Last month we introduced our latest project, a ’64 Dodge Polara hardtop, which we’ll be transforming into a street/strip car that will ultimately run in the Nostalgia Super Stock drag racing class. Since the Nostalgia Super Stock class runs on an index format, it allows us to build the car much as you would, making our upgrades one at a time to make the car quicker as we go. And while we’re eager to get this car running and driving, and to take it to the track, there are some basic upgrades that need to be accomplished before we even think about driving on the streets or the strip. Equipped with 10-inch drum brakes from the factory, our ’64 B-Body is desperately in need of a brake upgrade in the interest of safety.

Our factory drum brakes are really ancient in terms of braking technology. Other than pressing the friction compound to the inside of the drum rather than the outside of the wheel, drum brakes use the same theoretical stopping method as the hand brake on a wagon pulled by a horse. Drum brakes are also prone to hold heat, which leads to brake fade, and compared to modern disc brake systems, the drum brakes and associated components are heavy and don’t stop the car nearly as well. Since we’re building our Dodge to see both street and track duty, we needed a good set of disc brakes to replace the factory brakes on our car. We also needed a modern master cylinder to replace the “pump and pray” single cylinder our Dodge was originally equipped with. A quick check of Wilwood’s website, allowed us to quickly make a decision as to which brake components would be best for our application.

The brakes of a car are generally thought of as a safety feature, but the right brakes can also make a car quicker by lightening the rotating and un-sprung weight of the vehicle. Back in the fifties, sixties, and into the seventies, drag car builders would install the smallest nine-inch drum brakes they could on the racecar they were building, to reduce weight and friction. Early factory disc brakes utilized heavy rotors and cast-iron calipers, and the friction pads would constantly rub on the rotors even when the brake pedal was released. This friction actually slowed the car down compared to drum brakes which could be adjusted so the brake shoes didn’t contact the drum unless the pedal was pressed.

Modern disc brakes like the Wilwood brakes we’re installing, are light years ahead of drum brakes in terms of technology, and offer many benefits when compared to factory disc brake systems as well. Wilwood offers brakes for a variety of applications including road racing, which requires large diameter rotors and huge calipers, to super lightweight drag racing applications where repeated stopping isn’t an issue. Wilwood brakes are available for classic Mopar—like our ’64 Dodge, all the way to the most modern LX platform late-model Chargers, Challengers, 300s, and Magnums. Since our car will see limited street use initially, and due to its estimated 3,500 pound race weight, we decided against the lightest drag brakes Wilwood offers, instead choosing Wilwood’s Dynalite Pro Series front brake kit and their Dynapro rear disc brake kit for our Polara. We also decided to install a Wilwood aluminum tandem master cylinder, which features one inch pistons and separate reservoirs for the front and rear brakes, making it much safer than the factory single master cylinder.