So, all that was necessary was minor tweaking to connect it to the new proportioning valve under the master cylinder. A new line was bent and installed for the left-front caliper and hooked into the appropriate port on the new equalizer block. The original line that went from the single-jar master cylinder to the factory distribution block on the frame was adapted to feed the rear brakes by cutting off the original flare as close to the master cylinder as possible, slipping on the kit-supplied flare nut and reflaring the line using an Eastwood Automotive double-flare tool. New flex lines were connected to the calipers using the copper seal washers supplied (two per caliper). At this point, we connected the kit-supplied adjustable pushrod from the master cylinder to the brake pedal and adjusted it so the brake-light switch functioned properly.

Because exhaust systems tend to put out a lot of heat, the instructions recommend building a sheetmetal heat shield for the master cylinder if the exhaust manifolds or headers run too close. When we replaced the ragtop's ailing poly-headed 318-two-barrel with an '81 318-four-barrel a while back, we took the advice of friends and used '95 Dakota truck exhaust manifolds. These are really a slick deal. They fit like they were designed for an LA engine in an early B-Body, and they don't require any special heat shielding because of their virtually perfect routing.

The MP Brakes instructions specify the use of DOT4 brake fluid, even though the master cylinder provided with the kit is clearly marked "DOT3 brake fluid only." We checked, and the only difference is the DOT4's higher temperature rating. So if you're not able to get every last drop of the old fluid out of your system, at least there won't be any compatibility problems between the two. During the final brake-bleeding procedure, we noticed the left rear-wheel cylinder was leaking, so we replaced it with a new one.

With the installation basically complete, we stepped back to assess the changes. The contrast in appearance between the rusty old drums and the new rotors and calipers is dramatic, as is the dual master cylinder/proportioning valve combo compared to the old setup. More importantly, a test drive showed stopping power to be significantly better and more responsive to driver input. The vague and insecure feeling when applying the pressure to the drum brakes was replaced by a distinct impression of control. The car felt lighter and more competent overall, and the chances of experiencing a complete brake failure-as we did earlier-were reduced exponentially with the dual-line system.

Our earlier check of the suspension had indicated the ball joints and bushings were tight and in good shape, but the shock absorbers had seen better days and were replaced with a set of MonroeMatic Plus gas shocks. In addition to better suspension control, they also provided an anti-dive effect upon braking, thanks to the gas shocks' resistance to compression. With the new shocks installed and at proper ride height, the car was given a good frontend alignment and a renewed stamp of approval for summertime cruising.

Granted, it may be more fun washing and waxing our cars than busting our knuckles on the brakes, but looking good isn't much comfort when you're careening out of control. Do yourself a favor and spend some time on the brakes!

Master Power Brakes
254-1 Rolling Hills Rd.
NC  28117
Tenneco Automotive Group