GM G-Body Brake Upgrades: Better Braking for Any Budget


GM G-Body Brake Upgrades: Better Braking for Any Budget


As we noted in our G-body deep dive article, interest in General Motors’ G-body cars has grown significantly in recent years. Thanks to factors ranging from vehicle cost to parts availability, the architecture that underpins 1980s GM icons like the Buick Regal, Oldsmobile Cutlass, and Chevrolet El Camino has become the go-to option for an increasing number of enthusiasts who’re looking for a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive platform designed to house a small-block V8 straight from the factory.

Those characteristics inspired Baer Brakes to begin offering products for G-bodies more than a decade ago, and as Baer product specialist Mark Fowler explains, customer demand for brake upgrades has only increased in the years since.

“More and more inquires have been coming in from people who’re restoring or modifying existing projects. The El Camino, Monte Carlo, Regal, and Cutlass – they’re all very similar mechanically, and there are a lot of them out there. Street cars, race cars, big wheel projects – you name it.”

With Baer recently re-introducing the Classic brake kit for G-bodies, we thought we’d take a closer look at what the company offers for these vehicles, and find out what folks should keep in mind when diving into a new G-body brake system project.

ML: Are there any platform-specific considerations that people should be aware of when it comes to G-body brake upgrades?

MF: The biggest thing that people need to be conscious of is that the factory brake caliper mounts are cast right into the spindle itself. Because of that, if you’re looking to upgrade to an aftermarket brake system, the spindle needs to be modified.

This can be done by cutting off the caliper mounting ears, which creates the room needed for larger calipers and rotors. Ideally the spindle would be put in a CNC machine and machined so that it can accommodate a base bracket that would be bolted onto the spindle, and then everything would be located off of that.

With most aftermarket brake kits, it’s up to the customer to do that, but that’s not how we do things at Baer. Our systems are offered with either a newly-designed spindle or a modified factory spindle, and that removes all of that legwork for the customer. You might be able to make something work with a drill and a Sawzall in the garage, but making sure that the base bracket is perpendicular to the pin is critical – if the base bracket is not 90-degrees to the pin, it’s going to throw off all of the other components involved, and that can create problems.

By doing it this way, we know that every spindle that our customers use is going to work the way it’s supposed to. Doing this in-house also allows us to offer the option of a stock-style spindle or a two-inch drop spindle, the latter of which allows you to lower the front end of the vehicle without potentially throwing off the suspension geometry.

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ML: What was the catalyst to bring back the Classic brake kit for G-bodies?

MF: When we initially started offering upgrades for the platform, we used this style of caliper in all our systems, but we got away from it for a while because we started manufacturing the type of caliper design used in the SS4+, Track4, Pro+, and Extreme+ systems. But over time, we noticed that there was still demand for Baer quality in this type of brake package, so we brought it back to support the folks who’re looking for a significant brake upgrade at a more accessible price point.

ML: What does the Classic front brake kit consist of, and how does it differ from the factory setup?

MF: It starts with a larger 11-inch drilled, slotted, and zinc-plated rotor, and that’s paired up with a dual-piston, pad-guided caliper rather than the factory single-piston caliper. This same system is also available with 13-inch rotors, and either way it includes braided steel brake lines as well as spindles that have been updated to accommodate these larger brake system components.

Even though this is considered our entry-level offering, it’s important to note that you’re still getting significantly better performance than you would with the factory brake setup. The two-piston caliper is going to provide better control over the brake pad, which will in turn deliver better clamping force and reduce uneven pad wear. The larger diameter rotors are also going to do a better job of managing heat than the factory discs would.

It’s also worth noting that, along with the aesthetic upgrades provided by the red calipers and rotors, upgrading to a Baer system can open up a wider range of options for pad choice – all of the systems that we offer are designed to use a common brake pad type.

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ML: What are the wheel diameter requirements for these Classic front brake kits for G-bodies?

MF: The 11-inch brake system will work with most 15-inch-or-larger wheels, while the 13-inch system is suitable for 17-inch-or-larger wheel diameters.

ML: Is it necessary to upgrade the rear brakes when upgrading the brakes up front?

MF: The front brakes typically do 60 to 70 percent of the braking under normal operating conditions, but without upgrading the rear brakes when you upgrade the fronts, the brake system isn’t going to be as balanced as it could be. If the rear is under-braked relative to the front, the front end may need to work harder to stop the car than it would otherwise. On the other side of the coin, if you choose rear brakes kind of arbitrarily and go with a setup that’s too big for the rear, it can cause instability under braking because the system isn’t evenly balanced. The rear brakes may lock up sooner than the fronts do, and the car might want to swap ends as a result. It’s just not an ideal situation.

This is another thing that Baer does differently when compared to many other manufacturers: If you’ve got a 6S caliper up front, for example, and you’re running a 6S caliper in the rear, they will visually appear identical, but they’re not. They’re both six-piston calipers and they’re identical forgings, but they have different piston areas – the front caliper has a larger piston area than the rear. That’s done to improve the overall performance of the brake system.

In the case of the Classic kit, we offer G-body-specific rear brake packages with either 10.5 or 11.65-inch diameter rotors.

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ML: If someone is looking to go above and beyond what the Classic kit offers with their G-body, what else does Baer have available for the platform?

MF: From there we get into what we call our big brake kits, which starts with the SS4+ package. This uses our S4 four-piston caliper with an 11-inch two-piece rotor. This is going to be something that’s really suited for the person who is running a 15-inch wheel and wants to keep it that way while also greatly improving the stopping power.

The next step up for front brake systems is going to be our Track4. This uses our larger four-piston caliper, the T4, along with a 13-inch one-piece rotor, and it’s designed to work with 17-inch-or-larger diameter wheels. A bigger rotor is going to provide more leverage, but since it’s a one-piece design, it allows us to offer this system at a more affordable price point.

Moving up the ladder into our six-piston options, we have the Pro+. This system uses our 6P two-piece caliper with either a 13-inch or 14-inch two-piece rotor. And from there we have the Extreme+ system. Its 6S six-piston caliper is a monoblock forging, which makes it our most rigid caliper, and it’s paired with a 14-inch two-piece rotor. We can also upgrade that to a larger diameter rotor by request, or even step up to our XTR race caliper.

The XTR is based off of the S6, but we do additional work to it. It has lighter two-piece pistons, it’s going to have a bolt-in bridge that allows you to swap out the pads without taking the caliper off the bracket. It also features additional machining which reduces its weight while improving the cosmetics. This kind of setup is generally aimed at road racing applications, but with the right pad, there’s no reason you couldn’t use it on the street.”

Be sure to also check out our master cylinder and brake booster buyer’s guide, as these ancillary components can significantly impact brake pedal feel and the responsiveness of your brake system. And if you have any questions about what you need for your particular project, remember that the experts at Baer Brakes are just a phone call or an email away.

Talk to a Baer product expert: (602) 233-1411

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