Project Blank Slate: Our ’69 Camaro Gets Chassisworks/Wilwood Brakes
The inspiration for Project Blank Slate, our ’69 Chevy Camaro project, was drawn from the glory days of SCCA Trans-Am racing and our intent is to build a road racing/autocross car that will harken back to that era of hard charging, yet agile musclecars. A good setup – including engine, transmission, drivelines, suspension and axles are all important in order to achieve this goal.
But when it comes right down to it, if we don’t have top-quality brakes on the car, all the other components that bring the car toward our goal are not worth a damn if we can’t effectively scrub off speed entering corners when we need to.
Major Brake Kit Components For Our Build
Front g-Street 14 Kit – (Part # 8323)
- 14-inch directional-vaned, slotted rotors
- Billet hats and hubs
- Caliper adapters
- Optional red powdercoated six-piston caliper
Rear 12.19 Kit – (Part # 140-7140-D)
- 12.19-inch vented rotors with parking brake
- Billet aluminum park brake/caliper bracket
- Optional red powdercoated four-piston caliper
So far we’ve given the Camaro a new heart, with the build and installation of LME’s 700+ hp 502 ci V-8 LS engine, and laid out the plans for a transmission, chassis and rear end, and much more, all of which you can check out in our Project Blank Slate build thread. This time around we’re installing brakes – but not just any brakes.
Not only is the right set of brakes required for keeping you and your car stopping safely, but they are best when dynamically balanced and designed to work specifically with the car’s distinct chassis setup. Now we just need to give Project Blank Slate the bold stopping power to match the brawny muscle and handling ability it will have.
Getting Down To Business
We turned to a company known for delivering both chassis and brake muscle. Chris Alston’s Chassisworks hand-selects the Wilwood components that are a part of each and every kit in order to ensure delivery of optimum performance with its suspension kits and subframes. With this in mind, they produce a kit specially designed and fabricated for the 1969 Camaro. The brake components are specifically selected to offer significant braking performance for cars that have significant power – just what we’re looking for.
Dustin Burr at Wilwood told us, “Our six-piston Superlite calipers are lightweight, made from forged aluminum for strength, and the staggered piston design helps keep an even temperature from the leading edge of the pad to the trailing edge. This means the pads wear flat and maintain a constant coefficient of friction.”
He went on to say, “Pro-Touring cars are all about being street and track capable. Chassisworks pairs our Superlite calipers with rotors poured in our Spec37 iron alloy to create a package that can handle the heat. And Chassisworks has been building top-notch suspensions for a couple decades, so partnering with them for these brake kits was a no-brainer.”
When selecting components, we opted for the upgraded red powdercoated calipers front and rear. In both cases, the Wilwood aluminum, radial-mount calipers use a closed-end design strengthened by five steel bridge bolts through the caliper body directly across the brake pads. Stainless pistons slow heat transfer to brake fluid and help reduce fade. Damped external fluid tubes are routed through recessed pockets to avoid debris and reduce vibration induced wear. Pads can easily be replace by removal of the center bridge bolt.
Pro-Touring cars are all about being street and track capable. Chassisworks pairs our Superlite calipers with rotors poured in our Spec37 iron alloy to create a package that can handle the heat. -Dustin Burr, Wilwood
The front rotors have 36 I-shaped passages cast internally to create more surface area and maximize cooling, vanes are directional and curved to increase airflow, and the slotted surface and cross-drilled holes improve pad-to-rotor contact, and allow brake dust and gases to easily escape.
We went with the SRP series vented, cross-drilled, slotted and black E-coated rear rotors that feature 32 individual air passages cast into each rotor to act the same as the front, cooling the rotors; SRP rotors are also slotted and cross-drilled for improved pad-to-rotor contact, rotor cleaning and gas exhausting features.
We also got the scoop from Lino Chestang at Chassisworks and he told us that “Chassisworks builds brake kits to specifically fit our front subframe systems, ranging from lightweight drag race brakes up to monster 15-inch brakes with a variety of spindle options to match specific performance applications.” This range-of-performance approach also extends to the rear systems they manufacture.
Chestang went on to explain, “Our street-performance brake group is based off our high-strength, sculpted spindle. This is a Chassisworks engineered, ductile-iron spindle designed to exceed the durability and strength requirements of a daily-driven street vehicle put hard to the test.
“We offer three different brake kits to fill the performance needs of what could be considered a street car. The more tame kit of the available choices is an 11-3/4-inch vented rotor with a four-piston caliper; perfectly suited for daily use and occasional performance driving. From there we step up to a 13 x 1-inch, slotted and cross-drilled rotor with a radial-mounted, four-piston, billet-aluminum Wilwood caliper,” continued Chestang. “The largest brake system based on our sculpted spindle is a 14- x 1-1/4-inch rotor with six-piston, billet-aluminum Wilwood caliper. The 13- and 14-inch kits would be equally at home at an open track day as they would be driving around town.”
The largest brake system based on our sculpted spindle is a 14- x 1-1/4-inch rotor with a six-piston, billet-aluminum Wilwood caliper – Lino Chestang, Chassisworks
The fist half of the Chassisworks kit we are installing is the No. 8323 G-Street 14-inch S/M Spindle Brake kit for the front of our Chevy Camaro. Its major components include six-piston radial mount Wilwood calipers (we optioned the red powdercoated four-piston Wilwood calipers), two premium street polymatrix brake pads, caliper adapters that attach the calipers to the Chassisworks two-inch drop front spindles, Wilwood 14- x 1.25-inch rotors and 12-inch hat mounts with 0.738 offsets and hubs for the Chassisworks spindles.
The kit also includes the timken bearings, grease seals, spindle nuts and washers, and the o-rings and hub caps with the Chassisworks name on them. All the necessary hardware and a detailed set of instructions were included. The caliper will extend 1/2-inch toward the wheel from the hub surface and the minimum diameter at this position is 15.75 inches. Also keep in mind that the rotors are directional and there is an arrow on the flat side that points in the direction of the front of the car with the rotor installed.
Up Front On The ’69
Installation was fairly straightforward. You should know that wheel clearance is critical with the 14-inch rotor, and that most 18-inch wheels will fit, but you must check the wheels first to make sure there is proper clearance. There should be at least a 1/4-inch of wheel clearance from all brake components to ensure safe operation.
Thread the 12.25 x 1-inch, 12-point bolts into the brake hat. These should be torqued to 8.5 lb-ft. Set the driver-side of the rotor on the bolts just installed in the hat with the flanged-side of the rotor facing the hat, then slide the 1/4-inch washers on the bolts and tighten the 12-point flanged locknuts to 14 lb-ft of torque. The bolts will have to be held with a wrench while the locknuts are torqued or the bolts will spin free.
After matching the bolt circle on the hubs that match your wheels, chase the threads in the appropriate bolt holes with a 1/2-20 tap. The hubs offer mounting holes for 4-1/2- and 4-3/4-inch bolt circles. You should blow them out to clean away any debris with an air hose after chasing.
Set the driver side hat and rotor assembly on the backside of the hub, and line up the hub’s bolt circles with the rotor’s. Place a drop of Loctite on the tips of wheel studs, then insert the studs through the appropriate holes and torque to 40 lb-ft. Chassisworks offers optional three-inch studs (No. 8031) if you have extra thick wheels.
The bearing races are pressed into the hubs at the factory, but you must pack the wheel bearings prior to installation. If you don’t have a bearing packer, hand packing is acceptable. Once this is accomplished, place the bearings into the races. Then position the bearing seal on the hub. Place the hub on a wood surface and use a hammer and seal installer to drive the seal into the hub, making sure it’s properly seated.
Now that the inner bearing and seal are seated, you can place the hub and rotor assembly onto the spindle. Always keep in mind that the rotors are directional. With the hub and rotor mounted on the spindle, pack the outer bearing and slide the bearing into the race. Next, slide the washer over the spindle and install the castle nut.
Then to fully seat the bearings, torque the castle nut to 12 lb-ft, while turning the rotor forward by hand. By doing this you will remove any grease that may cause excessive bearing play. Once that is done, though, back off the castle nut to the “just loose” spot and then hand tighten. There will be between .001 and .005 inches of endplay when the wheel bearings are properly adjusted.
After the bearings are tight, cotter pin the castle nut, but don’t tighten the nut while aligning it, only loosen it if you have to rotate it to align the cotter pin. Then apply anti-seize to the threads on the hub’s dust cap and hand-tighten. It doesn’t need to be any tighter, the o-ring inside will keep it from coming loose.
Prior to mounting the calipers, the caliper adapters should be assembled to the spindle bosses using the 3/8-16 x 1-inch socket head Allens and high collar lockwashers that were in the kit. These Allens are to be torqued to 30 lb-ft.
We assembled the calipers ahead of time and recommend you do the same. To assemble the calipers, insert the brake pads into the caliper, one at a time on each side of the rotor slot with the metal backing facing toward the pistons. Install the bleed screws pointer up so that you can tell which is driver- and which is passenger-side.
Slide the 3/8-inch high collar lockwashers over the 3/8-16 x 1-3/4 -inch caliper mounting bolt and then insert the bolts through the caliper and into the adapter. Tighten until snug, but don’t torque yet. Rotate the rotor slowly, checking for clearance between the rotor and caliper, making sure the rotor doesn’t drag on the pads. You can shim the caliper where it’s attached to its bracket to adjust pad clearance if needed. If all is clear, torque caliper mount bolts to 30 lb-ft.
Now you can mount the front wheel/tire combo to do a final check. Make sure there is at least a 1/4-inch clearance between the caliper and the wheel, and that the wheel turns freely.
Moving Out Back
Next we moved to the Chassisworks 12.19-inch Rear Disc Brake Kit with four-piston caliper setup. Our first step was to mount the parking brake assembly to the axle housing end. Bolt through the axle housing holes from back to mount the parking brake assembly. Then we inserted the axle shafts through the center hole of the caliper mounting bracket. We chose to mount the parking brake bracket after the axle shafts had been placed in the axle housing.
Align the bearing retainer that will hold the caliper mount and wheel bearing in place with the four bolts inside the bracket assembly, then secure it using the OE hex nuts and lockwashers. (We installed a custom axle so we used those that came with our new axle.) These hex nuts are reached though the access hole in the axle flange and are to be torqued to 35 lb-ft. The rotor assembly was then placed on the wheel studs and positioned on the rotor against the axle flange.
Once assembled, hex nuts were threaded onto three of the studs so the rotor assembly was held securely against the axle flange while the caliper was mounted. We used Wilwood’s four-piston red-powder-coated caliper on this installation, an upgraded version of the 12.19-inch rear disc kit.
Slide the caliper over the rotor and bolt it into place using the 3/8-inch bolts and washers from the kit, but only snug them up. While viewing the rotor through the top of the caliper, measure distance between each rotor face and the caliper body to make sure the caliper is centered on the rotor.
When adjusting caliper offset, 0.032-inch shims can be used between the mounting bracket and the caliper; add as many as needed to achieve proper alignment. Be sure that the end of the nut is flush or protruding slightly from the head of the cinch nut so it does not hit the the rotor.
Use spare shims between the bolt head in order to get the proper fastener tightness, and always use the same number of shims on the top and bottom caliper mounting bolts. Once this is done, apply red Loctite 271 to the bolt threads and torque to 30 lb-ft. You will need to safety wire the caliper mounting bolts using 0.032-inch diameter stainless safety wire.
To wrap things up, install the Wilwood brake pads in the caliper and use the retainer clip to fasten them in place. The steel backing plate side of the pads should face the caliper pistons. Rotate to be sure all is free and clear, and with that the rear brake assembly and caliper installation is complete.
Overall, this was a relatively quick installation, and required just a few hours to complete. The kit was complete as far as parts, and the instructions were clear, but for one important point. It did not point out, as previously mentioned, that the rear rotor and hat assembly bolts should be safety wired. The bolt heads were pre-drilled for wiring, and although this was apparent to our experienced mechanics, it might not be to a novice with little or no knowledge of brake assembly – so be sure to adhere to this step.
We opted for the red powdercoated calipers because they look cool and we like our cars looking cool. The upgraded rear kit with the black E-coated SRP rotors was an obvious choice: Venting provides increased airflow and cooling over standard rotors, and the cross-drilling and slotting provides better pad-to-rotor contact, and brake dust and gas exhausting over the standard rotor.
Chassisworks engineers and manufactures its own brake kits. The calipers and rotors are sourced through Wilwood, but all hubs, hat, and caliper brackets are designed and manufactured in-house. This is done to ensure that the entire suspension and brake system retains the correct geometry, spacing and clearance as originally intended, while maintaining proper clearance and strict manufacturing tolerances and quality standards. Chassisworks has been a technology partner with Wilwood for the better part of three decades.
As one of the largest brake manufacturers in the industry, Wilwood offers a huge range of brake components and systems covering a broad range of vehicle types and performance applications. Their expertise in brake system design and manufacturing extends beyond the automotive performance aftermarket, making them one of the most knowledgeable brake manufacturers and a valuable Chassisworks partner. We can’t wait to get this bad boy to the track and test out our new setup – stay tuned!