Evan J. Smith
Freelancer
March 25, 2016
Photos By: John Raphel

To the Mustang fanatic, a stock car is akin to an artist’s blank canvas. It is ripe for all those juicy mods that often include nitrous or forced induction so you can revel in the glory of insane acceleration. Turning low elapsed times and thrilling your friends with tire-shredding power is a lot of fun, but eventually you have to stop. We don’t mean stop having fun; we mean you have to hit the brakes and stop your mount. When you nail the brakes, you want a nicely modulated pedal with excellent responsiveness. A mushy pedal and fading brakes is never fun.

Sadly though, when it comes to Fox-body Mustangs, stock brakes are not a wonderful attribute. You never hear anyone bragging about how well the small rotors and heavy, single-piston calipers perform. With that, many owners have made the switch to performance brakes. Let’s face it—they are a must in almost any type of build, and there are many kits specially designed for drag racing, road racing, or street cruising.

One of the newest is the SS4+11 from Baer. Recently, we connected with multipled NMRA True Street champion Mike Jovanis, who was installing the a kit on his “other” street car, a 1989 Saleen Mustang convertible. Unfortunately, the Saleen had been sitting outdoors for eight years. Despite being under a cover, exposure to the elements and lack of use proved a real death punch to the brakes. Jovanis actually faced a long list of repairs, including a new top, to make the Mustang roadworthy.

“I purchased the Saleen because it was the same color as my True Street LX and out of the desire to save an original Mustang,” said Jovanis. “It’s one of 165 convertibles for 1989, so it is important to keep it on the road. Baer has years of experience with specialty Mustangs and has a range of options from street upgrade systems like illustrated here, all the way to full race systems. With this install, we set out to explain the Saleen-specific elements and considerations, but the similar systems from Baer are used on regular Fox cars needing brake upgrades. This system was designed by Baer to increase braking performance while keeping the factory wheels and preserving the OEM parts (meaning, no cutting or altering the car).”

So with the proven success of the Baer brakes on his 8-second True Street LX, Jovanis reached out to Baer for help. “Many of the parts currently for sale were designed years ago for lightweight cars,” said Rick Elam of Baer. “With the advancements in forced induction, electronics, tires, and so on, cars now are faster and heavier than they have ever been. This has caused a need for a new-style drag race brake that is designed for heavy, fast cars (that also might see street use). This is why we created the SS4+11 system.”

Just like your engine combination, there are specifics that allow you to tailor your brakes to your type of driving or racing. Drag racers generally want lighter brakes, and road racers go for larger, more robust rotors, with calipers that can dissipate heat more effectively. In a drag race, you will only be stopping once per run, so excessive heat and fade is generally not an issue. In road racing, heat can build up, so larger components are used to manage the heat and maintain consistent performance.

“The front is our SS4+ 11-inch Deep Stage Drag race brake. This features four-piston aluminum calipers mounted to an 11-inch two-piece, directional rotor,” said Elam. “The SS4+ system that is used on Mike’s car is designed for use on the Fox stock spindle and is available in four- or five-lug configurations. It carries PN 4261415 and sells for $995. Standard color is Clear or Fire Red, so we would end the part number with a C or FR. Custom colors are available for an additional charge.”

The customer receives:
• SS4+ four-piston aluminum calipers (these come loaded with Hawk pads).
• 11-inch directional rotor (comes preassembled with hats).
• Brackets to mount calipers to the spindle.
• Aluminum hubs (preassembled with SKF bearings and races, packed with Redline Synthetic grease), ready to install.
• ARP 1/2-inch studs installed in hubs.

“The rear is our SS4+ 11-inch Deep Stage Dual caliper drag race brake,” said Elam. “This features four-piston aluminum calipers that are mounted to an 11-inch two-piece, directional rotor. This system includes aluminum brackets (that act as a bearing retainer), and have dual-caliper caliper mounts (even if a single caliper system is purchased, this makes upgrading at a later date to four-calipers easy).”

Elam continued, “The part number for this kit is 4262681. It is priced at $1,195 and the standard color is clear or Fire Red, so we would end the part number with a C or FR. Similar to the front setup, custom colors are available for an additional charge.”

Elam also explained, “The rear dual staging brake systems are available in 1.37-inch pistons or 1.75-inch pistons. The larger pistons offer more clamping force, but even with a large-bore master it can cause a long pedal. On Mike’s car we used the 1.375-inch pistons to work best for street/strip use. The part number above is for the 1.375-inch pistons system. Rear hats are drilled for with 11/16-inch holes, for 5/8-inch drive pin type studs.”

A quality set of aftermarket brakes will also give you improved pedal feel, consistent performance, and, at times, shortened braking distances. They also give your Stang better looks. Who wants stock brakes sitting behind those fancy wheels when you can have slotted and drilled rotors and powder coated calipers?

1. Mike Jovanis’ 1989 Saleen convertible sits pretty with its new Baer SS4+11 brakes tucked neatly behind the stock wheels. This kit allows the factory spindle and brake assembly to be removed and stored. Baer also offers similar systems for the earlier four-lug Mustangs.

2. The front kit comes complete with the brakes mounted to the spindles. Installation requires mechanical skill, as it will be necessary to remove the front spindles and some of the brake hardware. A billet five-lug hub assembly adapts the Fox spindle to the rotor (it can also be done with a four-lug if desired). The rotor measures 11 inches and fits the 16-inch factory Saleen wheels. You’ll also note the custom graphite Gray color to match gray wheels and Saleen graphics. This setup also includes DOT-approved hoses and fittings.

3. The stock Mustang brakes feature single-piston calipers that are suitable for normal street driving and nothing more. If you plan to race or enjoy spirited driving, we recommend switching to aftermarket brakes. In many cases you can reduce weight and improve stopping performance with an aftermarket setup.

4. We go started by supporting the Mustang on a lift and removing the wheels and the front antiroll bar endlinks.

5. Next we removed the tie-rod ends.

6. Then we located a pole jack under the front A-arms so we could safely unbolt the spindle.

7. Here you can see we removed the two strut bolts and the coil springs. These springs have massive stored energy, so it’s important to lower the A-arm carefully and never stand in front of the spring.

8. While it is not necessary, we removed the front A-arms since we had new ones ready to go.

9. Here is how the old spindles and A-arms compare to the new ones.

10. We also went with new struts. This is always a good idea on a high-mileage Mustang or one that has been sitting.

11. Next, the new A-arms were installed, and the spindle was slipped on to the ball joint.

12. We test-fit the spindles and calipers, then removed the assembly to install the front springs.

13. We installed the spindles, raised the A-arm, and connected the spindles to the new struts.

14. Then we installed the rotors and calipers and measured the length of the tie-rod ends so we could install the new ones.

15. We installed some new front antiroll bar endlinks (not included).

16. We then moved to the rear to install the aft brakes. As you can see, it is pretty grungy back there.

17. Jovanis began by removing the rearend cover and draining the gear lube. He removed the differential pin and the C-clip, which is necessary to remove the axles.

18. The S4 street system incorporates a drum in hat parking brake. This system both preserves emergency brake and will fit in a 16-inch wheel.

19. To get started we pulled the axles, disconnected the lower shock mount, and removed the calipers.

20. Next the backing plates were removed, which exposes the axle ends.

21. The kit includes 1 1/4-inch billet, black anodized blocks, which space the backing plate assembly off of the housing end to allow brakes to be used with Saleen axles (the axles are 1 1/4 inches wider on each side since it has Mark VII brakes on it). Plus, you’ll need this brake offset to be preserved in order to make sure the factory wheels fit and axles can be used.

22. Another specific component is the Baer’s mechanism to allow the calipers to float and be used with C-clip style axles. Fixed mount calipers can result in pad-slap noise coming from the brakes. This is an often-overlooked detail on aftermarket rear brake systems.

23. Here, Jovanis slides the axles into the housing, followed by the new rotors.

24. With the rotors mounted, we installed the rear calipers.

25. Next, we mounted the new cables.

26. Baer includes these direct-fit emergency brake cables. The Saleen already has an adjustable e-brake mechanism under the car that is similar to the 1993 Cobra, which makes this part of the install easy. We set the cable to have some tension and the e-brake handle worked perfectly on first try.

27. This master cylinder is a relatively new offering from Baer. It is machined in the USA in Phoenix, Arizona, out of a block of billet aluminum. It is a show-quality, high-end part and made for a complete and polished installation.

28. The Baer unit is a significant improvement over the factory master cylinder.

29. To adjust our brakes, we installed a Baer proportioning valve on the passenger side.

30. Here is the new front brake line after the installation.

31. We prepped the new master on the bench. Baer provided lines that allow connecting the master to the existing combination valve for a streamlined install. While these still required some slightly bending to fit the application they alleviated the need to make up lines from scratch. Fox Mustangs use a Bendix power brake booster with an adjustable pushrod. It is important to note that pushrod length must be 0.990 inch. Instructions stated that the Fox Mustang length should be 0.950. The Saleen measured 0.860. We are not sure why this was off, but it may be due to the Saleen being shipped with an SVO master cylinder. We carefully measured and adjusted the pushrod out to match the 0.990 spec. If it is too far out, the brakes will drag; too far in and pedal travel will feel long.

32. Here’s the Baer master installed in the tight Saleen engine bay.

33. The final step is the fill the system with fluid, bleed the brakes, and check for leaks. Never overlook this step; no matter how careful you are, leaks can still occur. We were fortunate. Our system sealed up nicely, and our brake pedal was nice and firm.

34. In addition to amazing braking performance, the Baer system looks awesome. We can’t wait to add a little power and put our new brakes to the test.