S30 Four-Piston Calipers on Your Z

The road is smooth, I'm doing about 65 with no one around me. I slam on my brakes as hard as I can; my body wants to fly through the windshield but my seatbelts do their job and hold me tightly to my Koenig seat. My 1973 240Z screams to a halt like a Formula One racer braking late into a hairpin corner. Wow! Looking in the rearview mirror, I notice no black streaks on the pavement from tire lockup. I quickly stomp on the accelerator and change up through the gears to do it all over again!

Why would someone punish their Z-car like this? How can MY Z-car have braking power like that? Who's the weird guy trying to give himself whiplash? You might be asking yourself one or more of these questions, and in the following paragraphs, you'll find the answer to the first two, I think you can figure out the answer to the third!

If you drive like I do, then you probably wish your Z had better braking capabilities! It seems that the brakes of early Z-cars were only designed for basic day to day driving, and not with the true performance enthusiast in mind. One way to increase your stopping power is to replace your Z's front calipers with four-piston calipers like those found on a Toyota 4WD truck. These calipers are basically a bolt-on modification. "Why do they fit so easily?? you might ask. These calipers we remanufactured by the same company, Sumitomo, and as luck would have it, used the same mounting location. The job is very simple; it consists of removing the old calipers, and replacing them with the new ones. That's it. Well, maybe a little more, but as you are about to find out, this is a very easy upgrade to your brakes that will gain impressive results!

Items Needed

    To upgrade to the 4-piston calipers, you'll need to locate and obtain the following from your favorite parts suppliers and/or boneyards:

  • 1 set of 4-piston calipers from 1979-84 Toyota 4WD truck
  • Brake fluid
  • New brake pads
  • Wheel spacers (May be necessary with stock wheels)

    You may also want to consider having the following things handy; they're not necessary, but they are good to have nonetheless.

  • Brake parts cleaner
  • Wheel bearings. (If you need to replace them, now's a perfectly good time.)
  • Stainless steel braided brake lines
  • Semi-metallic brake pads

The Process

First, you begin by getting your hands on some calipers. I opted to find mine at a local dismantling yard, although an alternative is to buy them new at an auto parts store or your local Toyota dealer. Being on a very tight budget, I got mine used. Make sure that you find some that are still on the truck, this way you can see how they are assembled with pads and clips, and you'll also want to mark on them which side they belong on (driver/passenger).Once you get them, clean them up at the local carwash using degreaser first, then using the brake parts cleaner. Be sure to tape off the ends of the lines to prevent water from contaminating the brake fluid inside the calipers.

Next, to make them look nice, I painted them using regular aluminum paint.

After cleaning and prepping the calipers, remove the old Z calipers. The backing plate will need to be trimmed with a hacksaw somewhat to make room for the larger calipers. To do this, you must remove the rotor.

This would be a good time to replace or re-pack wheel bearings if you need to. Before removing the rotor and plate, you may want to set the new caliper in the approximate location to get an idea of how much and what needs to be trimmed. The backing plate is held in place with four Phillips-head screws.

Mine were on pretty tight, trying to unscrew them really messed up the head of the screw, so I used good old vice grips to break the screws loose. When they are broken loose, you can finish unscrewing them with your screwdriver. Once the plate is trimmed, attach it back in its original position, and install the rotor. On this particular car, the backing plate was left off to aid in cooling the brakes, but you may want to retain yours to keep dirt and debris off of your rotors.

Next, install your brake pads, semi-metallic were used in this swap (they were supplied by the nice people at Performance Toyota of Plano). You may want to buy some of the "anti-squeal" compound that you spread on the back of the brake pads. The new calipers will now bolt into place where the old ones were.

You can use the same bolts that were on the old Z calipers. In case you didn't mark which side the calipers go on, or bought them new and aren't sure, the larger diameter pistons and the bleeder screws should be on the top half of the caliper when installed correctly.

Now comes the hardest part, for me anyway: re-attaching the brake lines. Some minor bending of the brake lines is necessary, just be careful not to pinch them. It took me a little while of working the brake tubing around so that the line would match up with the hole on the caliper. After attaching the brake lines, a good bleeding is in order.

Next, mount the tire on the rotor to check for clearance. Depending on the type of rim you have, some wheel spacers may be required to accommodate the larger calipers (you can find spacers at most auto parts stores). Usually, most aftermarket rims, and 15" Z rims will be able to be mounted without any spacers, you will just have to check your particular rim to see exactly how much room you have. Just for reference, I have 14x6 280ZX six spoke aluminum rims, and I had no problems with clearance.

Once the tires are mounted, you?re ready to head out to your favorite private testing facility! Now, your car may not stop like a Formula One car, but, with everything done properly, you should feel a noticeable difference in your Z's stopping ability. Good luck!

Special thanks to:

Mike Young

Performance Toyota of Plano

1001 Preston Road

Plano TX