently and I do a lot more mountain driving.

      I've done a bit of research on the current system, which used the D154 pads, and there are several companies, including Wilwood, that make comparable calipers, and in one or two piston configurations. And the calipers work on several different rotor diameters. Toms uses a 10-7/8" rotor because they want it work in a 14" wheel.

      I don't know if my car came with 14" wheels originally but I've had 15" on it for a long time. It turns out the '64 Conti had 15" wheels from the factory.

      For better performance I want to use an 11-7/8" caliper and this should work with my 15" wheels. You can't just swap in larger rotors- you need to have a larger adapter plate to carry the caliper off the OE spindle.


      • #4
        I just looked it up in my '64 Shop Manual. The OE wheels were 14". I suspect that they went with 15" wheels on the '65 to accommodate the front discs. The best and easiest way to upgrade the 64 is to put on 65 or 66 spindles. Not so easy to come by.


        • #5
          Regarding '65 &'66 15" rims and spindles, if you had checked the For Sale / Parts Wanted Forum, you would have found that we have someone on here who has several 1966 Flairbird parts cars that he is selling parts from! That would be Clint Baumgartner ~ Clint66 to us on here. You can either send him a Private Message or call him at 507-259-6892. I figure he certainly must have a lot of 15" Flairbird Disk Brake ready rims and spindles and a ton of other Flairbird parts laying around!

          Ray Clark - Squarebirds Administrator
          The Terminator..... VTCI #11178
          Contact me via Private Message for my email address, or Call (Cell) 210-875-1411


          • #6
            Odd, my 64 has 15 inch rims. I'm pretty close to positive that's what came on the car. The rims were wrapped in sears dynaglas belted 30s, with good tread and still held air.


            • #7
              They did have 15" wheels standard in '64 unless they came with the optional wire wheels which were 14".

              John Pizzi - Squarebirds Administrator

              Thunderbird Registry #36223



              • #8
                What disk pads are you using? Are they metallic? Ceramic? Are your rotors slotted?
                In my opinion, a conversion kit should ONLY include parts that I can buy across the counter and they should 'bolt on' without any machining.
                My Scarebird kit (GXY) also uses S-10 calipers but my rotors are 11". I avoid buying 'loaded' calipers because I like to choose the specific pads myself. If you look at pad offerings for the S-10 caliper on Rockauto, you will find dozens, including 'heavy duty' ceramic.

                Your calipers may have shipped with 'good enough' pads that are not suited for long mountain descents. Not all rotors are created equal, either. - Dave
                My latest project:
                CLICK HERE to see my custom hydraulic roller 390 FE build.

                "We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"
                --Lee Iacocca

                From: Royal Oak, Michigan


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