Tech Articles

Braking for a Good Cause

C5 Brakes for '85-'96 Corvettes

By Cam Benty                  Photography: Cam Benty

Imagine a brake swap so obvious it will leave you breathless just thinking about it.

Let's face it, the '85-'96 Corvette brakes weren't the best. Vette Brakes & Products (VBP) offers the ultimate brake improver: adapting '97-'01 Corvette front rotors and calipers on the old Corvette C4 suspension. The results from this swap are so impressive that every C4 owner on the planet should consider it, especially if it's time to change the worn rotors on your car.

It goes like this. Take off the old, probably worn front 11.5-inch-diameter rotors on your car and install new VBP 13-inch rotors in their place. While you're at it, use the rest of the VBP-designed kit and add a set of '97-'01 Corvette twin-piston calipers and mounting brackets in place of the original single-piston units, a set of stainless steel flex brake lines, and some Hawk HPS high-performance brake pads.

The results? For under $1,000, you'll have a system that decreases braking distance from 60-0 from 126 to around 105 feet (best stopping distances noted). In addition, the new system dissipates heat much better, which decreases the chance of rotor warpage and other bad braking stuff. Fact is, this system is so simple and so good, we should have done it a long time ago. It doesn't require modification of the proportioning-valve system, brake booster or lines, and is compatible with all factory ABS system hardware.

The changeover from C4 to C5 brakes (not compatible with '84 brake systems) increases the braking surface area by 25 percent, a huge improvement. In addition, the VBP rotors are 11 percent lighter than the factory units and offer better cooling through enlarged vents, in both the outer perimeter of the rotor and brake-rotor face vents.

On our '86 Corvette, the installation took approximately half an hour, as we carefully installed the brakes and took the photos you see here. The most complex part was placement of the caliper anti-rattle clips to keep the brake pads quiet. Otherwise, the installation went without a hitch. We bled the brake system with a power bleeder and tested the system before driving the car. If you're not sure you did this correctly, seek the help of a professional mechanic and do not drive the car. Have it towed to a location where the brakes can be properly bled and safety checked.

Our changeover included the replacement of the rear rotors, which were, as you can see, past their prime. We installed VBP replacement rotors and Hawk brake pads. We wanted to make sure our test was comparable to what you might experience. We used the same P275/40-17 (front) and P315/35-17 (rear) Sumitomo high-performance tires, and Corvette Wheel Specialist supplied 9.5-inch (front) and 11-inch (rear) A-Mold wheels for before-and-after testing. While our driving results produced the real numerical gains, the seat-of-the-pants improvement was the best news. Pedal feel with the system was greatly improved and we were pleased with the excellent overall driveability.

In addition to the improvement in stopping distance, there are two important positives to this swap: greater performance and safety. The best of both worlds. What a concept.


Our brakes had to be replaced, especially in the rear. We installed VBP replacement rear rotors and new Hawk pads. Then we went out for a test. The baseline result: 126 feet from 60-0 mph.

The first step was to remove the stock brake package. Our front rotors were in better shape than the rear; but when compared to the new VBP brakes, there was, well, no comparison.

The original '86 Corvette front brakes were 11.5 inches in diameter compared to 13 inches for the VBP rotors, which were 11 percent lighter and offered enhanced venting for quick cool-down.

We removed the caliper, caliper bracket, and rotor, and inspected the spindle for wear. Despite the dirt, the suspension was in good condition. We then slipped on the new rotor.

The new caliper bracket, as supplied in the VBP kit, fit beautifully and mounted to the stock suspension. Torque it to spec as noted in the instructions.

Braking for a Good Cause (cont.)

With the bracket in place, we installed the brake-line fittings on the new caliper. The stainless steel flex lines were easy to install.

(above & right) Now for the hardest part: installing the anti-rattle clips. Each caliper required three: two on each end and one in the middle.

We placed the Hawk brake pads into the caliper-mounting bracket. The pads should stay in place. Note the position of the brake-thickness sensor (arrow) that will cry out when the pads need replacement.

With the flex line installed on the backside, the caliper was slipped over the Hawk brake pads, which were supplied in the VBP kit.

The caliper was torqued in place with the bolts supplied with the system.

Using flare wrenches, the old brake line was removed and the new line attached. The body clips to attach the line to the body were included with the VBP kit.

With the brakes properly bled with a pressure bleeder, and with the Corvette Specialist wheels and Sumitomo tires back on, we tested the car to see how much improvement we had. Our new system trimmed 21 feet off our 60-0 distance--a great improvement.





T&M Performance
San Fernando, CA
(818) 896-8853

Vette Brakes & Products
St. Petersburg, FL
(800) 237-9991