Early Nova Brakes

This is some information I have gathered about early (1962-67) Chevy II and Nova brake system upgrades. The first part deals with a disc brake upgrade, the second part is about upgrading a single-chamber (62-66) master cylinder to a dual-chamber one, even if you are sticking with drum brakes.

[disclaimer: use this information at your own risk, modifying automobile brake systems can lead to dangerous situations, always have a trained mechanic check your work, I take no responsibility for the results, you've been warned, you're on your own...]

Basically, you can swap on a disc brake setup from a 68-74 Nova (or others from the list below) 
with a few minor mods to your spindles.  After that, it's a bolt on.
Several places sell kits for this already machined/assembled:

National Nostalgic Nova 
PO Box 2344 Dept. IN 
York, PA 17405
Phone: (717) 252-4192
Master Power Brakes LTD.
110 Crosslake Park Rd.
Mooresville, NC 28117
Phone: 888-251-2353 

Stainless Steel Brakes
11470 Main Street
Clarence, NY 14031 Phone: (800) 448-7722 www.ssbrakes.com Engineered Components, Inc. P.O. Box 841
Vernon, CT. 06066 Phone: (860) 872-7046 www.ecihotrodbrakes.com Classic Performance Products 175 East Freedom Avenue Anaheim, CA 92801 Phone: (800) 522-5004 www.classicperform.com McGaughy's Classic Chevy 5680 W. Barstow Fresno, CA 93722 Phone: (559) 226-8196 www.mcgaughysclassic.com Another option is the auto parts/junkyard approach: You can get everything you need from the auto parts store *except* the backing plates and mounting hardware. The calipers, discs, pads, bearings, hoses, and master cylinder are all available through pretty much any parts house. Grab a setup from a donor car, and replace the parts that are worn out at the auto parts store. I've noticed that the Classic Industries catalogs are starting to carry the backing plates. If you want to piece it together yourself, that might work... (The following is a list from the Hollander Exchange manual from 1973) 623.(1)405982 Buick, Olds (2)3966151 Chev Buick Special '67-72 disc brake Camaro '67-69 disk brake Chevelle '67-72 disc brake Chevy II/Nova '68-73(*) disc brake GMC '71-72 Sprint, disc brake Monte Carlo '70-72 Olds F85 '67-72 disc brake (*)This one will swap through 74, it was listed as 73 because the manual was from 73...) You will need the entire spindle/brake assembly from the donor car, just undo it at the ball joints. (You actually only need one donor spindle, as you need to take some measurements from it, but you won't use the spindle itself.) The proportioning valve is another piece that you should grab from the donor. I've heard from a couple of people who have done this swap without any proportioning valve and they were happy. I think the stock ('68-'74) piece is actually a distribution block (and low fluid idiot light sensor) more than a proportioning valve. That piece should work in any case. The flex hoses have a different fitting on one end for the disc brakes, so take them from the donor if they're servicable (probably not). New flex hoses are about $25/ea from the auto parts store. You will also need a new master cylinder, one that is set up for front disc/rear drum, but you should be able to pick that up new from the auto parts place also. The M.C. will *look* the same, but there is some difference in 'residual line pressure' (probably just a check-ball and a spring in the fitting) that is maintained on disc circuits vs drum ones, using the drum one will cause disc calipers to not release fully, and drag on the rotor. A new M.C. is about $50 from the parts store. Basically all you have to do is unbolt all the brake hardware from the spindles (including the backing plate) and bolt on the disc brake stuff. The mods that you must make to your original spindles are: 1) One of the 3 mounting bosses for the backing plate needs to be milled down about 1/2" (you'll have to do some measuring to find out exactly how much) 2) One of the mounting bosses *may* need to be drilled and tapped larger and a bit deeper to accept one of the bolts for the disc mounting hardware. I think this varies by year. Make sure you install the calipers with the bleeder screws 'up'. If they're not at the highest (local) point, you won't be able to bleed all the air out of the caliper. Another alternative is to use the donor spindles directly, Global West sells a lower balljoint kit that allows these later spindles to be used on the early control arms. Global West 1455 North Linden Ave. Rialto CA. 92376 Phone: (877) 470-2975 www.globalwest.net Kit #DB1010, $123 [Another disclaimer: I haven't done the disc swap myself, I just researched the bejesus out of it, and then couldn't find a cheap donor setup. The problem around here is that since this setup fits the 67-69 Camaro, everyone wants an arm and a leg for them. After a year of looking, I gave up and rebuilt the drum setup, and installed a dual-chamber master cylinder, which is described below...]

On going from single- to dual-chamber master cylinder, disc or drum:
From 1962-1966, Novas came with a single-chamber master cylinder.  This means
that both the front and rear brake circuits are connected to the same single
source of brake pedal pressure.  The problem with this is that if there is
a failure anywhere in the system (a leak, air in the lines, etc) both the front
and rear brakes will be affected.

Starting in 1967, Novas were equipped with a dual-chamber master cylinder.  The
brake pedal operates two separate sources of pressure, one is connected to the
front brakes, and the other is connected to the rear.  This means that a failure
in one circuit will not affect the other.

Even if you are going to stay with drum brakes, it is an important safety upgrade
to swap a single-chamber setup for a dual-chamber one.

To do the conversion:
Get a new master cylinder for a 1967 Nova.  The local auto parts store should be able
to get this for you.

Be sure to get the correct master cylinder for your application.  There are two types: one
for front drum/rear drum setups, and a different one for front disc/rear drum setups.
The difference is that the drum circuits have a check-valve built into them that keeps
some residual line pressure on the drum pads to keep them 'close' to the drum, and give
less pedal travel.  This is not needed for disc brakes, and in fact will cause the pads
to drag on the disc.  Disc brake circuits do not have the check valve, and do not keep
any of the pressure between pedal depressions.  Conversely, if you use a disc circuit on
drum brakes, the lack of pressure will cause the drum pads to retract too far, and the
pedal travel will be much greater (you would have to press the pedal down farther before 
the brakes start working)

Once you have the new master cylinder, it should bolt in without modifications.

The next step is to redo the plumbing.

The original setup has the rear brake line coming up the 
right side of the car, and going to a junction block on the
front inner fender (where the right front flex hose connects).
I pulled that fitting, and brazed the 'extra' opening shut.
That isolates the front brakes, then I plumbed a line from
the left junction block (where the left front flex hose connects)
to the front chamber on the new dual master cylinder.
Then I ran a new line from the rear flex hose junction
up the *left* side of the car, and up to the rear chamber
on the new dual master cylinder.
I didn't use a proportioning valve.  (I've got a line-lock
plumbed in to the front circuit, but that doesn't affect any
'normal' operation.)
The trick I used to fit the hard lines is to make a pattern first.
I used a piece of 12-gauge copper wire (from some romex) to get
the bends in all the right places, and to get the length
right.  Then I took the pattern to the workbench, formed the 
brakeline, and added the flares.  If you're not up for that
you could get some '67 brakelines from 'Fine Lines' or one
of the resto places.  Doing flares is a $(@*# pain.  I had
to redo some of them a couple of times to get it right,
but then again I was using a cheapie Sears tool.
> Also, is there a booster that 
> should go with it?  Mine currently doesn't have a booster.  Any 
> suggestions are appreciated.
I don't think power brakes were available on the pre-68 cars
(or at least it was so rare that you're not going to find one).
The firewall is pretty tight, and the 68+ booster units don't fit.
Master Power Brakes has a special small master+booster that will fit,
but that's custom (=$$$), and I'm a cheapskate.



Note: Unless otherwise specified, all text and images on this page are Copyright 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002by Pat Mancuso.