When it comes to aftermarket braking systems, there are generally two schools of thought for performance vehicles; Either bigger than stock for increased braking performance or lighter than stock with less braking performance. Either direction you go, the universally-accepted fact is that if you are upgrading the car, the OEM system needs to be address. However, with the advances in technology across the board there isn’t that definitive divide between types of braking systems any longer. Large, high-performance brakes aren’t necessarily the big, heavy pieces of equipment they once were and the increased braking power they offer can far out- weigh any “concessions” made to run them.
In the world of performance, we strive to do everything better than stock. Of course, if you make your car faster, you have to eventually come back to a stop. Sure, physics dictates that eventually it will happen, one way or another, but we’d like to be in control of the “when” part of the equation. To truly be in control of that variable, you need to upgrade your braking system to complement the increases in power—to balance the equation.
Essentially braking system works by inducing controlled amounts of friction to the brake rotor, via the caliper and brake pads, which slows the vehicles momentum. The byproduct of friction, as we all learned in elementary school via “Indian Burns”, is heat. Dissipating that heat is a critical to the performance of a braking system. If the brake pad gets above its operating temperature range, the coefficient of friction—or how well it grabs the rotor—drops off drastically; an issue commonly known a brake fade. Since the rotor acts as a heat sink, drawing the heat away from the pads and caliper, its mass is critical. Again, going back to that physics class, we know that more mass has more heat capacity and less mass has less heat capacity. That is why you’ll notice that cars intend- ed for repetitive brake application over an extended period (like in a street car, or road race application) will have large, vented rotors—to be able to absorb more heat, and the vents to channel air through the inside of the rotors and help dissipate heat quickly. Drag racing-only brakes often have a thinner, lighter solid rotor, because they don’t have a need for as much thermal capacity, since the braking system has time to cool down after slowing from triple-digit speeds once every hour or so (even if you are hotlapping the car, you still have an extended cool-down period compared to driving on the street).
Since Project Nutjob is going to be a street/strip car—driving to the track under its own power, solid-rotor brakes weren’t ever a consideration. Instead, we went to the folks over at Baer who have been coming out with some seriously cool new things that have caught our attention—like dual-caliper drag-spec brakes, which still utilize a vented disc, and will fit with under a double-beadlocked wheel—and asked for their suggestions on our project.
Baer follows the Mustang market pretty closely, and really pays attention to the cars in the True Street class, which are the epitome of “Street/Strip” cars. Now, there is nothing that will inherently make a large brake setup not perform well on the dragstrip. However, one of the major turnoffs in the past to drag racers was the need to run a larger wheel to clear the larger brakes. There are three critical mitigating factors which have made that complaint almost obsolete. One is the avail- ability of quality drag-specific tires in larger sizes these days. A 17-inch drag radial or cheater slick is a readily-available part from a variety of tire manufacturers. Another consideration is that today’s wheel manufacturers are able to control spoke design, shape and wheel offset with far more precision than previously, enabling them to design a smaller-diameter wheel to clear a large-dimeter brake package. The final factor is the brake manufactures themselves. Baer has managed to design a braking system with a large 11-inch diameter, 1.1- inch thick rotor that will fit underneath not only a 15-inch wheel, but even some 14-inch wheels. It is no small feat of engineering, being able to shoehorn all that braking power into a compact package.
After talking to Baer, we decided on the Track4 kit for the front of the car. The Track4 kit—colloquially referred to as the “T4” kit—starts out with a 13-inch—one inch larger in diameter than the OEM brake rotor—1.1-inch thick, one-piece direction- ally vented rotor which has been drilled and slotted, and then zinc plated. Then, Baer adds one of their T4 calipers. The T4 caliper is a two-piece billet aluminum four-piston design with six cross bolts. Internally, the caliper features stainless-steel pistons, abutments, and noise-suppression springs. The caliper is powder coated for both durability and good looks, and is available in three standard finishes—Red body with black accents, black with red accents, or silver with red accents. Custom colors are available, as well as a polished nickel-plated finish.
Inside the caliper, Baer includes a high-performance ceram- ic brake pad. For convenience, The pad shape is an FMSI # D749, or in layman’s terms, the same as a 1998-2002 Camaro. The caliper mounts using Baer’s billet caliper bracket and the combination will fit within some 16-inch, and most 17-inch wheel packages. Also in the T4 front kit is a set of stainless- steel braided brake lines, and all the necessary stainless mounting hardware.
In the rear, The choice of kits was a “no-brainer” as the SS4 rear kit is specifically as a street/strip braking system. The kit con- sists of a set of 12-inch diameter, one-inch-thick vented rotors, which are drilled and slotted, and zinc-coated just as the front rotors are. The SS4 caliper is a compact two-piece bil- let aluminum four-piston calipers. On the standard 8.8-inch rearend applications, Baer uses a floating caliper design with their VeriSlide mounting technology. They also have a fixed- mount version for those with either 9-inch housing ends, or a full 9-inch rearends under their Mustangs. The rear calipers come standard with a clear anodized finish, but also offer the same black, silver, and red combinations as the fronts, as well as the same custom color and polished options.
Inside the SS4 calipers reside the same ceramic pads, but this time in an FMSI DR1 size, which is unique to aftermarket calipers and not used in any OE applications. The backing/caliper mounting plates of the SS4 rear kit also have a built in drum-style parking brake, utilizing the inside of the rotor hat as the drum.
Like the fronts, the SS4 rear kit includes a set of stainless steel braided lines and all the required mounting hardware. Designed to fit inside a 15-inch wheel while still providing a larg- er rotor and better caliper than stock, Baer engineered the SS4 so that upgraded rear brakes wouldn’t prevent you from being able to throw a set of 15-inch slick-wrapped wheels on the back for the dragstrip. Baer also has a dual-caliper SS4 setup for big-power street cars which utilizes an extra caliper and an 11-inch, and will all fit under a double-beadlocked 15-inch wheel. So if Project Nutjob ever gets to the point where it needs double-beadlocked wheels and is making four-digits-worth of horsepower, we know there is a kit available.
The actual installation of the brakes is far from complicated. In fact, the only tools besides a standard socket set you’ll need is a torque wrench, a set of dial or digital calipers capable of measuring inside diameter, and a 10mm hex bit socket. Up front, the most difficult part of installation was the recommended removal of the factory dust shield, as for some reason, Ford decided to attach it with rivets instead of screws. While the angle grinder made rather short work of the rivet heads, and a punch knocked the rivet body out, it’s was an unexpected surprise thanks to Ford’s choice of fasteners. Also, some- thing else we ran into was that while the instructions called to snug two lugnuts onto the rotor to measure caliper spac- ing, using only two allowed the rotor to sit unevenly on the hub face, giving us a large amount of runout. Using all five lugnuts with washers cured the problem.
In the rear, we ran into problem after problem with getting the stock stuff off. We spent two days just getting the stock calipers and backing plates off the car, breaking a wrench, going through two cans of WD-40, a bottle of propane, and making our ears bleed with an impact gun in the process. Once all the stock stuff is off, you’ve got to pull the axles to mount the new parking brake and backing plate. From there, it’s as simple as bolting and torquing all the fasteners and tightening the new stainless braided brake lines.
In the interest of full disclosure, during the course of the article, we found some issues with the stock 8.8-inch rearend, and are now in the midst of swapping that out for a 9-inch, so we haven’t had a chance to perform any road test- ing with the new brakes. Luckily, Baer has an the parts we needed, and all we had to do was exchange the parking brake assembly for one with the new housing bolt pattern on it, and new calipers, since a floating caliper design is used with the 8.8 (since it’s a C-Clip rearend), but a fixed caliper design is utilized with the 9-inch kit.
Our brake upgrade will dramatically improve the car’s stop- ping power, while not preventing us from using a strip-only wheel and tire combination down the road. Plus, it really adds a killer look to the car. Also, we weighed one side of the Track4 kit and compared it to the weight of the stock pieces it replaced, and lo and behold, the Baer parts registered one pound less. So really, there are no downsides to the setup, with a ton of benefits. Compromise? I think not.