September 2007

By: Arvid Svendsen

Project American Heroes Gets Some Big-Time Stopping Power

Having the privilege of participating in the Project American Heroes buildup of the Cars Inc./Roadster Shop 1957 Chevy convertible, our military personnel are more and more in our thoughts and prayers. The men and women of our armed forces are laying down their lives to protect our country. Military images and parallels seem stronger, and more prevalent than ever; even some that apply to our beloved hot redding hobby.

Project American Heroes ( will be the culmination of some of the best minds, motors, and machinery available anywhere in the world to produce a safe and reliable street machine with top ranking performance at all levels: acceleration, handling, and braking. There is great anticipation of being catapulted to exhilarating highway-legal speeds via the big-block powerplant. Concurrently, we are consumed with building Project American Heroes with a braking system that represents some of the best the aftermarket has to offer. All these parts will come together built on the foundation of the spectacular Roadster Shop Tri-Five chassis to produce one amazing, military-strength ride.

Stainless Steel Brakes Corporation is up to providing the equipment needed to not have to “think” about braking during road trips in the ’57 Chevy ragtop. In business for over 30 years, SSBC has worked hard to provide the ultimate braking systems for all late-model performance cars, musclecars, street rods, trucks, SUVs, and sport compacts. With constant research and development to provide superior braking to a broad range of customers, SSBC presently offers individually designed brake packages for over 400 specific applications.

The SSBC four-wheel disc-brake kit called into duty for Project American Heroes matches 13-inch front-vented rotors with 12-inch rears. Instead of cross-drilling the rotors, SSBC’s rotors are “Turbo slotted.” Cross-drilling can cause severe stress fractures. shortening the life of the rotor and possibly leading to an unsafe situation. The CNC-machined Turbo slotted rotors provide airflow to both cool and clean the rotor. Optional “XtraïLife” plating, three layers of an anti-corrosion material, resists rust and keeps non-wear surfaces looking great for a long time.

Far superior to the typical OEM single-piston caliper; a multiple- piston caliper improves braking by applying stronger and more equal pressure over the full face of the pads. SSBC offers both three- and four-piston calipers. The three-piston “TriPower” calipers will be used on Project American Heroes. The calipers are constructed of aircraft-quality aluminum, reducing unsprung weight for better ride quality and handling. Corrosionfree stainless steel pistons minimize heat transfer to the brake fluid for optimum performance, and come in various sizes, depending on the application.

There is no doubt the industry standard today is big brakes, with discs at all four corners. The improvements in caliper design, larger rotors, and weight reduction make rear drum brakes seem more and more archaic. Most rear drums do very little for stopping power, which is usually why they last two to three times longer than the front pads. By adding rear disc brakes, a performance vehicle will add as much as 30 percent more brake force to the braking system.

While we were installing our SSBC disc brake package, the crew at the Roadster Shop was also busy plumbing the chassis with brake lines from Classic Tube. Classic Tube not only provides brake lines in stainless steel, steel, or aluminum, their state-of-the-art computer-driven CNC tube benders can match bends from blueprints or original lines.

To top it off, the impeccable installation of the brake lines by Doug Leetzow of the Roadster Shop matched what Project American Heroes is all about: building a landmark hot rod worthy of identification with the bright, courageous men and women in our Armed Forces.


1. Major components of the SSBC four-wheel disc-brake kit for Project American Heroes include 13-inch front and 12-inch rear rotors. SSBC also included its pre-assembled internal parking brake, three-piston ”Tri-Power” calipers, adjustable proportioning valve, and all necessary flexible lines and attaching hardware.


2. Inner wheel bearings are lined to the spindle to insure fit. At that point, the inner bearing is greased and placed into the hub of the rotor assembly. The rubber part of the inner bearing seal is lightly greased, then the seal is gently tapped into the hub. The rotor is then placed on the spindle.


3. With the 13-inch front rotor in place, the outer wheel bearings are again checked for size, packed with grease, and installed.


4. The keyed bearing-retaining washer is then fitted to the spindle shaft.


5. The rotor retaining nut is attached to the spindle and tightened until snug. The rotor then must be spun a few revolutions to get proper grease coverage. At that point, the nut is loosened back one cotter pin hole.


6. The cotter pin nut retainer is then placed over the nut, and the cotter pin is inserted and spread, and then the grease cap is installed.


7. The caliper bracket attaches to the spindle.


8. The ”Tri-Power” three-piston caliper is mounted to the caliper bracket, and bolts are lightened.


9. The SSBC Internal Parking Brake uses stainless steel components, demonstrating the high commitment to safety and engineering. Later in the assembly process, Lokar handle and cables will actuate the parking brake.


10. The internal parking brake assembly is fitted over the Moser axle, and the axle is inserted in the housing.


11. Fasteners are inserted through the SSBC split bracket and then tightened through the access hole in the axle flange.


12. Each nut is tightened through the access hole in the front of the axle flange.


13. Rotor is installed over the lugs, enclosing the internal parking brake assembly. Two lug nuts are fastened to hold the assembly together.


14. The rear caliper is attached to the caliper bracket, and bolts ate again tightened. Note the unidirectional vented rotor, which, of course, helps keep the rotor cool for heat dissipation, reducing brake fade and increasing braking performance.


15. The “Tri-Power” three-piston caliper is available with either 38mm, 45mm or 51mm stainless steel pistons, depending on application. Project American Heroes will run the 45mm pistons.


16. Classic Tube provided the brake lines for Project American Heroes. As it says in their ads, they are “Bent on Perfection.”


17. As Doug was working on the brake lines, Neil Gerber walked by and commented: “Check out the nicest brake lines on the planet.”


18. “Thru-frame” fittings ate used to allow the lines to attach at the inside of the framerails at the four corners, and exit on the outside of the rails. Lines are protected from bending around the rails, resulting in a slick installation.


19. Brake line tubing bender is put into use to create specific angles to keep the line running along either the framerails or crossmembers.


20. These guys at Roadster Shop know their stuff, as the plumbing was accomplished without having to start over a newline. Uh … some people have experienced such mishaps.


21. The SSBC adjustable proportioning valve is black anodized, and regulates rear brake pressure.


22. Complex bends are necessary to work around rear suspension mounting points and body mounts.


23. Billet Specialties makes these line clamps in various sizes, 3/16-inch clamps are used for the newly formed Classic Tube brake lines.


24. Measurements are made to determine even spacing of the line clamps.


25. The hole is drilled into the frame using the base of the line clamp as a guide.


26. The hole is tapped to provide threads for the fastener.


27. The cap of the line clamp is positioned, and the Allen screw is secured into the frame.


28. The Billet Specialties line clamp looks a lot better than a tie wrap, and guarantees that the brake line will stay where intended with minimal metal-to-metal contact.


29. After installing the Heidtís front sway bar, the brake line is almost completely hidden, with no contact or interference with any of the suspension components.


30. Out back, the brake line slithers around suspension mounting points, body mounts, and crossmembers to transfer pressure to the thru-frame fittings. Reliability combines with simplicity to deliver safe, superior braking capabilities.