Drum to Disc Swap

In this segment, the front brakes are converted from a drum to a disc-braking system. The Camaro in our restoration project came with 4-wheel drum brakes. One valuable upgrade is a front disc-brake conversion. Disc brakes were, in fact, available as an option on the Camaro in the late sixties. It was option "J-52" on the dealer order form, and cost at the time was $79. Most buyers at the time, however, opted not to order the dealer option.

The disc-brake upgrade components come in a kit (figure A) that includes the spindle, dust-shield, brake-rotor, caliper-bracket, caliper and installation hardware. Some of the components are anodized and plated to protect against corrosion.

Following is a summary of the major steps in the front-brake conversion:

The first step in the conversion is disassembly of the existing drum brake (figure B). Begin by disconnecting and removing the existing brake lines.

With the brake lines removed, remove the dust-cap and
inspect the wheel-bearing nut and cotter pin (figure C). Bend back the tabs on the cotter pin so that it can be removed and the wheel-bearing nut removed 

With the nut off, the drum can be removed (figure D).

Next, remove the cotter pin from the outer tie-rod, then remove tie-rod nut using a wrench (figure E). It may help to tap the outer portion of the steering arm, using a mallet, to loosen and dislodge the outer tie-rod end.

With the tie-rod removed, prior to removing the brake drum, spray down drum with a spray lubricant (figure F) to wash away any residues and asbestos particles. Use a pan to catch the run-off.

The next step is to remove the lower ball-joint. Remove the cotter pin, then use a wrench to remove the lower ball-joint nut (figure G).

Repeat the process with the upper ball-joint.

With the nuts removed, strike the steering knuckle with a sharp blow from a mallet (figure H) to loosen and dislodge the upper and lower ball-joints loose from their seats, allowing them to be separated.

With the joints separated, the brake assembly can be lifted off the ball-joint (figure I).

With the old brake assembly out of the way, installation of the new disc-brake system can begin. The first component installed is the steering spindle. It is fastened to the lower and upper ball-joints using castellated nuts (figure J). Before tightening the nuts down fully with a wrench, turn the spindle to ensure that it is seated properly on the taper of the ball joint, and that it doesn't bind.

After checking for proper mobility, tighten down the nuts securely and install the cotter pins.

With the spindle installed and operating properly, the dust-shield for the disc brakes and the caliper mounting bracket (figure K) can be installed.

* Tip: A little thread-lock on the bolts is a good idea for securing this part, as well as other places in the brake system where bolt fasteners are used.

Once you've started the bolts for the dust-shield, but before tightening them down all the way, install the steering arm at the back of the shield (figure L ). The arm attaches to the two lower bolts below the spindle. 

Once the steering-arm assembly has

been properly installed, tighten down the upper mounting bolt that secures the dust shield (figure M). The mounting bolts are fitted with lock tabs for extra stability.

With the dust-shield and steering arm secured, install the outer tie-rod on the steering-knuckle arm and tighten down the castellated nut (figure N).

Line up the notch in the castellated nut with the hole in the tie-rod, and install the cotter pin (figure O).

Next, tighten down the lower bolts that secure the steering arm at the bottom portion of the spindle (figure P). These are secured with lock-nuts rather than cotter pins. The locking compound is on the inside of the nut, and once installed, the nuts are permanent.

With the wheel bearings packed and installed on the new rotor, the next major step is to position and install the rotor. Before doing that, however, place a light coating of wheel-bearing grease on the spindle where the wheel bearing will ride (figure Q). This will form a protective coating that will take care of the inside of the wheel bearing.

With the spindle coated with the grease, the rotor can now be installed (figure R). As the rotor is seated on the spindle, spin, tighten and adjust it continuously it to insure that it seats properly.

With the assembly operating smoothly, add the center washer and nut, and adjust the wheel bearing (figure S). There should be between 3/1000 and 6/1000 of play in the bearing for proper turning.

With the rotor adjusted properly, install the cotter pin and the dust cap (figure T). The dust cap is critical for keeping contaminants out of the wheel bearing and forming a weather-proof seal. Tap it with a mallet to get it started, then use the cap-installer to seat it securely.

The final phase in the front-brake conversion is the installation of the brake caliper (figure U), which is secured with an upper and lower pin using a socket wrench.

With the caliper installed, the brake lines can be connected to the frame-mounted bracket (figure V) and installing the lock clip.

This finishes the disc brake installation on one side of the vehicle. Repeat the steps on the other front brake to complete the upgrade.

The modern conversion gives superior stopping ability for the restored Camaro. Disc-brakes dissipate heat faster than drum brakes, and stop the vehicle straighter and more efficiently. 

DON'T FORGET TO LOOK AT THE Master Cylinder and Brake Lines SECTION ALSO

Keep in mind that, in this brake overhaul, all of the newly installed systems -- front disc-brakes, power booster and master cylinder -- are connected and interdependent systems. They all function in a coordinated way, so the components must all be compatible. For that reason its best to shop for a complete kit and not the best price CHEAP BRAKES ARE NOT WORTH YOUR LIFE!!

Brake Basics

Basic to the operation of any automotive brake system are two well-known principles of physics. They are: 

  • A liquid in a closed container transmits applied pressure equally in all directions 
  • Energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can, however, be converted into other forms of energy.

If the applications of these two principles to automotive brake systems are not immediately obvious, do not be concerned. The rest of this section deals with these principles. 

To see how the first principle, hydraulics, relates to brakes, consider how the hydraulic brake system works. The driver presses the brake pedal. This pressure is applied to a non-compressible fluid in the system, the "brake fluid", and the fluid transmits the pressure to the wheel circuits. 

The fact that the master cylinder applies pressure equally to each wheel channel, is what allows properly adjusted brakes to stop the car evenly. 

Another important term to remember is "non-compressible." This means that the fluid pressure from the brake pedal is transmitted through the system as a solid form. Air can be compressed, but a liquid is virtually non-compressible in an automotive application. Air in the system results in a soft pedal and possibly a brake failure. 

Another important point to note about brake fluid is that although all brake fluids are non-compressible, they are not all alike. If you look on the label, you will notice that each container of brake fluid has a DOT (Department of Transportation) designation-DOT 3, 4, or 5. Each fluid has its own characteristics.

The difference between DOT 3 and DOT 4 is their boiling point. Both of these are polyglycol based; however, DOT 3, the type specified in most American and Japanese vehicles, has a minimum dry boiling point of 401 degrees Fahrenheit. DOT 4, the type specified for most European cars, has a dry boiling point of 446 degrees. (Dry boiling point means free of water. Water lowers the boiling point of the brake fluid and may affect performance.) 

Because glycol-based brake fluids do absorb moisture (hygroscopic), corroding brake parts over time, and damaging painted surfaces, many car enthusiasts have converted their vehicles to DOT 5 silicone brake fluid. It has a boiling point of more than 500 degrees Fahrenheit, does not damage the vehicle's paint and, because it does not absorb water, it will not corrode the brake system components. This means that-all other things being equal, the use of DOT 5 brake fluid will mean a longer life for the cylinders and the hydraulic brake system. That does not mean, however, that DOT 5 brake fluid should be put into every car. DOT 5 (silicone) fluid should never be used on a vehicle equipped with an ABS brake system. 

Few manufacturers equip their vehicles with silicone brake fluid and, since silicone brake fluid and glycol-based DOT 3, 4-brake fluid do not mix, the only way to convert to silicone is to completely purge the polyglycol brake fluid from the system by doing a complete brake system overhaul. 

The final point to remember about brake fluid is that it does not last forever. Over time, the brake fluid accumulates sediment and moisture. This affects the brake fluid's performance and harms the other components of the hydraulic system. 

Car care experts recommend that all brake systems be flushed every two years. This involves purging all of the old brake fluid out of the system and replacing it with new fluid. Although flushing the system is not a complicated operation, you should keep in mind that petroleum products should be kept out of the brake system. If petroleum-based products are introduced into the hydraulic brake system, the rubber seals will swell, creating a problem that can only be solved by a complete overhaul including replacement of all rubber components.

Bleeding the System 

After a brake job, air and old fluid must be removed. This is called "bleeding the system". It can be done manually by two people or by one person with a pressure or vacuum bleeder. The air is bled from the system through bleeder screws, located on the uppermost part of the master cylinder (if present), calipers, and wheel cylinders. If a bleeder screw is broken off, it must be repaired or air will remain in the system. Air retained in the system can result in a "soft or spongy pedal" or in a complete loss of pedal. 

Since brake fluid absorbs moisture from the atmosphere, it is important to keep the cap on the brake fluid and the cover on the master cylinder. Once moisture enters the hydraulic system, either during repair or because of condensation, it can eventually rust and pit the bore and finish on the cylinder, resulting in frozen or leaking wheel cylinders and calipers. 

Every DOT 3 or DOT 4 brake system should be flushed periodically, at least every two years, for best hydraulic system operation.

There are basically three types of hydraulic brake systems in automobiles. Prior to 1967, a single piston master cylinder was used to provide hydraulic brake system pressure to all four wheels simultaneously. This type of system was effective but offered no provision for braking in the event of a failure in any part of the system.

A dual system, or front/rear split, utilizes a dual piston master cylinder that separates, or makes independent of each other, the front and rear hydraulic portion of the system.

A Dual Diagonal System, like the dual system, uses a dual-piston master cylinder and two independent braking systems. The dual diagonal system, however, links the right front and left rear wheels on one part of the system and the left front and right rear are on the other.

In many respects, a brake system is like an energy conversion machine. It takes one type of energy, motion, and converts it into another, heat. That heat is dissipated into the atmosphere. This heat is generated by friction. 

Friction can be defined as the resistance to motion between two surfaces touching each other. In a brake system, the two surfaces in drum brakes are brake shoes and linings, and brake drums. In disc brakes, the two surfaces are the brake pads and rotors. It is this resistance to motion that actually stops the vehicle. 

It is important to understand how friction works in a brake system-- what creates it and what does it do. Let's take a look at different parts of this stopping formula: 

Pressure + Friction Material + Contact Area = Heat 

Pressure: The brake system is designed to press the friction material against the braking surface (rotor or drum) and stop the vehicle. The amount of hydraulic pressure in the system is determined by the amount of force used to step on the brake pedal, the bore size of the master cylinder, and the size of the brake line. 

In today's brake systems, pressure is converted into two types of mechanical actions: self-energizing and non-energizing. 

A brake is called self-energizing if it uses the rotational force of the wheel to help stop the automobile. On this type of brake, the primary shoe contacts the drum, and the force travels through the adjuster link on the bottom to the secondary shoe. The secondary shoe wedges against the drum, stopped by an anchor pin and hydraulic pressure. On a self-energizing brake, the secondary shoe does approximately 70% of the braking. It has a longer lining than the primary shoe. 

This type of brake is found on most drum-brake systems.

The non-energizing brake does not use the rotational force of the wheels to help stop the car. With disc brakes, one or more pistons in the caliper press the pads against the rotor, braking the car. On non-energizing drum brakes, a fixed anchor between the brake shoes prevents the rotational force from the leading shoe from transmitting to the trailing shoe. Seventy-percent of the braking action on this type of brake comes from the leading shoe.

Small Block to Big Swap

There is nothing like opening the hood of a nice Camaro and seeing those fat valve covers of a big block. There are many advantages to making the switch from small block to big block power like the monster torque available under your right foot and that unmistakable rumble 

Back in the Day there was no substitute for cubic inches in any kind of car, in fact the saying went "Theres no replacement for displacement."The only thing that kept you from owning a big-block was, much as today, the wallet-bending dollar. Much of the car-crazy public had to settle for a small block (307, 327, or 350) . Today, many of those who dreamed of a 396, 427, or the awe-inspiring 454 are taking that giant leap by doing what man has done for decades - the engine swap!

The small block to big block swap in any Chevy is relatively easy, provided you have all the necessary tools and parts & some Brains! When performing this swap in the Camaro, Steve's Camaros has just what the doctor ordered. Tool-wise you'll need access to an engine hoist, an engine stand, jack stands, floor jack, 1 or 2 sets of sockets and wrenches, and maybe a few other common mechanic's tools. 

Parts needed will include 2 major items that are critical to this operation: the motor mounts and the engine frame mounts. 

The engine frame mounts are particular to the big block engine and also differ between the 67/68 style and the 69 style. The big block-style mounts pull the engine forward away from the firewall and also tilt the engine towards the passenger side (RH side) of the car to make up for the large amount of torque produced by the larger cube engines. Many people have tried to drop in a big block using small block mounts only to discover "no room" between the back of the block and the firewall and the side of the block and the heater core cover - not to mention only 1/4 to 1/2 normal throttle response. Correct frame mounts cure this problem. The mounts are available from STEVES CAMAROS (sold as pairs) under Part Numbers #110560(1967-68), #110570(1969). These mounts can be used with either original GM or reproduction motor mounts. 

If your not going HEATER DELETE and you want to keep your heater you'll also need a new heater core and Big Block Heater cover. On original factory big-block cars without A/C, Chevrolet put the heater hose outlet very close to the passenger side fender - versus right next to the engine block like the small block cars. So to KEEP the heater you need both the big-block heater core (Part # 150120 for 67-68 non air and Part#150150 for 69 non/air) and the big block heater box (Part # 150010)for 67-69 Camaros, and are available from us. 

When utilizing power steering on your Camaro with a big block, you will need the correct power steering pump brackets and pulleys. Once a hard part to find, STEVE'S now makes it easy! On 67-68 cars, order pump cradle bracket #110650 and adjuster brace #110660. For '69's, use kit #110710 and your problems are solved. 1969 cars used a big block-only power steering pump, while 67-68's with V8 all used the same pump. Get pulley #111680 and you'll have that end covered, too. 

An often asked question on this swap is: "Why does my engine sit offset 1 inch to the side?" This problem only seems to arise when the small block frame mounts are used. 

To ensure proper alignment of the transmission, unbolt the cross member until after the engine is in place. In some instances, new alignment holes may have to be drilled, but again, not until after the engine is in. 

You should also replace your front springs with a stiffer set for the Big Block to ensure proper steering and load handling (Part #251110)and don't forget your new radiator or at the very least the B.B. Fan Shroud (Part #070380 for 67-68 and Part #070390 for 69) 

The last two items involved with this swap are the exhaust system and accelerator linkage. These will depend on the set-up you chose (I.E.: Headers or manifolds; Mechanical or cable linkage) just remember for your piece of mind, there are no headers for a big block camaro 1967-1969 that will clear the power steering box with out modification. 

Aside from minor adjustments and owner-chosen accessories, like radiators, hoses, fan shrouds, Just use your smarts, that pretty much finishes the swap. Remember that almost everything is available from Steve's Camaros.

Also If your car is a manual car(stick shift) you will need to change the Z-bar (part# 260030) and lower push rod (part# 260730) you should be able to reuse your old return spring just leave off the extension!

Good luck!

Trans Identification

There are many of us out there who have trouble identifying transmissions when we are running through the wrecking or scrap yard. We have looked over numerous reference books to bring some understanding to this important and troublesome question. The transmission pans are the best way to discern the difference between the many varieties of transmissions. This is only a BASIC generalization and there are other smaller differences between the years of the transmission production.

Manual Transmissions can also be generally identified, simply by looking at their profile.The main housing profile tells you what family it is part of.

Camaro Unibody Frame Dimensions

Under Body 67-68-69 Camaro/Firebird Frames Basic Dimensions.

These are the Basic measurements from Fisher Body Specs and are modified, to correct printed errors in the Fisher Body manual. All measurements are center to center unless otherwise noted. Car must be setup on a level surface, for accurate measurements. 
Factory Tolerance plus or minus 1/8 inch.

Note: Your car may measure out differently. This is due to difference in measuring methods used. Most important is that the car is square and level to its self.

Note: A Tram Gauge is recommended for more accurate results, the supplied diagram is for basic building references to help with frame mounting and alignment questions, and measurements are a must when installing SUBFRAME connectors for them to be the most effective 

Rare options on the Camaro

Camaros were available with a wide range of options, some of which were obscure, or simply not well documented, which cause them to be quite rare. Some examples: 

  • A67 Fold-Down Rear Seat - A common option on today's cars, but quite rare back then. Allows the back seat to fold down for more cargo carrying capacity. First-generation Camaros were notorious for unusually small trunks making this option useful for those that had to carry larger cargo than would fit in the trunk. 
  • V75 Liquid Tire "Chain" - An option on '69 Camaros that provided a dispenser with nozzles located in the rear tire wheel wells that would spray a special traction-enhancing liquid on the rear tires to help traction on snow and ice. Quite rare. 
  • JL8 4-Wheel Disc Brakes - Available on '69 high- performance Camaros. Installed mostly on Z-28 Camaros, but technically available on any model. 205 known to be produced. A similar Heavy-Duty Service Option disc-brake rear axle was available over-the-counter but differed from JL8 in the details. 
  • Factory Headers - Available on Z-28 Camaros as a dealer-installed item. Supplied in 1967-68 from the factory in the trunk of the car for installation by the dealer. 
  • U46 'Vigilite' Lamp Monitors - Special fiber-optic head and tail-lamp and directional signal monitors that allowed the driver to determine that all lights were working properly while sitting in the driver's seat. 
  • L78 396ci - Iron-head 396ci 375HP big-block. 4-bolt main block (all other Camaro 396s were 2-bolt mains), 11.0:1 compression forged pistons, high-performance large-port heads, heavy duty rods, special solid- lifter camshaft, aluminum intake manifold, and special Holley carburetor. Available and rare all years, quite rare in '67 (1,138 made). 
  • L89 Aluminum Head 396 - Available in '68 and '69. An addition to the L78 that replaced the iron heads with aluminum closed-chamber rectangular port heads. Very rare. 
  • U17 Tic-Toc-Tach: a dash-mounted tachometer that included a clock on the same dial face. While U17 was available all three years, the Tic-Toc-Tach version was only produced in 1968. 
  • AL4 Front Bench Seat - Optional front bench seat available in non-console cars (1967-68 only). Not available in convertible. 
  • Deluxe Houndstooth Interior - Deluxe door panels, with houndstooth cloth seat inserts. 
  • J52 Front disc brakes - Not very rare, but the 1967-68 calipers are 4-piston units and can be hard to find. The design was changed to a single-piston design in 1969. 
  • F41 Suspension - upgraded suspension components that allowed better cornering performance.

Door-Lock Ferrules and Knobs

This will seem like a trivial detail, but I have a pet peeve regarding junk door-lock buttons. As small as they are, they're also the most obvious door item, and for some reason, on older cars, they've often been replaced with either the wrong type or universal parts-store wood junk. When the wrong buttons are used, they can bind and rattle in addition to looking lousy. New ones are offered for lots of popular cars all the way back to the '50s, and they can make a big difference in interior feel and function. The lock buttons on this '67 Camaro actually serve to guide the mechanism; new buttons and new ferrules are the best few dollars you can spend.


One of the most popular questions we have heard here is, "How do I measure a wheel's offset and what is the difference between a wheel's offset and it's backspacing?" At Steves Camaros, we handle a number of different types of wheels and we would like to help clear up any misunderstandings.

A wheel's backspacing refers to the measurement taken perpendicular from the mounting inner face of the wheel (the contact point where the wheel meets the brake rotor or drum) to the inner rim height.

A wheel offset refers to the distance between the mounting surface of the wheel and the rim centerline. The offset is positive when the mounting pad is outboard of the rim centerline and negative when inboard of the rim centerline. See Diagram for a complete understanding of these two important concepts.

Use Factory Assembly Specs

We all know how to spin wrenches, and most of us are convinced we know how to take apart and reassemble our cars blindfolded, but do you really know everything you should? Unless a factory assembly manual was used to glean techniques, procedures, and specifications, you probably don't. For example, the subframe on an early Camaro is pretty easy to bolt up, but did you know there are alignment holes in the floorpan to help square it up? Misaligned subframes, either from improper installation or worn-out bushings, are the source of much body-panel-gap frustration. Most factory manuals are reprinted, so see what the guys who built your car the first time had to say about it.

Do It Right

Do-it-yourself types tend not to want to spend money where they think they don't have to. So if a guy pulls apart his car, he might scoff at the thought of spending some of his hard earned budget on a replacement bolt kit, since he can always salvage the original stuff and fill in the blanks as needed, right? We say, if you take apart an old car that is anything less than mint to begin with, you ought to pony up for the repro bolt kit like the ones offered by Steves. These kits provide fasteners that not only function like the stock stuff, but also look just like original;BIG BONUS points with your buddies, it is restoration-quality stuff, after all. Everything in the kit is individually packaged and labeled with pages listed right from the build manual and when you're in the midst of trying to bolt the car back together, it's super sweet to be able to reach over and pick up a little baggie with exactly what you need. Get it done right!

Underhood Details

Have you seen some really good looking cars, with shiny new paint and interiors, at shows and cruise ins. But why is the hood closed? pop the hood, you instantly see why. The engine and underhood compartment look every bit of 20-30 years old. Dirt and grease, rust, faded and flaking paint. Sound familiar? Want to do something about it? Youll have to invest in some time and work, but the results will be worth it. Youll no longer have to keep the hood closed, as a matter of fact, youll proudly have that hood up, for all to see. Lets get started.

The first order of business is to get the engine and engine compartment as clean and as free of dirt and grease as possible. A good product to use for this is some purple stuff called SuperClean, by Castrol.This product, plus a high pressure washer will really help get it clean. Now youre ready to pull the engine to get the best results. It really is easier to do this job right if you pull the engine, but satisfactory results can be had if you take off all the accessories and leave it in.

Here are the basic colors in the compartment 

  • frame and upper/lower control arms and upper shafts-semigloss black 
  • front coil springs-gloss black or natural(better detail contrast) 
  • firewall, inner fenders, radiator support-semigloss black 
  • radiator and fan-gloss black 
  • fan clutch-natural aluminum 
  • radiator shroud-natural black plastic or gloss black 
  • steering box-natural cast iron gray 
  • steering linkage-natural steel 
  • front sway bar-natural cast iron gray 
  • heater or AC housing-semigloss black 
  • hood hinges, latch, catch and springs- gray phosphate plated 
  • brackets and steel pulleys-semi gloss or gloss black(gloss gives more detail contrast) 
  • cast iron pulleys- natural cast iron 
  • master cylinder- natural cast iron(some use gloss black) 
  • brake booster-gold cadmium plated(master cylinder lid also) 
  • windshield wiper motor-gloss black 
  • alternator- natural aluminum 
  • power steering pump-gloss black 
  • AC compressor-semigloss black 
  • steering column shaft-natural steel 
  • horns- gloss black 
  • coil- gloss black 
  • voltage regulator-gloss black 
  • distributor- natural aluminum with gloss black cap 
  • fuel and brake lines-natural steel

Undercarriage Details

  • transmission-natural aluminum 
  • bellhousing-natural aluminum 
  • transmission support- semigloss black 
  • driveshaft- natural steel 
  • rear axle-semigloss black 
  • rear swaybar-semigloss black 
  • rear coil springs-gloss black 
  • rear control arms-semigloss black 
  • gas tank-natural steel(shiny) 
  • gas tank straps-gloss black 
  • parking brake cables-natural steel

That's all you need! With that information, you should be looking pretty good.