1963 Corvette Disc Brake Upgrade

By Ron Ceridono   –   Photography By the Author

One of the common upgrades made to improve the stopping ability of a drum brake–equipped Chevrolet is a disc brake swap. In our particular case, the car needing better binders was a ’63 Corvette, so we turned to Wilwood for help.

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Wilwood has been a leading manufacturer of high-performance brake system components since 1977, and among their long list of products are a variety of disc brake conversions. For our application we wanted more modern brakes, but we also wanted to keep our vintage five-spoke wheels. That meant two things: the new brakes had to accommodate 15-inch-diameter wheels with a minimum tread width increase due to the wheel’s 7-inch width. To meet our needs, we decided on Wilwood’s Classic Series Dynalite front disc brake kit (PN 140-14663-R, the R indicates red powdercoated calipers). This new kit fits ’55-64 fullsize Chevrolets and ’63-64 Corvettes. It comes with large 11.5-inch rotors, forged Dynalite-M calipers, caliper mounting brackets, hardware, and complete bearing kits.

002 The original ’63 Corvette drums and shoes were about to be replaced when the decision was made to upgrade to discs
The original ’63 Corvette drums and shoes were about to be replaced when the decision was made to upgrade to discs.

Read More: Why the Simple Act of Bench Bleeding a Master Cylinder is Important

Based on Wilwood’s venerable Dynalite caliper, the Dynalite-M series is specifically designed to increase outboard wheel clearance for the Classic Series brake kits; the M stands for machined, the outer body is stepped to clear stock steel wheels, in some cases as small as 14 inches. These calipers are made from forged billet aluminum to reduce deflection and provide the utmost in clamping efficiency. Simply put, that means less pedal travel and better stopping power. To eliminate corrosion, the pistons are stainless steel and are equipped with high-temperature seals. Internal fluid passages to feed the pistons on both sides of the caliper eliminate the need for external supply lines, and multiple bleed screws allow the caliper to be mounted on either side of the vehicle. A variety of caliper finishes are available, which you can check out on their website for specifics.

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003 As they would not be used the original hubs were removed and set aside
As they would not be used, the original hubs were removed and set aside. The steering arms were temporarily attached to the spindles with a pair of random bolts.

Included in the Classic Series brake kits are one-piece hub and rotor assemblies that fit drum brake Chevrolet spindles and may be used on either side of the car. Made from a proprietary blend of cast iron, these vented rotors are strong and lightweight, and as the hubs are integral, they are a cost-effective alternative to multi-piece hub and rotor assemblies. The rotor’s friction surfaces have plain faces—not drilled or slotted.

004 Wilwood’s brake update kit includes a pair of caliper mounting brackets
Wilwood’s brake update kit includes a pair of caliper mounting brackets, forged Dynalite calipers, and PolyMatrix brake pads.

Installing Wilwood’s brake kit is simple enough—once the original brakes are removed, the caliper brackets bolt in place using the same factory holes that retained the drum brake backing plates. With the rotors temporarily installed, the caliper brackets are checked for proper alignment and shimmed if necessary. The calipers are also installed temporarily and checked to make sure they are centered over the rotors; they are also shimmed as necessary. With any adjustments made, all the fasteners receive thread-locking compound and are torqued to the required specifications.

005 Our Dynalite calipers are powdercoated red
Our Dynalite calipers (PN 120-13551-RD) are powdercoated red (black is PN 120-13551). Viewed from both sides, the four 1.75-inch stainless steel pistons can be seen.

Read More: Assembling a 9-Inch Rearend for an LS-Powered Tri-Five

Wilwood’s Classic Series brake kits will give your early Chevrolet or Corvette vastly improved stopping power with the ability to retain the look of vintage-size wheels. But we’re not ready to stop yet; next time we’ll show how to convert from a single- to a dual-reservoir master cylinder, plumb the system, and install the necessary valves.

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006 The two piece caliper mounting brackets have dedicated locations
The two-piece caliper mounting brackets have dedicated locations—this is the left side bracket. Note the tapered screw (top) that requires one thick and initially three thin spacers.
007 the rightside caliper bracket has been temporarily installed
Here, the rightside caliper bracket has been temporarily installed; you’ll see why shortly.
008 Wilwood’s rotor is 1 inch thick and is vented
Wilwood’s rotor (PN 160-14653) is 1-inch thick and is vented. The integral hub has a dual-bolt pattern—5 in 4.50 and 4.75 inches. Bearings, seals, nuts, washers, and grease caps are included.
009 Rather than press in wheel studs Wilwood uses 2 inch long 12 point capscrews with ½ 20 threads
Rather than press-in wheel studs, Wilwood uses 2-inch long, 12-point capscrews with ½-20 threads.
010 The bolt patterns in the hubs are threaded and spot faced for the screws to seat properly
The bolt patterns in the hubs are threaded and spot faced for the screws to seat properly. In our case we used the 4.75 Chevy bolt pattern.
011 Before installation red thread locking compound is applied to the studs
Before installation, red thread locking compound is applied to the studs, they are then torqued to 77 lb-ft. Holding the rotor while tightening the studs is made easier by placing it in a wheel and tire.
012 We always advise investing $5 in a simple wheel bearing packer
We always advise investing $5 in a simple wheel bearing packer; they do a great job of getting grease in between the rollers without the mess of doing it by hand.
013 Here the righthand caliper bracket is in place
Here, the righthand caliper bracket is in place. The two vertical bolts hold the two-piece bracket together.
014 At the bottom of the caliper bracket the supplied fasteners go through the bracket
At the bottom of the caliper bracket the supplied fasteners go through the bracket, spindle, and steering arm. They’re secured with self-locking 12-point nuts.
015 With the rotor’s installed alignment of the caliper bracket checked
With the rotor’s installed alignment of the caliper bracket checked—it must be parallel with the braking surface—we used a feeler gauge to measure the clearance at the top caliper attachment point.
016 verified the caliper bracket was perfectly parallel with the rotor using Wilwood’s suggested spacer combination
Using the same feeler gauge at the bottom verified the caliper bracket was perfectly parallel with the rotor using Wilwood’s suggested spacer combination under the top attachment screw.
017 spacers between the caliper bracket and spindle (arrow) can be added or subtracted
If adjustment is necessary, spacers between the caliper bracket and spindle can be added or subtracted (this is why they were installed temporarily). Once adjusted, this screw is removed, red thread-locking compound is applied, then it’s torqued to 140 lb-ft.
018 With all the caliper brackets tightened to specs the rotors are installed
With all the caliper brackets tightened to specs, the rotors are installed. Wilwood recommends turning the rotor while tightening the spindle nut until there is a bind on the bearings, then backing the nut off 1/6 to ¼ turn.
019 After properly adjusting the spindle nut
After properly adjusting the spindle nut, the hub will have 0.001- to 0.007-inch endplay. The nut is secured with a new cotter pin.
020 When installing the dust cap use a socket or piece of pipe that pushes on the outer flange
When installing the dust cap use a socket or piece of pipe that pushes on the outer flange.
021 At this point the caliper brackets are installed
At this point, the caliper brackets are installed, verified as parallel to the rotors, the wheel bearings are adjusted, and the dust cap has been installed
022 The Dynalite calipers attach to the brackets with two 38 24x1 25 inch hex head bolts and flat washers
The Dynalite calipers attach to the brackets with two 3/8 24×1.25-inch hex head bolts and flat washers.
023 Included in the brake hardware kit are these 0 035 thick shims that go between the calipers and the brackets
Included in the brake hardware kit are these 0.035-thick shims that go between the calipers and the brackets. The same number of shims should always be used on both bolts.
024 Wilwood recommends installing two shims on each caliper bolt before installation
Wilwood recommends installing two shims on each caliper bolt before installation.
025 With the caliper in place it is checked to ensure its centered on the rotor
With the caliper in place, it is checked to ensure its centered on the rotor. Wilwood’s initial combination of two shims on each bolt worked perfectly.
026 Once the caliper alignment is correct the attachment bolts are removed
Once the caliper alignment is correct, the attachment bolts are removed, given a dose of red thread locker, then torqued to 40 lb-ft.
027 Included in the kit are Wilwood’s BP 10 high performance low dust low noise brake pads
Included in the kit are Wilwood’s BP-10 high-performance, low-dust, low-noise brake pads. They wear well and are not hard on the rotors. Before the pads were installed, the rotors were wiped down with brake cleaner to remove any contaminants.
028 With the brake pads in place they are secured with the supplied cotter pin
With the brake pads in place, they are secured with the supplied cotter pin.

Source:

Wilwood
(805) 388-1188
wilwood.com

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of 1963 Corvette Disc Brake Upgrade.acp april 2024

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