Stories from the Road: The Pigskin Gamble for Disc Brakes
Greetings and salutations all…..
The beauty of the shows and cruises this early in the season gives me chances to road test my rides for maximum enjoyment when summer arrives. So with that I turned rotors and changed brake pads on the '66 for the first time since I swapped over the drums for front disc oh so many years ago now. Someone suggested that I should put into writing the memories of my travels and as a self-proclaimed nomad the experiences and memories I have had out and about are too numerous to not share with others.
This is a first, of what I'm sure will be many, recollections of past experiences of man and machine along that good ol' two-lane blacktop…..
Chevrolet Impalas in 1966 were equipped with four wheel drum brakes. Oh sure you could get that 425 horse 427 big block plant with either a Muncie 4 speed or a Turbo-Hydromatic three speed automatic transmission placed between the frame rails. But even still with that much motor at your disposal at high speed your stopping time was counted in mileposts instead of feet…..
Ol' Blue was initially a black two door with Marina Blue interior and featured a 327 small block with a two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission. By the time of the first five years of my ownership the damaged and worn out plant was subsequently replaced with a 400 small block and three-speed automatic transmission and the Tuxedo Black paint was gone in favor of GM Bright Blue Metallic.
However, in spite of all these upgrades, the drum brakes on all fours remained into the dawn of the new millennium.
The summer of 2000 was a busy one. Preparations to move into a new home and the resentment of watching my 20's disappearing in the rearview mirror took time away from correcting a nagging pulling issue every time the brakes were applied during that summer. By the fall I was moved and the warm weather was beginning to give way to the change of season.
During car show season we have these weeknight hangs at a local food joint or other business that wants a bunch of classic cars and their owners to show up called "Cruise Nights." Named so from the days when people would cruise the local drive in restaurant to chase girls, finds races, et cetera. The final cruise night of the season, this being late October, was at a local Salt Lake burger chain called Arctic Circle and following the cruise that evening is when I realized the jig was up!
The highway between the cruise and my home was a two lane road at the time and a light rain was starting to fall. As I crested the pass between the two valleys about 10 head of mule deer were standing in and near the road. The evasive maneuver that saved the car from ruin also had me stunt driving of sorts because as the right front brake drum locked up, the left did not which sent me off-roading for a brief moment. After I got home, picked all the sagebrush and cheat grass out of the undercarriage and had a tantrum of sorts I vowed that the car would never leave the garage again until it had a front disc brake conversion completed.
Wintertime in America is football season and as the year winds down and a New Year dawns the hype for the annual Super Bowl begins. Now I have never been a huge football fan personally. I know the teams and what not but I wouldn't know the difference between a corner back and a safety and that's fine. But each year some former co-workers would do a football pool. You know those grids with the numbers 0 to 9 across the top and left side and when the last digit of the score ended the period the person holding that square wins money. Squares were $5 each with a max of 4 for $20. That way everyone who wanted in got to. When the grid was filled we would draw numbers out of a hat determining the numbering on the grid. The pot was a sweet $500: one hundred for each quarter won with $200 for the fourth quarter and final score of the game.
The 2001 Super Bowl was the Tennessee Titans and the Baltimore Ravens and the only reason I watched, besides attending a football party with a lot of beer, was to check on my investment. While my fellow partiers were more concerned with the silly commercials and the beer and pizza supply dwindling I was like a Wall Street accountant watching stock futures. Checking the score and mathematically figuring what each did had to do in the scoring column to make my numbers pay off.
Tennessee won but that didn't matter to me. All that mattered to me was besides one quarter I won the entire grid! $400! I knew then and there that the money was going to my disc brake conversion for my '66 but first I had to get through the following Monday alive after going to work and dealing with the fallout from the win. Obviously I survived but not before some friendly ribbing from them to which I replied "Every time my foot hits the brake pedal from this spring onward I'm going to think of you folks….."
Fast forward a few months and the conversion was complete. A simple yet daunting task which, without discussing the technical aspects, involved some research as with this brake conversion there were some local parts that needed to be acquired. Small things like rubber brake lines from calipers of the right length and other things. Finally, with the help of a good friend who had done this same conversion on his ride prior, the new disc brake conversion was complete and we we're rolling down the highway once more – but most importantly – rolling down the highway safer that we were before.
I found how much safer a couple months later when this brake kit saved my bacon…and my car.
I went up north to visit the friend who helped me install this brake kit to visit and get a little roadtrippin' under my belt. He lived in an outlying area a few miles from the major city in that region and as we were returning to his place after lunch we found how very quickly how well our handy work paid off.
The highway in question is five lanes wide: two lanes in each direction with a center median open divider lane and has a posted speed limit of 60 MPH, however rarely does anyone travel that speed on that stretch of road. But at 65 MPH and approaching a railroad crossing with arms on the road just past the crossing a woman ran the stop sign. Seeing this at that speed, and after crossing the tracks I had maybe a thousand feet- or less – to avoid the other vehicle with destroying my car or worse. But aside from some claw marks in the top of my dash mat on the passenger side from my friend everything turned out ok. One of unfortunately several stories of saves due to good grips but very thankful to have them and be in good working order.
See you out and about and keep the rubber side down.