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How to Install Big Brakes on Your Vintage Mustang
Bring things to a halt quickly with a 13-inch disc brake upgrade
Underhood modifications are most often the first we make to our Mustangs, and whether it’s for performance reasons or aesthetic reasons, the goal is to improve upon what the factory offered and maybe to put our own touch on it. One of the most overlooked areas that should really be considered much sooner when it comes to upgrading our Mustangs is the braking system. Most early cars were equipped with timid drum brakes and while the factory disc brake options were a step up, there are much bigger and better options to consider these days, such as Classic Performance Products’ (CPP) big brake kit.
There are a number of modifications you can make to the factory disc brakes to get them to work better, and you can always paint the calipers for a low-buck, custom approach, but these options won’t fill out the area behind your wheel. And if you’ve upgraded to a set of 16-, 17-, or 18-inch wheels, the area is even larger. Our hot rods are faster, more powerful, and some of the roads we travel on move at a higher rate of speed than when these classics were new. A big brake kit will offer improved stopping power and shorter stopping distances. The large rotors and bright red calipers in the CPP kit are sure to fill out the wheels too, bringing attention to your wheels and getting some extra looks.
CPP has a number of options when it comes to your brake upgrade path, and that’s not all they have. The company also offers lots of suspension components, too, if you want a complete package. Here’s what goes into upgrading your classic Pony to bigger and better front brakes.
01. To upgrade the front disc brakes on this ’66 Mustang coupe we ordered CPP’s 7580WBK-P13F kit. The new system features 13-inch cross-drilled, gas slotted, and zinc-washed rotors, 2024 T6 billet aluminum CNC-machined and anodized hubs, a pair of PBR C15 calipers, and custom CPP caliper mounting brackets.
02. If you’re going to step up to the 13-inch rotor package, you’re going to need 17-inch-diameter wheels or larger. As you can see, the current disc brake system does little to fill out the area behind this 17-inch wheel. If you’re going to upgrade, why not make it look good, too.
03. Before we start the brake component swap, we’re going to take some baseline alignment measurements so we can get the car close during reassembly and be able to drive it to the alignment shop without damaging the tires. To find your toe measurement, measure from the outside corner edge of the tire to the outside corner edge of the opposite side. Do this front and back and make sure you are consistent on where you measure from.
04. Our next step is to disconnect the brake lines at the fender apron junction. Have some rubber caps on hand to put over the end of the brake line to keep them from draining all over your floor—it’s less fluid you’ll need to bleed out later on. Line wrenches are recommended to disconnect the line fittings, as they are less likely to slip on the fitting, and some of them can be pretty stubborn even if they are relatively new.
05. After jacking the car up and removing the wheel, we remove the steering tie-rod end from the spindle.
06. Next up is the lower ball joint. Remove the cotter pin and then loosen the nut until the top of it is flush with the stud. Then use a hammer on the body of the spindle where the stud goes through (the spindle’s eye) to knock the joint loose. Having the nut on will keep everything from flying apart once it frees up. Do the same with the upper joint. It may be helpful to disconnect the front antisway bar endlinks as well.
07. Now that everything is disconnected, you can pick up the assembly and remove it from the vehicle. This is a good time to inspect your ball joints and anything else you can lay your eyes on with everything out of the way.
08. One thing you need to consider when upgrading your front brakes is the register size of the wheel, as it needs to be large enough to accommodate the new bearing/hub.
09. Before you bolt your new brake assembly on, it’s a good idea to double check that your new brakes fit within your wheels and that everything clears. CPP can assist during the order process regarding fitment questions. As you can see here, the new CPP big brake upgrade has already been assembled. CPP offers an optional spindle kit (PN 7580SMK) and will assemble the components free of charge should you buy both the big brake kit and spindles.
10. As you can see from this picture, the calipers cleared the wheel just fine, but the interior stick-on weights did come in contact with them. This is easily solved by removing them now and having the wheels rebalanced and the weight moved to a better location.
11. Now that we’ve verified that clearance is not an issue, we can bolt the big brakes on the car, slip the assembly onto the lower control arm ball joint, and put on the lower nut. Then do the same at the upper ball joint. A floor jack under the lower control arm can help keep everything together for you.
12. Here on the backside of the assembly you can see we have secured the upper and lower ball joints. Don’t forget new cotter pins! Also shown is the CPP caliper bracket and the upgraded caliper that features dual 52mm pistons.
13. If your tie-rod ends haven’t been replaced in a while, CPP can provide you with new inners (PN ES713) and outers (PN ES445RL) as well as the company’s aluminum adjustment sleeves (PN ES2004SP-AB).
14. Since our subject vehicle recently received a power steering upgrade, we reused the current rod ends. Now is also a good time to give the rod ends a shot of grease with a grease gun.
15. The brake lines are next and include all-new banjo fittings and hardware. We upgraded to the stainless steel braided brake lines (PN BHK-S10) for a firmer pedal feel.
16. Once you have the brake lines attached, you’ll want to double check the routing of the brake lines and make sure it does not come into contact with the wheels, tires, or suspension components. We reinstalled the wheels briefly and moved the front suspension through its range of motion while turning the wheel to ensure adequate clearance.
17. Your next step is to bleed the brakes, starting with the wheel furthest away from the master cylinder. While you can get away with just bleeding the fronts, it’s likely a good idea to start at the back of the car if you haven’t changed the fluid out in a while. Pump the brake pedal before rolling out of the garage and ensure it is firm and stops the car.
18. Now we’ve got something to look at, with CPP’s big brake kit filling out this great wheel and tire package.
19. With the upgraded front brake system we can definitely feel a difference in initial bite, and brake fade is out of the picture. Now all we have to do is get to the alignment shop for a performance alignment and have the front wheels balanced again.