Chevette Front Brake Upgrade

As a budget-friendly economy car the Chevette was never outfitted with high dollar parts from the factory in order to keep the price tag low. This includes the brakes, as the factory Chevette brakes are laughable at best. A solid brake disc combined with a brake caliper smaller than my fist would be more suited to a go kart, as we found out when we raced the JDMVette.

Once we discovered the inherent limitations of the factory brakes, we sought to upgrade them. Our solution retains the stock master cylinder, upgrades the front rotors to 11″ vented rotors with the stock 4×100 bolt pattern, and fits on the stock spindle.

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Here is the basic parts list to complete this swap:

– Stock Chevette Brake Rotors
– 1990 VW Corrado G60 Front Brake Rotors
– Wilwood Forged Dynalite Brake Calipers (Part no. 120-6806)
– Wilwood BP-10 Brake Pads (Part no. 150-8850K)
– Brake hose with a 180* fitting on the caliper side (I didn’t order the ones on our car so I don’t know the part number)
– Brake line adapter fittings for hose to caliper
– 6″L x 2″T x ?”W piece of steel bar stock (? explained later on)
– New wheels to clear the brakes (We used 15×8 Bassett wheels with wheel spacers)

The first step in the brake upgrade is to provide a mounting solution for the new rotor. We had a local machine shop cut off the rotor part of the stock hub. Be sure to bring the Corrado rotors with you when this is done as the outer diameter of the cut hub will need to be able to fit within the inner diameter of the brake rotor hat.

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Once the rotor fits on the new hub, the brake caliper bracket can be addressed. Measurement for this bracket is critical. Our best solution for measurement was remove a spindle from the car and put it in a vise. After that, you attach the rotor to the hub and secure it with 4 lug nuts. The brake pads are then installed in the caliper and the caliper is set on the rotor. In order to allow for a small amount of radial play on the rotor, two small (1/8″ or so) washers are placed between the rotor and the two silver fluid bridges of the caliper. Ensure the brake pad will sweep the rotor face at this time too. Once the caliper is in place, measure the distance between the caliper brackets on the spindle and the brake caliper. As this mount is rigid, accurate measurement for the bracket is critical to ensure normal and even brake pad wear.

Use this measurement to purchase the steel flat stock for the bracket. Our finished product ended up like this.

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Once the bracket is complete, the rest of the upgrade is fairly straightforward. Bolt on the caliper, attach the brake hose, bleed the brakes, check wheel/caliper clearance and then bed the brake pads.

A few final notes on this upgrade.

I’m not entirely sure what brake hose was used on our car. The hose we did use has a straight fitting and one adapter to attach to the Wilwood caliper and it clears from lock to lock. If you guys find a better solution, mention it in the comments and I’ll update the article.

I choose the Wilwood Forged Dynalite caliper because it almost exactly matches the piston area of the stock Chevette caliper. I believe it was 2.94 square inches versus the Wilwood at 3.0 square inches. That meant, as far as the stock master cylinder was concerned, almost no change was made. Brake pads are also very cheap and lots of compounds choices exist.

Our wheel choice of the 15×7″ Bassett wheel in the 3.5″ offset isn’t ideal. Our main concern was cost as we were buying 8 wheels for racing when we purchased them. We also bought them prior to the brake upgrade and we had to clearance the fenders quite a bit. They’re not ideal as they’re very heavy at 19 pounds and requiring a sizable wheel spacer to clear the caliper is another negative. I’m sure they’re are better wheels than what we have so don’t take what we have as the final say. We adapted what we already had to fit this brake upgrade. They have been race proven for triple digit speeds for multiple hours, so they’re not an awful way to go either.

Price list:

Wilwood Forged Dynalite Caliper – $125 (Stock – $153)

1990 VW Corrado Brake Rotor – $50 (Stock – $54)

Brake Pads – $42 (Stock – $43)

Project: Baptism by Fire

As a car guy I bought my first car when I was 16, a barely running Mitsubishi Galant VR-4, overpriced and with tons of potential. It turned out that this potential would lead nowhere so I ended up selling the car to a friend for a big loss. The ordeal wasn’t a complete loss though as I learned that I did actually enjoy working on cars- that car required a lot of work- and that I was way more interested in driving and racing than I was in being a mechanic. I then set out to find a more practical project so I bought my second Galant. I still own it but it’s not finished, and I came to a second revelation during the build: I don’t want to go fast on the street. It’s just too scary. Police, other drivers, deer, there are just too many reasons to avoid it. So what’s the solution to this? A track car. But again a problem arose: I’m a college student and college students have no money. I spoke to my brother who is also an avid gear head and CarRacer, the guy who races the the JDMVette and we came up with the 24 Hours of LeMons series as a solution. Considering that my problem was that I couldn’t afford a real track car, what could be more perfect than a race where I’m not allowed to spend more than $500 on a car? The rules require a four person team so my brother and I agreed to team-up with a few of our friends. Once we committed to actually doing these races our first decision had to be what car we should get, so I talked to CarRacer since he had some experience. He recommended that we get something light with a small engine to save on gas that we know will be reliable. He recommended a few options like the Dodge Neon or even BMW’s even though they aren’t well liked by the competition because they are so good. So we bought a Mercury Grand Marquis. The car is big and heavy, and has a 4.6L V8. It will be bad on gas, it will go through brakes and tires quickly, it won’t handle well and it won’t be that fast. But we don’t care. At this point, we are all car guys who have never raced against other cars let alone on real race tracks. Our goals are not to win or even do particularly well but they are to get a taste for racing and have fun doing it.

The car: my brother works at a metal fabrication shop as a design engineer, and one of the other engineers there was telling my brother about an accident he had just been in in his 1995 Grand Marquis. My brother was familiar with the car and asked him what he was going to do with it, and when he said he was going to scrap it my brother instead picked it up for the $400 his coworker would have gotten from the scrap yard. With an obvious abundance of parts for these cars and the good condition that it’s already in, this is an easy starting point that won’t require extensive prep aside from safety.

 

The drivers front headlight is gone, and the doors don’t open properly. The worst part of the damage is that it seems to have caused a leak from somewhere in the cooling system, and the repairs for that will have to come out of our remaining $100.

Here is the reason we got the car. The strong running V8 will be one less thing that we don’t have to worry about preparing heavily.

The interior is actually in beautiful shape, and since we have to strip it anyway hopefully the sale of it will help us increase our budget for modifications.

Being a fan of lists, here is what we have to do to prep the car:

  1. Strip the interior
  2. Remove glass
  3. Install the roll cage
  4. Install the seat
  5. Install the harness
  6. Wire the car (especially the interior and kill switch)
  7. Fix the coolant leak
  8. Replace brakes
  9. Replace tires
  10. Acquire parts (brakes, tires etc)
  11. Paint for our theme

We have picked a theme that I don’t want to reveal until we are completely prepared to race. What I will reveal is that it will not involve any sort of police reference, as this has been by every other Ford Panther platform team in the world. I also won’t put anything on it that makes the car “bigger.” For some reason it just bothers me

when people attach things to the exterior of their car even though that’s sort of the spirit of this race. With whatever money we have left we hope to install a manual transmission from a Mustang because it will be more fun to drive, but this won’t be realistic. With that kind of money though, what will be realistic is police package suspension from a Crown Victoria, which is not particularly expensive. The cage won’t be a big deal because as I mentioned, my brother works at a fabrication shop where he will be able to get tubing at cost and works with professional welders who have race car building experience. My father has a degree in electrical engineering so he will be able to help with the wiring. Our real problem now is not having a space to work on the car. It’s located in Buffalo so working on it in the near future is out of the question. If we had some place to work on it, we would likely have it ready by early May, but our goal for now is the June 16th race at Summit Point Raceway. I have a very optimistic goal of 3 days of all-day labor to make it so we only have minor “fine tuning” to do. CarRacer says we can do it and enter the race, but we won’t finish the whole thing. I’m sure he’s right, but I’m also sure we will end up not slapping it together at the last minute. Updates on the project coming as soon as they happen!

Project JDMvette begins

Our endurance racer is starting the transformation into a one of a kind, unique vehicle that no sensible person would ever dream of creating.

After the car’s maiden voyage on the race track at Iowa Speedway, we learned a couple things. The first was that the stock 1.6 liter four cylinder engine is able to withstand 24 hours of abuse at the hands of four sleep deprived amateur racers. The second thing we learned was that the stock 1.6 liter four cylinder is only marginally faster than walking at a brisk pace as witnessed in this in car video. Check your speaker volume before starting the video, there’s a bit of wind noise.

After our team had accomplished its goal of finishing a race at Iowa, we set our sights higher. The 1.6 motor had served admirably but it just didn’t have what it took to duke it out against the myriad BMWs we were facing. We needed a different solution. After racking our brains and searching for dirt cheap cars on craigslist we came upon an idea.

We figured buying an old beat up Mitsubishi Eclipse, tearing out the engine, and stuffing it into the Chevette engine bay seemed like a good way to go. Surprisingly it fits.

Over the next few weeks I plan on documenting the engine swap and our efforts at bringing Project JDMvette to life.

$500 Racecar Roll Cage Construction

Our intrepid race team completed one of the major requirements for building a $500 racecar this weekend, construction of the roll cage. It wasn’t an easy task but having the proper tools, reading the rules eleventy times, and making sure to measure at least once made the job a whole lot smoother.

Continue reading $500 Racecar Roll Cage Construction

Poor Man’s Car Rotisserie

I needed to finalize the preparation for the roll cage installation but was having trouble welding the bottom of the subframe connectors on the drive on lift. The lift was making it tough to get the welder positioned correctly under the car to run a bead. I fought it for quite a while to no avail. After quitting for the night, inspiration hit. I had remember seeing the build log for a car on the 24 Hours of LeMons forum. The builder was most likely constructing some mishmash of cast off automotive parts and was using a tube frame to keep the big parts from falling off. He must have encountered the same issue so he ended up using a chain hoist to lift the entire frame off the ground to finalize the welding on the car. It looked like a great solution to a problem we had in common. He had one luxury I did not though, high ceilings. I never thought architecture would factor into the building process of our car. Luckily, I only needed to weld a small portion so I only need a small solution.

I ended up bolting a chain to the drilled and welded bumper mounts and lifted the car with an engine hoist. The car was surprisingly light without the drive train and was rather easy to get high enough to create adequate working space. Accomplishing the required welding was far easier and the picture alone was worth a small chuckle. The next step is this build will be to start installing the roll cage structure.

Bracing For Impact – Part 1

Before I managed to stop my concerns of falling through the floor of the Chevette by patching the floor, we prepped the chassis for the roll cage. The car body didn’t have enough sheet metal to properly support a roll cage, so we added a subframe connector made out of two inch by three inch square tubing. This tubing would help tie the front and rear subframes together and spread the energy load from a possible crash throughout the chassis. This would maximize the ability of the rollcage to properly do its job and prevent the cage tubing from punching through the sheet metal.

Continue on to follow the fabrication progress.

Continue reading Bracing For Impact – Part 1