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Alcon/Roush Brake Upgrade - One Brake Coming Up!
Thanks to an Alcon/Roush Performance Products brake upgrade, our '97 Cobra stops so hard we're wiping nose prints off the windshield.
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Fred Flintstone used his feet to bring his wooden commuter to a halt, but today's cars need just a tad more stopping power. All '94-newer Mustangs have four-wheel discs, and since their introduction in 1993, SVT Mustang Cobras have been blessed with brakes that are vastly superior to those equipped on its lower-priced stablemates. But as with virtually every other aspect of the Mustang, performance from the binders can always be upgraded from stock.
Our long-dormant '97 Cobra project car, alias Superfly, Destroyer of Hideous Camaros (or DOHC for short), has been noticeably absent from the pages of MM&FF lately, but fret not, she is making a return to glory in a big way. The Cobra has seen some of its last days of heavy abuse on the strip, according to owner and Editor Jim Campisano, and is used mainly as a street cruiser and corner carver. However, a new engine package may be in the works shortly, which will come with a whole new array of quarter-mile testing.
You may remember back in early 2000 when Tech Editor Evan J. Smith sidestepped the clutch pedal at an obliterating 7,000 rpm and blasted to an 11.95 at 114.03 mph on motor. After a brief hiatus from these pages, we've decided to take the Cobra out of mothballs and treat it to some necessary upgrades. Not far from Superfly's retirement villa is the road course at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. The track is nearing completion and, while it promises to be more fun than a couple of drunk coeds, the 1.35-mile, 13-turn stretch of asphalt promises to be very difficult on brakes. While Superfly doesn't necessarily lack in this department, we felt bigger brakes would be in order--especially since we also plan on dialing in plenty more horsepower.
Stop In The Name Of Love
The factory brake package on the '97 Cobra consists of OEM two-piston calipers and 13-inch, non-slotted rotors. Not long after a two-day driving school at Watkins Glen, Campisano upgraded the trashed factory rotors with new slotted and drilled Baer EradiSpeed pieces, which are good, but by Baer standards more of a cosmetic upgrade. They are slightly better than stock, but not designed with extreme high performance use in mind. Still, they performed as they were designed to.
Campy has a bit of a brake system fetish and he knew Superfly still had plenty of room for improvement. After a couple of laps on a racetrack with a Roush Stage 3 Mustang equipped with its massive binders, Campy knew what he needed so we picked up a set of serious brakes from Roush Performance Products in Livonia, Michigan. Known as the Alcon/Roush Performance brake upgrade, the brake kit comes standard on the Roush Stage 3 Mustangs, but can be special ordered on the Stage 1 and 2 models if the consumer wishes.
Joe Pucciarelli, the national sales and marketing manager for Roush Performance Products and Accessories, said, "Alcon custom builds the rotors and calipers for us to Roush's strict standards. The front calipers have four pistons--two on each side--that are housed in a non-floating, aluminum caliper design. The stock two-piston calipers have both of its pistons (per side) on the inner portion of the calipers only and float inside the brackets they are attached to.
"The Alcon/Roush calipers have two pistons on each side of the inner portion of the caliper, which activate each brake pad individually, allowing for much greater clamping forces on the rotors," Pucciarelli continued. "The calipers are bolted to adapter brackets and do not have any side-to-side motion. The Roush rotors are 14 inches in diameter and are slotted for better brake pad and rotor cooling, which act like fins in a radiator, so to speak."
The stock system does work well, but by having two pistons on each side of a fixed caliper (such as with the Roush design) brake pressure is distributed to both sides of the caliper and rotor more evenly and with more solid clamping force.
"The rotors have a special anodized coating which prevents rust from forming, but does nothing for additional brake performance," said Pucciarelli. "As far as the pads are concerned, let's just say they are made from a special material that we would rather not describe. The construction of our pads is a huge part of why our system works as well as it does. For that reason, we would rather not disclose the ingredients that make them. As far as the cost of the system, we offer different pricing packages, which can be found at www.roushparts.com."
With the hardware in hand, we began with the installation, which can be accomplished almost as easily as an OEM pad swap. We placed the front of the car up on jackstands and removed the two tires for access. After removing the calipers we slid off the two rotors and pre-fit the Roush rotors to the hubs before removing them to install the two Roush adapter brackets for the calipers.
With the calipers, pads and rotors on, we tightened down the two brake line fittings at the frame and bled the system (front and rear) with Castrol GT-LMA DOT 4-approved brake fluid. The reason why the rear brakes need to be bled, even though we only addressed the fronts at this time, is because when you remove one brake line air can and will trap itself in the entire system. If you don't bleed the brake system as a whole, rear to front, you will experience a soft-feeling and mushy pedal.
For the record, we also have the oversized rear Roush brake kit that goes with the fronts. We will be installing it in the near future, but didn't do so at this time because using it will prevent us from using 15-inch rims (with slicks) due to a lack of clearance. Using slicks will be critical for our track testing when we up the power levels. Still, with just the front brake upgrade only, we gained incredible braking power.
For the brake testing we relied on our Stalker ATS radar gun, which was set up approximately 600 feet from our initial braking point. First up was the stock caliper/Baer rotor setup.
We used two cones to determine our starting position, and after accelerating to 100 mph on Old Bridge Township Raceway Park's quarter-mile dragstrip, we laid into the anti-lock system as hard as we could with the old hardware. We came to a halt in 389 feet. Using the Stalker, we also recorded 80-0 and 60-0 mph stops. Our 80-0 stop was done in 250 feet and our 60-0 stop came in at 140 feet.
Brake fade was present after the Cobra brakes experienced some high-mph heat and the next attempt we came to a halt from 100 mph in 444 feet. The 80-0 times were now 304 feet and the 60-0 stop slowed to 191 feet. Still not bad, but on the final attempt, our brake fade was even worse with 464 feet from 100 mph, 320 feet from 80 and 211 feet from 60 mph. It was evident the Cobra brakes did not work nearly as well when hot.
With the Roush setup installed, we performed the recommended break in procedure by seating the pads to the rotors on the street and performing the required low-mph stops. "We recommend accelerating to 30 mph and then firmly decelerating to a stop," explained Pucciarelli. "You will want to perform this procedure at least 10 times before testing the system at speed, which will seat the pads to the rotors and instill them with several heat cycles."
Low-speed cruising around town with the Roush front brakes warned us that our noses might be meeting the windshield during high mph braking--these brakes felt that good. Just as we expected, our 100-0 stop was reduced considerably to 370 feet, and our 80-0 clocking dropped to 229 feet. You want 60-0 mph numbers? Superfly improved from 140 feet with the Cobra brakes to 120 feet with the Roush hardware. And that's only with the front brake upgrade!
As impressive as these gains are the best is yet to come. Beating the daylights out of the Roush brakes seemed a waste of time as extreme heat did nothing to hamper the performance of the system. Our second test from 100 mph only slowed by 2 feet and our 80-0 and 60-0 times only fell off by 6 and 12 feet. On the third and final attempt (with the brakes so hot you could cook on them) we still came in at 376 feet from 100 mph, 238 feet from 80, and 134 feet from 60 mph.
All in all, the Roush brake system walked all over the factory Cobra brakes and laughed when we repeatedly smashed down on the pedal from 100 mph. We only tested the front portion of the kit at this time, but with the rear Alcon/Roush Performance Products kit we should be able to shave off quite a bit more when future testing takes place.