How to Install a Drum to Disc Brake Conversion on a 1963 Impala

By Tommy Lee Byrd   –   Photography By the Author

In our last installment of brake system upgrades on this 1963 Impala, we swapped the single-pot master cylinder for a Classic Performance Products power brake setup with a dual-reservoir master cylinder. While the booster and master cylinder provides safety and reduced pedal effort, the Impala’s owner wanted better braking performance. For this, he opted for a disc brake conversion from Classic Performance Products to make simple work of the weekend project.

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02 Car on jackstands with front wheels and brake drums removed
The car was in good working order but the brakes needed some attention. The first steps involve supporting the car with jack stands, removing the front wheels and brake drums.

Read More: DIY Floor Pan Rust Repair

CPP Disc Brake Conversion Kit

The drum brakes were still operational, but they would often cause the car to dart under hard braking. This can sometimes be the result of a swollen brake hose, but it was time for a brake overhaul to offer reliable service for many years to come. The kit used on the Impala is CPP’s front brake system (PN 5564WBK-SO), which includes brake rotors, wheel bearings, brake caliper brackets, calipers, pads, brake hoses, and all the necessary hardware to put it together. Regular hand tools were the only things needed for the install.

03 Removal of cotter pin and castle nut from car hub
Next, we remove the cotter pin and castle nut that holds the hub into place. Then, the hub and wheel bearings can be removed from the spindle.

Read More: Dual Master Cylinder Conversion For Your Classic Car

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Brake Disc Conversion Side Effects

It’s important to note that disc brake conversions on old cars typically have a few side effects. First is track width, as most disc brake conversions will increase the track width. This is not an issue on a car that sits at stock ride height, but if your front suspension is lowered it can cause clearance problems. CPP makes several kits with different offsets. Second is wheel fitment due to caliper interference. The CPP conversion kit will accept some 14-inch wheels, specifically 1970s passenger car wheels or 1980s S10 truck wheels, but it will not accept original 1963 Impala wheels. Some aftermarket 14-inch wheels do not clear the calipers, so be cautious of that before you buy new wheels. For some, it’s as simple as upgrading to 15-inch wheels, but this owner wanted to retain the original 14-inch Super Sport hubcaps, so 14s were a must-have. Usually, you can pick up a good set of 1970s or 1980s steel wheels at a swap meet for a couple hundred bucks and pop the original hubcaps over them if that’s the look you’re trying to accomplish.

04 Disassembling drum brake internals including springs pins shoes and adjuster mechanism
We remove the springs and pins to disassemble the drum brake internals. The shoes and adjuster mechanism are removed as one piece.

Read More: How To Rebuild An 8 3/4 Chrysler Rearend

Brake Disc Conversion Review

After a weekend of work, we buttoned up the Impala and took it for a test drive. The nature of this kit is to bolt into place using the existing spindle, but it does require a front-end alignment due to the spacing of the steering arms. Overall, it was a simple kit with all the right parts to put this retired Impala back on the road safely, with excellent stopping power and easy parts replacement when it’s time for maintenance many miles down the road. MR

05 Loosening of backing plate bolts on vintage Chevrolet car
The backing plate is removed by loosening three bolts. The first is a large anchor pin that threads into the top of the spindle and then we’ll remove the two smaller bolts that attach to the spindle and steering arm.
06 Discarded rubber flex hoses replaced with new ones from CPP kit
At this point, we can remove and discard the rubber flex hoses. The Classic Performance Products kit comes with new hoses and hardware for easy plumbing.
07 Removal and disposal of backing plate and wheel cylinder
Now the backing plate and wheel cylinder can be removed and discarded.
08 Frame suspension and inner fenders of car being scraped and repainted
With the brakes disassembled, it was a good time to scrape and repaint the frame, suspension, and inner fenders to prevent rust.
09 CPP disc brake kit with rotors calipers brackets and hoses for installation
Our Classic Performance Products order included a simple disc brake kit (PN 5564WBK-SO), which features the necessary rotors, calipers, brackets, and hoses for a complete installation. We also ordered a power booster and dual master cylinder.
10 Mock up of reversible caliper brackets on stock spindles
Classic Performance Products makes disc brake conversion kits that include aftermarket spindles, but we opted to stay with the stock spindles. Here, we mock up the caliper brackets, which are reversible for various brake kits.
11 Installation of low profile bolt and spacer from CPP kit
Hardware is included in the Classic Performance Products kit, including this low-profile bolt for the upper mounting point. Also note the spacer that is placed between the bracket and spindle.
12 Installation of hardware on lower portion of spindle
Hardware is also provided for the lower portion of the spindle. The caliper bracket sits between the spindle and steering arm, so a spacer is used on the front bolt to retain proper steering geometry.
13 Packing of wheel bearings using palm method for smooth operation
We pack the wheel bearings using the tried-and-true palm method, ensuring smooth operation for many years of driving.
14 Installation of inner wheel bearing and seal into new disc brake rotor
After the inner wheel bearing is placed into the new disc brake rotor, a seal is tapped into place.
15 Installation of brake rotor outer wheel bearing washer and castle nut
Now the brake rotor slides over the spindle and we can install the outer wheel bearing, washer, and castle nut.
16 Adjustment of wheel bearing with castle nut and cotter pin
To adjust the wheel bearing, we tighten the castle nut until we start to feel tension. Then, spin the rotor a few times to make sure the bearing is seated, and back it off until the cotter pin hole is lined up with the castle nut.
17 Installation of grease cap on rotor after cotter pin
After the cotter pin is installed, we hammer the grease cap on the rotor. These can be tricky, so you may need something stronger than a rubber hammer to get it started.
18 Application of brake cleaner on rotor to remove packaging oil
Next, we spray brake cleaner on the rotor to remove the packaging oil.
19 Placement of brake pads from CPP kit into caliper
The CPP kit comes with brake pads that are placed in the caliper before sliding the assembly over the rotor.
20 Bolts passing through caliper and threading into bracket
The provided bolts pass through the caliper and thread into the bracket. A 3/8-inch Allen wrench is used to tighten the bolts.
21 Installation of banjo fittings on new calipers with provided flex hoses
Banjo fittings are used on the new calipers, and Classic Performance Products provides the correct rubber flex hoses and hardware in the kit. A brass washer is used on both sides of the fitting and the banjo bolt is tightened on the bottom side of the caliper.
22 Attachment of flex hose to hard brake line and bulkhead
The other side of the flex hose is attached to the hard brake line and fastened to the bulkhead with a retaining clip.
23 Installation of new disc brake system on driver side of car
The new disc brake system is installed on the driver side, and we’ll repeat these steps on the passenger side to complete the install.
24 Bleeding of brakes starting with passenger rear corner
Finally, we bleed the brakes, starting with the passenger rear corner and working our way toward the master cylinder.
25 Topping off master cylinder with AMSOIL synthetic DOT 3 brake fluid
Then, we top off the master cylinder with DOT 3 fluid. In our case we opted for the latest from AMSOIL in their line of synthetic DOT 3 and 4 brake fluid. Remember to always begin with a fresh container of brake fluid.
26 Test drive of Chevrolet car after installing new CPP disc brake system
The first test drive revealed that spacing the steering arms created a toe-out situation, which required a front end alignment. We were still able to bed-in the brakes and feel the power of the new Classic Performance Products disc brake system.

 

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Sources:

AMSOIL
(800) 777-7094
amsoil.com

Classic Performance Products
(866) 882-6882
classicperform.com

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of Beat The Drum.mr february 2024

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