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How To Install Disc Brakes - Gimme a Brake!
Our open-track warrior gets real stopping power from Stainless Steel Brakes' Force 10 Extreme kit.
Slowly but surely, Gangsta Stang, our '99 GT, is becoming a bad little ride for road racing and autocrossing, as well as a daily driver. At a recent visit to Pocono Raceway, a set of sticky Nitto 555RII tires, along with Tokico springs and D-spec shocks, enabled the Stang to hang with M3s and WRX STi's.
Unfortunately, by the end of the day, the stock brakes were cooked, and fade had gone from bad to worse. After the last lap, the pedal was touching the floor and smoke was literally pouring out of the wheelwells. Meanwhile, those annoying little Brembo-equipped imports were still buzzing around the track and driving hard into each corner.
In the name of all things sacred--like Jack Daniels, hamburgers, baseball, mullets, and the American dream--this could not stand. This aggression will not stand. Common sense might dictate that an independently suspended sedan made by someone named Tanaka or Klauss should outperform a Mustang on a road course, however, we know that's a crock. We would rather fight the laws of physics with our nose-heavy, solid-axle musclecars. If you're one of us, you'll agree that upgrading the puny factory brakes becomes a must for proving that good, old-fashioned American engineering is superior.
When it comes time to upgrade the reins on your colt, the Clarence, New York-based Stainless Steel Brakes Corporation (SSBC) has just what you need. Thirty years of experience designing performance brake upgrades for musclecars have taught the company a thing or two about keeping up with the Jones'. The SSBC line for Mustangs has several choices that will meet or exceed your needs.
In addition to its own two-piston Cobra style front brake kit, SSBC had just put the wraps on the new Force 10 three-piston brake kit, which is designed to fit the factory 17-inch GT and Cobra wheels. But we don't play around at MM&FF. "Gangsta," our black 35th Anniversary GT, takes quite a beating at our own handling course as well as open track days at various tracks in the area.
For severe track duty, the Force 10 Extreme four-piston aluminum caliper brake kit is an ideal choice. Four large 43mm pistons grab a set of 13-inch Turbo slotted and plated rotors. It doesn't take a mathematician to know this is a hell of a lot of stopping power, especially when compared to the factory two-piston calipers. Besides the number of pistons, the SSBC forged aluminum caliper is of the "fixed" kind, meaning the pistons are on both sides of the rotors to apply even pressure with both brake pads. As you may know, most OEM brakes use a floating caliper, meaning the pistons are only on one side, requiring the caliper to slide in order for the pad on the opposite side to make contact with the rotor, causing decreased stiffness, pedal feel, and uneven pad wear.
The only detrimental consequence to switching to the "fixed" four-piston caliper is that it requires more clearance than either the factory GT or Cobra wheel can provide. SSBC says a set of 17s will fit with the correct offset, but since Gangsta already had a set of Privat Profil 18x9.5-inch rims, we needn't go wheel shopping. As a precaution, though, the SSBC wheel fitment guide (available at www.ssbrakes.com) was used to create a template to ensure the caliper would clear the spokes.
Since SSBC also offered a 12-inch Cobra rear brake upgrade, we figured why not? Had we planned to keep bolting up slicks at the dragstrip, this wouldn't have been a good idea since it limits us to 16- or 17-inch wheels, but the extra stopping power will be much appreciated on the road course, where Gangsta will see more time. A single 45mm piston is used in the cast-iron caliper to grab the 1-inch-thick vented rotor, which disperses heat far superior to the 10.5x.5-inch non-vented stocker.
Those wishing to take advantage of SSBC's polishing or powdercoating capabilities can also opt for an aluminum caliper, which is exactly what we did to keep the stealth black theme going. Best of all, the rear caliper has a built-in parking brake and does not require removal of the axles for installation.
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For installation of the SSBC front and rear brake kits, we returned to our good friends at Valley Performance in Belleville, New Jersey, just a stone's throw from MM&FF World Headquarters. In between installing and tuning a few modular head and cam packages, as well as a few hush-hush 5-liter builds, Valley whipped the ailing Gangsta back into shape. It seems every time the 35th Anniversary Stang rolls into the shop, it's suffering from some ailment, and this would be no different. The stock rotors were nearly wasted from track duty, so unfortunately we couldn't get any baseline testing done to establish stopping distances. However, we did manage a full complement of post-install testing and an all-day road-course thrash as part of last issue's DOT-legal road-race tire test.
Using the Stalker ATS radar gun, six runs were recorded to quantify stopping distances. To establish the amount of fade, these runs were made back-to-back, using merely a brief cool-down lap on the way back to the starting line. With the benefit of cool rotors, the SSBC calipers halted the GT from 60 mph in just 128.59 feet, and 339.56 feet from 100 mph (on separate runs). By the third run from 60 to 0 mph, stopping distance increased to 144.17 feet, and from 100 mph the distance increased to 362.19 feet on the second run (with an equal increase also seen on the third).
SSBC includes a set of hi-po pads with all of the Force 10 Extreme brake kits, but these are nowhere near as hard or peaky as a race pad would be. The pad compound we used is considerably softer and more street friendly, so hard-core racers may want to step up to something a bit more durable.
Overall, though, you certainly can't complain about the performance of the SSBC brake system, as it boasts the lowest 100-0 mph stopping distance of any brake kit we have ever tested. After a full day of hot-lapping on the MM&FF handling course, Technical Editor Evan Smith said there was not even a hint of fade; the binders performed flawlessly all day long. Previous visits to this course with the stock brakes would allow only three or four laps before the brakes would noticeably fade, whereas the SSBC brakes hardly broke a sweat.
The increase in pedal feel and reaction time alone, in addition to the incredible power in the front calipers that literally plant your nose on the windshield at will, has the potential to allow late braking at every single corner on the track and effectively reduce lap times. With the help of the new SSBC brakes, this colt is definitely a contender. With a little more power, we'll be winning the Kentucky Derby in no time.