If you are like us, then you love your old truck and would never want to jeopardize its metal health. There's an old expression that says, "Why stop when you're having fun?" but when it comes to customized trucks, trust us, it's no fun when you can't stop.

Our subject vehicle is a '56 Chevy half-ton panel that belongs to one of our good friends who admits he is a moronic idiot. Allow us to explain why and we think you will agree. Wally's (a fake name to protect the idiotic) '56 panel, with its 375-horsepower, 350-inch Corvette engine and beefed Turbo-hydramatic tranny, is a strong runner-strong enough that it lights up the tires all the way into third gear.

Unfortunately, the 56's Corvette engine and trans are where the panel's performance improvements (not to make a pun) stop. The '56's original factory equipment single master cylinder with four-wheel drum brakes is still in place. Add to the mix Wally has no idea whether or not the brake shoes or hydraulics are up to OEM specs, and we have (another old expression) an accident just waiting to happen. Oh yeah, we should mention Wally was driving the truck with a rapidly increasing brake fluid leak in his hydraulic system. Anytime he felt the brake pedal getting low, he would just spin the cap off his vintage EIS master cylinder mounted in its stock location under the floor and pour in more brake fluid. For the most part, this bad practice worked OK, except Wally's leak intensified to the point that his brake pedal would hit the floor when he applied them coming up to a red light. Being kind of an ingenious lazy guy, Wally placed a funnel on top of his master cylinder, then poured brake fluid in and pumped the brakes as he was driving whenever he needed to stop.

While on his way to the Rat Fink Reunion held at Moon Equipment Speed Shop in Santa Fe Springs, California, Wally got into a little streetlight Grand Prix with a carload of guys in a '59 Ford Galaxy. He blew past the Galaxy like it was stopped, but when he hit the brakes for the red light ahead there was nothing there. Fortunately for Wally, Norwalk Blvd. has, er, uh, had a row of bushes on the center divider, and he was able to mow them down instead of plowing into the stopped traffic ahead.

In the issue at hand, we are installing a complete four-wheel disc brake conversion kit from the fine folks at Master Power Brakes of Mooresville, North Carolina, onto Wally's '56 panel .

When MP Brakes says their kit is complete, they're not kidding. Everything from new wheel bearings and grease seals to grease caps and flex hoses is included. The beauty of buying an engineered kit such as MP Brakes' is there's no guessing at which proportioning valve you need to use with which master cylinder or brake caliper. All these determinations have been figured out.

We would like to have run a before-and-after comparison test on Wally's '56 for 60-to-0 braking results, but we couldn't find a test track long enough to conduct the before portion. Once we get Wally fixed up with a set of tires that won't pop, we'll gather some stopping distance data.

As a reference point, figure that a stock Tri-Five Chevy or GMC in tip-top condition will require over 200 feet to stop from 60 mph. The average stopping distance for brand-new full-size heavy-duty pickups will run around 170 feet. For a 1500-series Sierra or Silverado, count on around 150 feet, with approximately 120 feet to stop a Chevy SS pickup in its tracks.

In the state of California it doesn't take much for politicians to pass a new law. After a Toyota pickup with a camper shell full of people fell off a freeway overpass, exterminating its many occupants, it's now illegal for anyone to ride in the bed of a pickup truck.

Since Wally isn't exactly graced with a lot of luck, he might end up plowing through a minivan packed full of people and being the guy who got classic trucks banned from our highways. What about you? Is your old truck irreplaceable or potentially the Typhoid Mary of a new ban on customized trucks? Either way, it's not a pretty thought. Please follow along as we update Wally's '56 Chevy panel and hopefully inspire others to update their '55-59 GM trucks to survive in the 21st century. After all, if you want to go fast, you have to stop fast.

Master Power Brakes
254-1 Rolling Hills Rd.
NC  28117
  • «
  • |
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • 4
  • |
  • 5
  • |
  • 6
  • |
  • View Full Article