Front Brake Upgrades
There seem to be many people who build high performance engines for
their 510. It's relly quite easy to do. But what many people fail to
consider is how well are your 30+ year old economy car's stock brakes
going to slow a car that has twice the power that it had stock? What
good does it do to have all that power on tap if you can't slow safely
from the kinds of speeds that your new power plant will allow? Upgrading
the brakes seems like a dificult task but it is easier than you think.
One possibilty is installing high performance brake pads. The downside
to this is that you usually don't get the kinds of improvements that
upgrading to larger brakes would give. Also many high performance
brake pads take a while to warm up, this is alright if you are attacking
your favorite twisty mountain road but not so good if you're just
driving to work, or autocrossing, where the brakes don't have time to
warm up. Not to mention the squealing that goes along with most high
performance brake pads.
The best way to improve braking performance is to upgrade to larger
front brakes. This involves adapting the strut, spindle, hub, rotor,
and caliper off of a different model car. The two most common upgrades
for the 510 are the 240z brakes and the 280zx brakes. Both of these
have their pros and cons but neither are so difficult that a shade tree
mechanic can't accomplish them.
240z Brakes (10.7" diameter solid rotor)
- Larger than stock 510 brakes
- Uses a shorter strut (will lower car slightly)
- Can use a common coil over sleeve
- Can use 4 piston Toyota 4x4 Caliper without modification
280zx Brakes (9.9" diameter vented rotor)
- Requires use of 610 or 710 strut housing
- Rotors are not vented
- May be harder to find
- Larger than 510 brakes
- Parts may be more common (especially finding these struts at a junkyard)
- All parts used come from a 280zx (no looking for multiple donors)
A Few Words About Coil-Overs
- May not be able to use a common coil over sleeve
- Requires some modification to strut housing
If you are doing this project, now is the perfect time to upgrade the
front suspension to coil-overs. The 610 and 710 front struts should
swap right in to a 510 and use your existing spring. The 280zx struts
require that you at least swap your 510 spring perch on to them. This is
not too difficult but you will probably find that a 280zx strut insert
will bottom out too easily. Additionally, the place I ordered my
coil-over kits from informed me that most 280zx front struts are larger
diameter than the 510 struts. The coil-over kits for this diameter
strut are much more expensive than the kits for the 2" diameter 510 s
strut. Mine turned out to be 2" diameter so I didn't have a problem
but if you end up witht he larger diameter strut housings you will have
to have your 510 strut tubes welded to the lower end of the 280zx
strut. This isn't all that big of a deal since even if you get the
2" diameter strut you will probably want to have the strut housings
shortnened to use a 240z strut insert, but it is something to consider.
Other Modifcations Required
Other than choosing your strut and spring combination and making sure
that you have adequate travel there isn't all that much to swapping
them in. If you go with the coilovers you will probably want to add
a set of camber plates if you don't already have them. You may also
want to add a set of bump steer spacers if you are lowering the car.
I recommend changing the master cylinder to a 240z master cylinder if
you are using the 240z struts. If you want power brakes use a 210 or
B210 power booster with a 280z master cylinder. If you are using 280zx
brakes you may want to go with an early ('78-'79) 280zx master cylinder
and a 210 or B210 power booster. If you have rear disk already, use a
late 280zx master cylinder and a booster.
You will probably need 14 inch wheels to clear your new
As for the installation just follow the directions is you 510 repair
manual. The new struts go back in the same as the stock ones came out.
Be sure to use a MacPherson strut compressor when you are removing the
Enjoy the much-improved braking perfomrance that you 510 will now have.
- Look for an '80 280zx 2+2. This is the model that I got my 2"
diameter strut housings from.
- Have an alternative daily driver available while you do all of the
work. Don't get rushed. I did and had to tear it all back apart later
to have more work done.
- Upgrade the rear to 200sx disks.
- Don't try to use stock 280zx strut inserts.
- Test fit your wheels ahead of time. Make sure they rotate a full
360 degrees. If you already have Z-car wheels this won't be necessary.
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