Installing a Wilwood disc brake system on a 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle

Brake technology has come a long way in the last 20 years, and the aftermarket is really catching up to the level of performance offered in modern vehicles. Today’s high-performance braking systems are quite different from kits just a few years old, and Wilwood is one of the pioneers in modern performance braking systems. Just when you think brakes couldn’t get much better, a system like Wilwood’s forged Dynalite comes along and changes all of that.

The factory-installed disc and drum braking system on our 1969 Chevelle were pretty good when the car was new, but nearly 50 years of hard driving has taken its toll. Add to that the increased performance from the cammed and tuned 5.3-liter LS engine, which is mated to the original Muncie four-speed, and you find yourself wishing for a little more from the brakes, especially during those spirited blasts down the highway. In order to bring the Chevelle back into the realm of safety, we need an upgrade.

Our  Chevelle recently was treated to an upgraded front suspension from Chassisworks, which we paired with a new Wilwood Dynalite brake kit. Each wheel now houses a four-piston forged brake caliper on a 12.88-inch rotor. Because the calipers are forged, they are very light and small while being incredibly strong. The design of the caliper is part of that strength, because these do not use spacers. Instead, the design incorporates a single split bridge. This means more material is used to hold the two halves of the caliper together without being cast as a single unit.

The rotors are e-coated, drilled, and slotted. The black e-coating looks really good, but you don’t need to worry about the coating; it is designed to vaporize when the brakes are first used. The cool part is that the coating stays in the slots and behind the holes, so it provides a great looking contrast behind the wheels.

Because we are installing front and rear brakes, we have to get into the rear differential. We also have to assemble the front rotors to the hubs. Assembling the rotors ourselves requires a little bit of extra effort, but the results are worth it. The kit comes with everything needed to get the job done, including a few unique components such as the integrated sealed wheel bearings and adapter rings for the rear axles. The rear end is a factory 12-bolt, which uses C-clips, so we have to pull the rear cover, remove the clips and pull the axles.

Another unique feature of this system is the rear emergency brake. Unlike most aftermarket brake kits, which utilize a mechanical lever on the caliper for an e-brake, this system uses an integral drum inside the rotor. This means than in the event of a total failure in the rear caliper, you still have the ability to kick the e-brake and get stopped.

We spent about a day installing the entire system, front and rear. There were no surprises, and thanks to the all-inclusive kit, we didn’t have to make any last minute runs to the parts store for anything. The kit even comes with new stainless steel brake lines with all the adapters and clips, so everything is new and fresh behind the wheels.

1. In order to remove the axles, we removed the rear differential cover and pulled the C-clips. Now is a great time to inspect the components of your rear diff and clean it out.

2. With the axles out, we unbolted the rear drum plates. No need to disassemble the shoes, they can come off as an assembly.

3. The new one-piece sealed bearings (right) are much beefier than the original separate pieces, and it has an o-ring on the outside for extra leak protection.

4. Our new Wilwood kit comes with a new backing plate. Wait, new drums? Nope, this kit uses an integral drum-style parking brake, which is extra safe because it does not rely on the calipers at all.

5. A concentric adapter ring gets installed onto the hub of each axle. Because of the integrated e-brake, the rotor must be perfectly centered over the axle and shoes. This ring accomplishes that. We drove it on with a brass punch and a hammer.

6. Then the rotor was slipped over the axle. You can see the adapter ring in the center.

7. Wilwood’s Dynalite calipers are spacer-less, but you do need to verify the depth, which is adjusted using shims. Then the caliper bolts in place.

8. The brake pads drop into the caliper from the top and are held in place by a pin.

9. The factory e-brake cables don’t work with the new system, so Wilwood provides new ones. They clip onto the arm and then clip into the factory frame clips. The cable from the pedal is reused.

10. Up front, the system begins with the caliper brackets. This particular kit is designed to work with the Chassisworks billet front spindle.

11. The bracket was bolted to the spindle and torqued to spec.

12. Assembling the rotors is a multi-step process. First, the rotor is bolted to the hat and torqued to spec.

13. Next, the assembly is flipped over, nuts are threaded onto the bolts we just installed, and these are torqued. Each side is torqued separately.

14. Finally, the rotor and hat are installed onto the hub, which is bolted down and torqued. We used a wheel to hold the assembly during this process.

15. Each bearing, inner and outer, was hand-packed with new grease. Packing by hand ensures that every roller is fully coated.

16. The bearings were loaded into the hub, along with a new seal, and then installed onto the spindle. Pro tip: spin the rotor several times as you tighten and then loosen the castle nut with a wrench. This helps seat the bearings on the spindle. Then tighten the nut until there is just a hint of drag, align it with a hole in the spindle, and install the cotter pin.

17. These billet aluminum dust covers are so much nicer than the press-fit ones, just make sure you coat the threads with anti-seize, otherwise they will gall up, and you will never get them off.

18. The calpiers attach to the spindle using a radial-to-lug adapter. You can increase the rotor size without changing the calipers themselves just by switching the adapter mount.

19. The adapters bolt to the mount we installed to the spindle using Allen bolts.

20. Just like the rears, the front calipers use a pin to secure the pads. This is a really clean design- much nicer than clips.

21. The caliper is bolted on from the top using allen bolts, ready for the brake pads to be loaded.

22. The completed front brakes look amazing. Once we get the pads bedded in, the rotor surface will be the same steel color you would expect.

23. The last bit of work is the stainless steel brake lines. The kit comes with the adapter to the hard line, and a small 90-degree adapter for the caliper to keep the line away from the moving parts of the suspension. The line uses -3 AN fittings for a leak-free seal.
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