If you own a classic car, you’re going to have to get the brakes rebuilt eventually. Like death and taxes, brakes are inevitable. Whether your ride is a muscled-up late 1960s big block monster or a pre-1940 traditional hot rod, there has to be a way to get it to stop. Fortunately, a brakes rebuild for your vintage automobile is as close as Rocky Mountain Driveline.
At the turn of the century, when automobiles were still in their infancy, brakes were considerably less sophisticated than they are today. Remember that most cars in those days weren’t capable of speeds much greater than 15 miles per hour! The braking systems in these “horseless carriages” were literally a holdover from the days of the horse and cart. A wooden block was used to apply friction to the steel-rimmed wheel of the automobile, actuated by a handle beside the driver. This was bound to change, of course, as steel rims gave way to rubber tires. With the added comfort, convenience and traction, also came the necessity of producing a new, more efficient brake system that wouldn’t melt the vehicle’s tires.
Classic cars after that time used a forerunner of a system still in use today. The drum brake was developed specifically to answer the challenge of the new rubber tire with regards to bringing the horseless carriage to a stop. Drum braking systems on antique cars came in several varieties. One of the first was a drum band brake, which used a band to produce friction against the outside surface of a drum. Another used brake shoes on the outside of the drum. While these were effective for stopping the vehicle under ordinary conditions, they proved ineffective when the roads were wet or dusty. Since most roads in the early 1900s were dirt roads, that meant that drivers were pretty much out of luck regardless of what the weather was doing.
The modern drum brake came shortly thereafter. Comprised of two shoes, a brake drum, and several springs and levers, drum brakes that had the shoes on the inside of the drum proved to be vastly superior to the previous style. In order to rebuild drum brakes of these early classic cars, having the right parts to perform the work is only half the story. Drum brake systems can be notoriously difficult to service, and if your classic car has been stationary for a while, having an experienced mechanic appraise the condition of the brakes and perform the necessary repairs will save you a lot of hassle and money. One of the biggest problems that do-it-yourselfers might run into is misalignment of the brake shoes and failure to correctly install the drum brake springs. Such problems can lead to cracked drums or shoes, noisy brake performance, and even failure of the brake system.
On some cars, a brake rebuild simply won’t do. For instance, if you’ve recently upgraded the engine of your vehicle, and it produces much more horsepower than it did when it rolled off the assembly line, the stock system may not be able to handle the strain. Drums, while effective, still have limitations. One of those is comparatively weak braking when compared with modern disc braking systems. Fortunately, retrofit kits are available that modify the front drums to discs. In order to make certain that your antique or classic vehicle drives right, professional installation is highly recommended for these kits.
A brake rebuild for classic cars is one aspect of classic automotive maintenance that you should avoid skipping. Keeping your classic car well-maintained not only ensures that it stays in prime condition, but also that it’s safe to take out on those Sunday drives!