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)
280zx Brakes (9.9" diameter vented rotor)
Pros Cons A Few Words About Coil-Overs
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 brakes.

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 springs.

Tips: Enjoy the much-improved braking perfomrance that you 510 will now have.

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