Ways to improve braking performance

November 1, 2019 | By Staff


A while back there was an article on brakes and I believe there was a suggestion that putting a different (larger) diameter wheel cylinder from an early ’60s Chevy would improve the drum braking. I save all of my Auto Restorer magazines but I can’t seem to find this article. I would like to improve my brakes as I think I might have a stuck wheel cylinder.


In the MOD item to which I think you refer I didn’t suggest bigger wheel cylinders, but I suggested the possibility of going to bigger brake backing plates, shoes and drums from later model cars of the same brand in order to improve braking. The reader asked about several cars and included the 1957 Chevy. In the case of the 1957 Chevy I stated that an easier way to go would be to purchase a disc brake kit from Classic Industries.

Such kits contain everything you need to do the installation, are engineered for your car, and simply bolt into place. A later disc brake setup would not greatly improve your braking under normal circumstances, but it would help braking in the wet, and it would reduce brake fade due to overheating. Also, because these kits come with a power vacuum cylinder, they will reduce braking effort, assuming you don’t already have power brakes.

To go to disc brakes on a ’57 Chevy you would also need to purchase front wheels that would accommodate the new disc brake system. The original 14- inch wheels that came on the car won’t clear the caliper assemblies. Wheels that look identical to your originals, will accommodate the original hubcaps, and are the same diameter as your originals are available from Wheelsmith, and you can call them at:


1601 West Commerce St. Corona, CA 92880


Tech line:


You willalso need to do a little replumbing to split off the front brakes from the rear, because front disc brakes operate at much greater pressure than the drum brakes in the rear. Complete brake kits for your cars are available from Classic Industries for around $400 and up. You can reach them at:

Classic Industries

18460 Gothard St. Huntington Beach, CA 92648-1229


Ext. 5210

Not everybody would recommend that you go to disc brakes for your 1957 Chevy however. I mentioned your desire to improve your Chevy’s braking to a good friend named Phil Aubrey who is a professional mechanic with a lifetime of experience, and knows tri-five Chevrolets better than almost anyone I know. He had this to say:

“We spoke about a disc brake conversion and I am against it. My first question to your reader would be why? The problem today is metallic brake lining that doesn’t grab like the old asbestos stuff. I would suggest he look for softer brake shoes. NOS (New Old Stock) would be ideal, and new Bendix riveted linings would be my second choice. Any bonded lining will be hard as a rock because of the binding process and will not work well. Also he needs to make sure there is 100% shoe contact with the drum. Old-fashioned arching the shoes to match the drums will take care of that.”