'65-'09 Mustang Brake System Buyer's Guide Part 1
Putting A Quick Stop To Your Favorite Steed Has Never Been Easier
Since its inception, Ford's Mustang has always been known as a sporty and affordable set of wheels, with appeal across a broad demographic. Of late, you could argue the point of affordability for the top performance models, but these aside, the emphasis continues to this very day. Of course an obvious downside to affordability is that few factory components are ready for the rigors of hard-core performance use, but on the other hand, upgrades have long been easy and plentiful.
Nowhere is this situation truer than with the Mustang's brakes. Factory components have ranged from the barely passable ('60s era four-wheel drums, Fox disc/drums), to decent (SN-95-S197), but rarely stellar. Not to worry, as there has never been an era where a wider variety of brake upgrades were available-for both classic and current Mustangs. It seems that every Mustang website or catalog now has a large offering of brake kits/components, reflecting a recognition that stop and go power should receive equal emphasis. On the following pages you'll see a sampling of the products on the market, some of which you'll be familiar with, others perhaps less so. Our focus herein isn't to cover vendors who sell great brake packages as a part of their broad product line, rather we've tuned in on manufacturers, as well as businesses that have created something more customized or unique. You may also notice the absence of brake upgrades that mandate extensive suspension mods like strut or Mustang II-style arrangements. Great as these setups may be, they're not the bolt-on brake upgrade we're seeking to cover here.
To give a feel for the cash layout that might be involved in some of the covered upgrades, we've tried to include some street prices for various kits. One word of warning however, some kits are more or less inclusive than others. Don't necessarily discount a given product because the price seems too high-it may be an all inclusive swap kit rather than a basic setup that will still require pads, hoses, master cylinders, and other necessities. Read on, do your homework, and develop a plan for adding phenomenal braking power to your Mustang. No matter the era, you won't be disappointed!
Baer Brake Systems
Go to any car show or track event, and you'll undoubtedly run into numerous vehicles equipped with Baer brake products. From a humble start in 1986, Hal Baer and company have morphed into a leader in the performance brake aftermarket, offering a wide variety of upgrades for both classic and late-model Mustangs-and virtually every other car under the sun.
While PBR calipers have been a mainstay in Baer kits for years, they now make up a minority of the product line-used now primarily when clearance issues dictate. In-house designed and manufactured Baer calipers have become the units of choice, in a variety of four- and six-piston configurations. But perhaps Baer's biggest claim to fame is the sheer quantity of different kits which offer something for just about every unique customer you'd be apt to find. For almost every year and variant of Mustang-classic or late-model-Baer can equip you with 11-, 12-, 13-, 14-, or 15-inch diameter rotors with multiple caliper combinations. The diverse choices cover many different budgets, as well as many different wheel combos-from period 15-inchers, to the largest hoops under the sun.
Baer Brake Systems
Sample pricing direct from Baer:
- '94-'04 Mustang: Baer Track4 front kit, 13-inch/four-piston T4 calipers, $1,145
- '05-'09 Mustang: Baer Pro Plus front kit, two-piece 14-inch/six-piston 6P calipers, $1,895
Cobra Automotive's Carl Vogt explained his company's angle on improved Mustang braking. "We've got the most powerful and well developed vintage correct brakes on the market," and we believe him. As one of the nation's leading preparers of classic Mustang road racers, Cobra Automotive has developed and tested what really works. Their setups normally focus on a big front disc/big rear drum approach, reflecting the common limitations of popular vintage racing rules. "The strictest vintage sanctioning bodies won't allow rear discs on pre-'67 cars," explained Vogt, illustrating the timeline when these staples of today began to appear on Trans-Am efforts.
Cobra Automotive's most impressive front brake setup is nearly identical to the factory Trans-Am cars which ran in the late Sixties-meaning a big Lincoln/T-bird front disc and caliper combination. Kelsey Hayes was the manufacturer of these four-piston binders, which Cobra Automotive has refined into a superstar, and paired with a big 12x1.25-inch directionally vented rotor. "The JL8 four-wheel disc Camaros hate us when our rear drum cars out brake them," chuckles Vogt. It just goes to show that drums aren't necessarily as archaic as they seem.
Out back, Cobra Automotive offers three big drum kits-a 10x2.5-inch replication of the original GT350 setup for small bearing rearends, and two 11x2.25-inch versions (street or track) for "Torino" 9-inch bearing ends. Unless restricted by racing regulations or rearend configuration, the 11-inch packages are the way to go. Despite being slightly narrower, the greater diameter of the 11-inch binders provides superior braking power, and costs less than the 10-inchers as well. While Cobra Automotive's clientele is primarily the vintage racer or open tracker, its setups are well worth considering for a period style street car as well. To maximize the brakes, Cobra Automotive also has the right master cylinder and wheel cylinders for whatever your application requires.
Sample pricing direct from Cobra Automotive:
- '65-'70 Mustang: front disc kit with two-piece 12x1.25-inch/four-piston Lincoln/Kelsey Hayes calipers, $1,850
- '65-'70 Mustang: 11x2.25-inch street rear drum kit, $595
Not surprisingly, the rearend experts at Currie are oriented specifically to rear brake applications, but there's more than enough variety to give them serious consideration whether you're purchasing a new rearend, or not. Beyond being a dealer for the traditional aftermarket brake companies, Currie has numerous offerings of its own, with applications for everything from Mustangs to Galaxies.
Currie builds its 9-inch rearend housings with the customer's choice of bearing ends-meaning small bearing (most early Mustangs/same as 8-inch), early large bearing, or later "Torino" large bearing-the latter of which has become an industry standard. When equipped with the Torino ends, Currie's most popular disc kit is the 11-inch Explorer setup that lists for $499.95. The OEM parking brake mechanism is included, which Currie says is second to none-the biggest downside being that the kit doesn't mate up to the other style bearing ends. On the other hand, a 10-inch Super Street kit is available for all 8- and 9-inch applications, and is based around proven '91-'93 Thunderbird Super Coupe hardware. While small by modern standards, it may well be the ticket for those wanting to hide modern discs behind their 14-inch Styled Steels.
Sample pricing direct from Currie:
- 10-inch Super Street rear disc kit for all 8-/9-inch applications, $599.95
- SN-95 Cobra rear caliper brackets for all 8-/9-inch applications, $149.95
Ford Racing Performance Parts
There's plenty of appeal in bolting factory Ford parts to your Ford car, and the folks at FRPP have done a great job of offering variety for a very long time. Catering mainly to the '79 and up crowd, you'll find something for every generation of the modern era, from a basic five-lug Fox rear drum upgrade, to current GT500/Brembo brakes for your brand-new S197 GT. One of our longtime favorites continues to be offered in 2009, the M2300K brake package; an all inclusive kit that transforms the lowly Fox Mustang brakes to '94-'04 Cobra spec five-lug four-wheel discs.
Ford Racing Performance Parts
Sample Pricing from Summit Racing:
- '79-'93 Mustang: M-2300-K 13.0/11.65-inch Cobra four-wheel disc kit, $2,659.95
- '05-'09 Mustang: M-2300-S Brembo 14-inch/four-piston front kit, rear pads, four stainless hoses, $1,369.99
Known mainly for its track-worthy GR40 and GR350 Mustang suspension systems, the hard-core performance enthusiasts at Griggs Racing are no strangers to improved braking. Griggs is a dealer for many major brake manufacturers should you want to go those routes, however it has recently expanded customer options by developing its own "Griggs 4 on 4" (four-piston calipers at all four corners) braking systems.
Bruce Griggs explained that the 4 on 4 system is based around NASCAR-derived four-piston calipers manufactured to Griggs' specifications, offering some of the best bang for the buck on the market. While Griggs' brakes are available for classic and S197 Mustangs as well, the prime target audience may well be the '79-'04 generations-with special attention paid to make the system fully compatible with factory ABS. "The modulation is incredible, and the value is excellent due to the economies of scale offered by calipers and pads with a direct tie to popular circle track applications," says Griggs. To wit, he points out that pad costs for the Griggs system are about 1/3 less than the same compound for a PBR/Cobra caliper, will last three to four times as long due to their larger size, and provide vastly superior brake torque. Price spreads can be even more significant when compared to more exotic calipers, which should be particularly relevant to cars seeing significant track use.
Griggs says that about 90 percent of its 4 on 4 brake systems are installed on cars whose use is split between street and track-in other words, it isn't just for racers. On the other hand, the company points out that the system isn't intended for all-season daily drivers, so keep this in mind as you mull over your choices.
Griggs Racing Products
Sample pricing direct from Griggs Racing:
- '94-'04 Mustang: Griggs 4 on 4 front kit (two-piece 13.5-inch/four-piston) from $1,600
- '94-'04 Mustang: Griggs 4 on 4 rear kit (12.19x.81-inch/four-piston) from $1,250
Master Power Brakes
If an OEM-style front or four-wheel disc brake system is the right approach for your vintage Mustang or Ford, Master Power's product line is worth checking out. Likewise, the company offers drum brake upgrades for those inclined to a more stock approach.
With applications for '65-'73 Mustangs, '55-'57 T-birds, and most related siblings, Master Power disc brake systems feature proven cast iron calipers, and are available in numerous configurations. Systems may be had with or without master cylinders, with or without power boosters, a choice of rotor finishes, and more.
Master Power Brakes
Sample pricing direct from Master Power:
- '65-'66 Mustang: front disc kit including master cylinder, iron four-piston calipers, 11.25-inch slotted/drilled rotors, and more, $920
- '59-'64 Galaxie: front power disc kit including booster, master cylinder, iron calipers, 11.75-inch slotted/drilled rotors, and more, $1,050
Long a manufacturer of '79 and newer Mustang suspension upgrades, it's of little surprise that Maximum Motorsports is a dealer for many of the big aftermarket brake manufacturers. What did get our attention however, were the sheer number of unique support items offered by this California-based company.
For starters, Maximum grew tired of the status quo in braided brake lines, and recently came to market with lines manufactured to its own spec by Stoptech-in a wide variety of Mustang applications. Also unique are Maximum's master cylinder adapter kits, whose custom bent lines and fittings allow Fox owners to seamlessly install various OEM master cylinders (SVO, '93 Cobra, SN-95 Cobra) to their unique chassis. Of the same genre are hard line kits which smooth the way for Maximum's manual brake conversion-a boon for drag racers and road racers alike. The manual conversion kits ('79-'93 and '94-'95) eliminate the brake booster, and thus relocates the master cylinder, so easing the pain of replumbing is big.
We also found it obvious that Maximum caters to the little guy as well as the high roller. The most basic of Fox upgrades are still available here, including items that were staples of the industry 15 years ago. We're talking stainless steel caliper sleeves for stock calipers, high-performance reline kits for original Fox disc/drum setups, and even SVO/Saleen 73mm front calipers.
Sample pricing direct from Maximum Motorsports:
- '87-'93 Mustang: factory disc/drum upgrade includes Hawk pads, MM shoes, stainless brake hoses, and stainless steel caliper sleeves, $259.94
- '87-'93 SVO: front brake package includes SVO master cylinder and adapter kit, SVO 73mm calipers w/steel pistons and pad retention clips, $255.78
Steve Wilkes' desire to bring old Mustangs up to a more modern driving standard is the force behind his business, MustangSteve. Known in large part for his bracket and hardware kits which adapt SN-95 Cobra discs to the front and rear of classic Mustangs, he more recently developed a kit which does the same for S197 Mustang GT four-wheel discs, and yet another which melds the big front Cobra brakes to Mustang II spindles. In each case, the original track width of the vehicle remains stock. Steve put it like this, "few things look better behind an open spoke wheel than Cobra calipers, and besides their excellent performance, many people do this upgrade for appearance reasons." The S197 kit may well be for the more practically minded, as despite their more mundane appearance, these are some quality brakes than can often be had on the cheap. Featuring 12.5-inch front rotors, and 11.75-inch rears, Steve says he's bought nearly new take-offs for "next to nothing."
MustangSteve is unique in that complete kits aren't part of his repertoire. In addition to the reasonably priced brackets kits, a list of all the parts and pieces necessary to complete a swap are included, in fact, they can be viewed on his website prior to ordering. This enables customers to find their own "best deal" for the actual braking components, whether sourced from a parts car, new from FRPP, or elsewhere. All wear items in MustangSteve kits are original Ford parts, meaning easy access to service items should the need arise.
Sample pricing direct from MustangSteve:
- '65-'73 Mustang: adapter brackets and hardware for SN-95 Cobra brakes, $230 (front), $165 (rear)
- '74-'78 Mustang II: adapter brackets and hardware for SN-95 Cobra brakes, $269 (front)
While North Racecars does a substantial business building and supplying parts for Factory Five Roadsters, the company is also known for its products which mount SN-95 rear discs to '79-'93 Mustangs, and a variety of '60s era Fords. We were first acquainted with owner Richard Oben several years ago when doing a Cobra rear disc upgrade on a '93 Mustang. We took advantage of his rear caliper brackets ($150), which enabled the use of stock Fox length axles while employing the big 11.65-inch rear rotor/caliper assembly. As opposed to using SN-95 axles such as in FRPP's 2300K kit, or if swapping a '94-'98 8.8 into a '79-'93, keeping the narrower Fox track buys important tire/fender clearance. These brackets are still big sellers for North, and also come in variations to allow the smaller GT/V-6 10.6-inch rotor (desirable for 15-inch wheel applications), or T-bird Turbo Coupe discs (for those wanting to keep four-lug wheels)-all keeping the Fox track width. The product line enables customers to procure as few, or as many of his own parts as he likes, with kits ranging from brackets only, to full rear conversions.
Since our initial introduction, North Racecars has also developed brackets which fit SN-95 rear discs to classic Fords with most 8- or 9-inch rearends. Pricing for complete kits was still being determined as we wrote this story, but expect something similar to North's Fox oriented products.
Sample pricing direct from North Racecars:
- '86-'93 Fox chassis Cobra rear brake kit, $749
- SN-95 caliper brackets for most 8- or 9-inch rearends, $170
When it comes to Ford performance, you name it and Jack Roush has probably done it. From the NHRA, to SCCA, to NASCAR, Roush has been successful in most forms of motorsport, and in more recent years has parlayed this expertise into building tuner Mustangs available from select Ford dealers nationwide. Components from these cars have naturally migrated to the aftermarket arm of Roush's multi-faceted company, including some impressive brake packages for Mustangs from '94 to present.
Reflecting the enthusiast's preference for the latest and greatest, Roush offers two front brake upgrades for the S197 Mustang-a 14-inch/four-piston kit, which you've seen on Roush Stage 3 and P51A cars, and a 14-inch/six-piston kit for the guys who are truly over the top. Owners of '94-'04 Mustangs don't have as much variety, but the 14-inch/four-piston front kit for these cars is more than just making do. Either way, with the need to integrate ultra performance with OEM standards and systems, you can count on the fact that Roush engineers have taken the guesswork out of a brake system that works-right out of the box.
Sample pricing direct from Roush:
- '05-'09 Mustang: two-piece 14-inch/four-piston front kit, $2,742.23
- '94-'04 Mustang: 14-inch/four-piston front kit, $2,407.65
One of the best known names in late-model Mustang performance, Saleen has targeted its Mustang brake upgrades on the S197s. Two big front disc kits are offered; both being sourced from Saleen production cars. The 14-inch assembly is most often seen on a variety of Saleen machines, including the S281 and H302, while the 15-inch system is the same you'd get if ponying up for the outrageous Dark Horse or S302 Extreme models. Either way, you get everything you need for some serious slowing power-Saleen emblazoned cal-ipers, slotted rotors, braided steel lines, and mounting hardware.
Sample pricing direct from Saleen:
- '05-'09 Mustang Saleen 14-inch front kit (10-2602-B13524*), $1,999.99
- '05-'09 Mustang Saleen 15-inch front kit (00-2602-C13469*), $3,299.99
Shelby Performance Parts
You could argue that no name is more synonymous with high performance Mustangs, than Shelby-and no doubt you'd be right. Shelby Mustangs were present at the start of the ponycar era, and are back with a vengeance today.
Shelby's braking focus for now is the S197 platform, and the company has proudly teamed with Baer to offer three brake upgrade packages, though Shelby is unique in its ability to offer color coordinated calipers to perfectly compliment your particular combination. The top of the line Extreme Plus front disc system is the same combination installed on Shelby's over the top Super Snake, putting customers in good company indeed!
Shelby Performance Parts
Sample pricing direct from Shelby Performance Parts:
- '05-'09 Mustang Shelby Pro Plus front kit with two-piece 14-inch/six-piston two-piece calipers, $1,895
- '05-'09 Mustang Shelby GT Plus front kit with two-piece 14-inch/two-piston pin drive PBR calipers, $1,394.99
Be sure to pick up the October issue of Modified Mustangs & Fords where we'll wrap up our monster brake system buyer's guide with Part 2 of our product listings. Check it out on sale at your favorite newsstand September 1, where you'll find more from the likes of Stainless Steel Brakes Corp, Steeda, Stillen, Vintage Venom, and more. Don't miss it!