I recently overheard an exchange taking place at a car show about whether or not you could make drum brakes into "power brakes."
"Aren't drum brakes always manual and disc brakes always power?" the one fellow asked.
"That's right, it's why they have disc brake conversion systems," a second fellow chimed in.
"Whoa - not so fast!" I said, as I stopped to jump into their discussion for a second.
On the one hand, you have brakes that have NO POWER ASSISTANCE TO THE PEDAL (we all call them manual brakes) and brakes with power assist making the pedal easier to depress (aka power brakes). A classic or hot rod car can have manual disc brakes or power assisted drums.
"I thought a power booster was required equipment with disc brakes," said one of my new buddies.
"No, is the short answer. Even though a power booster gives you a good pedal feel, manual disc brakes work fine," I explained.
The real differentiating point between power and manual brakes is whether or not the master cylinder has a power brake booster attached. Simply put, a power booster helps assist the master cylinder piston apply force when you press the brake pedal.
All the brake hardware at the wheels will be the same, power or manual.
The booster is typically using vacuum pressure from the engine or a vacuum pump to help you apply pressure to the brake pedal. The reason people like a power booster is that you use less foot pressure on the pedal to get firm braking action. Originally presented as a new car feature "for the ladies," the addition of a power booster meant you didn't have to use every last ounce of leg power on the brake pedal to stop on a dime.
Converting your classic or street rod to employ a power booster along with new master cylinder (replacing your current manual master cylinder) is a simple bolt-in installation. Our power booster conversion kits are all designed to be specific to your make, model, and year car with the goal of making the installation as simple as possible.
Safety First - We are going with a Dual Master Cylinder!
Many cars prior to the 1970’s used a single reservoir master cylinder. This is not the safest of situations. If a master cylinder should fail and there is only one line and reservoir, you will effectively lose brakes on the entire vehicle. With a dual reservoir master cylinder, you have the security knowing that after converting with one of our kits, the front and rear braking systems on your car are completely separate from one another.
Upgrading to a dual reservoir master cylinder should be the first upgrade you make if your car is a daily or frequent driver and currently equipped with a single reservoir master cylinder. That said, we sell single reservoir masters because we also cater to a lot of hobby purists who need parts to be as authentic as possible.
As I left my new (slightly wiser) pals, I had to toss in a shameless plug for MPB: When it comes to power brakes, don’t cut corners with junkyard parts or shoddy kits that use remanufactured components. Everything in Master Power Brakes' systems is all brand new and matched to your make, model and year vehicle. We only use the best available, new components when assembling our kits.
We get your world - there is always a lot to consider when making significant changes to a classic car, and this is especially the case when you are dealing with important safety systems like brakes. If you have questions or want to discuss the best make/model/year specific brake options for your classic car, give us a call or drop us a line and we’ll be glad to help.