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!!