Converting Your Imperial's Brakes From Drum To Disc Systems

Imperial Home Page -> Repair -> Brakes -> Converting

Question from Dave (1962):

After putting on 200+ miles on a near complete brake rebuild, that included "New-NOS" shoes up front, 5 of the 6 wheel cylinder replaced & 1 rebuilt, turned front drums, cleaned rear ones, dual master cylinder. 1 1/8 bore size, many brake bleedings, 1/2 of the brake lines replaced, Wilwood 10 psi check on both half's, I have come to the conclusion that the Bendix total contact brake system should be called the "Pedal of Doom System." Somehow they just don't inspire much confidence with a soft pedal & a lot of pedal travel. Has anyone found a disc brake conversion kit or a home brewed way of putting disc brakes on the front of a '62 Imperial?

I'm a 50+ year old tool & diemaker at a DaimlerChrysler Engine Plant, so I've done 97% of my own car/truck repairs from my high school days. I've found kits for '62 Chryslers, but I don't have to tell anyone here that they are different on the Imperials. If needed I can make adapters myself or bore out housings for bigger wheel bearings.


From John:

I have a '60 with the same brakes & there is very little pedal travel. I agree that these brakes make me feel less than confident when I use them. However they do stop such a heavy car fairly well. I think something is still wrong if you are getting a lot of travel in the pedal. If the are unfamiliar with adjusted the shoes, that may be the problem. The adjustment amount is very little, plus 3 of the adjusters on each side need to adjust with the forward rotation of the wheels. The one on the rear wheels furthest back adjusts in a rearward rotation. Since you have the incorrect master, that would be suspect also. The proportioning valve may also not be right for this combination.

From Ken:

You still have air somewhere so try pressure bleeding them like the new cars,this will force the air out at least.If there is a leak that will show.The factory discs could stop a mack truck,so give that a try.

From Mike:

John beat me to the punch!! I just got through bleeding the brakes on a 1962 owned by Vince Turner, and apart from the fact that I could not bleed the passenger side lower front wheel cylinder (will be replacing it in the near future) because the bleeder screw came "pre-rounded off and siezed" into the casting, I still manage to get the "Big Girl" to stop comfortably, even with a slightly "wheezing" booster. I concur that the "dual master" cylinder may be part of the problem.

From Paul:

There are two major problems with the brakes on our cars. The first one is brake fade. This can happen in "high speed emergency panic stops", even if EVERYTHING is perfect and new. BE CAREFUL. This kind of stop can also "cook" the linings, so check everything out again if you have to stop this way.

The other problem is that most folks don't know how to work on them.

Other than the brake fade problem, they should feel more than adequate if they are in top shape. If that is not the case, there is still something that you have missed, or done incorrectly. Its that simple.

From John:

Did you ever have hard pedal after conversion to the dual MC? What MC are you using? How much pedal free play do you have? If you are using a dual MC for a non-disk brake car you shouldn't need the external residual pressure (check) valves since they are built in. I have a lot of experience with the '62 and older Lockheed Total Contact (the Bendix system came in '63) brakes including conversion to the tandem master cylinder on one of my 60 Imperials (using DOT 5 silicone - difficult to bleed out all air due to bubble formation with the slightest agitation). When everything is right you have firm pedal with no more than an inch of travel just like when the car came off the assy line brand new.

#1 culprit is air trapped in the system due to incomplete bleeding -- front WCs especially since they have air pockets at the top due to mounting with respect to bleeder screw location. Pressure bleeding works best because it forces fluid up into these voids. The brake shoe lining also needs to be arced to the drums (in the old days brake shops had a machine to grind the linings to arc them to the drum curvature) to facilitate TOTAL CONTACT & adjusted just a hair back from locking the drum. Since you have 200 miles on your linings you can check to see the contact areas. Lastly if you don't really have 10 psi in the system you will have a lot of pedal travel. If you quickly crack a bleeder screw open you should see a spurt of fluid then just a trickle.

This page last updated October 5, 2004.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club