New Front Brakes

It’s been too long since my last update.  I think I have sensationalized being “first” to do things in a new chassis.  The reality is being first is frustrating.  Being first shockingly means no one has done it before. I know it’s obvious when I say it like that, but it wasn’t so obvious when I was thinking about how cool it is to be “first”.  It also means there are very few companies out there that can actually help you accomplish what ever it is you are trying to accomplish “first”.  I haven’t posted much as unless you are doing something completely custom, there isn’t a ton available for these cars that I think is of a high quality that improves the overall performance package.

In my last post, I put up a baseline dyno.  I’ve since added a Berk midpipe, but for a myriad of reasons, I haven’t gotten the updated dyno, but I will.  This update will focuses on what you should be working on before you add power anyway – brakes.

What was hidden under all the packing peanuts: Rotors, 2 sets of pads, calipers, brake lines, and brackets.

Essex Parts is in NASCAR country.  Based in North Carolina, they supply equipment to pro teams and grassroots ones alike.  They have developed 2 front axle brake systems for the FT86 of varying sizes leveraging the AP Racing parts bin.

rotor size is almost identical

Their Endurance kit is a significantly larger J hook rotor that requires a 18” wheel.  While the mammoth rotor looks cool, I have yet to see a FR-S in development that needs this much heat dissipation. The smaller of the two kits is the Sprint system.  Its rotor is only 11.75” in diameter – only a hair bigger than stock.

The difference in vane size and rotor width is obvious. Bigger vanes of this design with pump more cool air through the brakes at speed.

The significant upgrade from OEM comes from the width of the rotor and the sophistication of the cooling vanes.  The stock system with Carbotech XP10s handled the track fine.  The pedal feel wasn’t great after a couple laps on 100 degree days, but that was likely related to tread squirm on the Hankook RS3s.  After a single day, however, the outer edges of the stock rotors were white.  This suggests they got extremely hot which usually leads to shorter rotor life and cracking.  Replacement rotors however only cost ~$50 a corner, so you could go through a lot of them before the Essex brakes become the smart financial decision based simply on longevity.

Ignore the AP Racing 4 piston calipers and the high end rotors, the Sprint kit should be attractive to performance junkies for one reason.  They shave 10 pounds of unsprung weight off each corner of the car.   The loss of this weight gives better steering feel, even on the street.  For performance calculations, every pound of unsprung weight is the equivalent to about 7 sprung pounds.  So the loss of 20 lbs off the braking system is the same performance differential of ditching a passenger from the cabin.

Every other silver painted caliper I’ve ever had has turned brown with heat. I look forward to trying to do the same thing to these.

The installation of this kit requires only a basic tool set that includes metric crescent wrenches and sockets with the exception of a torque wrench, a 10mm hex key, and the bizarre requirement of a unibit. My intention was to provide step by step instructions on how to install the system, but I was really impressed with what Essex included.  They were very detailed and explained everything step by step.  Consequently, I won’t make redundant their work.  The only real issues not anticipated by the instructions were the following:

  1. You can see the buggered nut on the OEM solid brake line

    This particular car had undercoating or a rubberized sealer sprayed on the brake hardline threaded connector.  Consequently, the threads were gummed up and these 10mm flare fittings stripped when just using a crescent wrench.  I ended up soaking the fittings with brake cleaner and using channel locks to get them to brake free.  An annoying complication, but this issue potentially wouldn’t exist in other chassis if the undercoating or sealer wasn’t applied in this manner.

female brake fitting doesn’t fit into stock bracket

2.  When the new steel braided line was being installed, I discovered that the female fitting that attaches to the OEM hardline does not fit through the stamped steel bracket designed to secure the brake lines to the chassis.  As you can see from the picture, the hole size is close to the same, but unfortunately, not close enough.  The fix was to unbolt the bracket from the car and use a unibit to drill it out.  To be clear, I don’t really see this as an Essex issue as much as one of the supplier of their brake lines.  When I raised this issue to Essex, they quickly looked into it and are making adjustments to the future kits that get shipped to customers.  So I suspect this won’t happen to other buyers.

One of the benefits I probably wouldn’t have paid for, but really appreciate is how easy pad swaps are.  By removing the single dowel pin with a hex key, you simply slide the old pads out, and put the new pads in.  I’ve been too lazy to swap pads on the stock calipers, so I’ve been running around with loud and dusty race pads on the street.  These calipers will make the swap to street pads a snap, so I’ll be more likely to do it.

quick swap brake pads

one last glamour shot before they get dirty on the track tomorrow

Igloo Case for iPhone 4

Next stop is the race track.  Sunday the 7th at AutoClub Speedway in Fontana is a track day where we will put these through their paces.  At the same time is “86 Fest”.  I’m not a car show guy, but I do appreciate vendors and others supporting a car I’m interested in.  During this event we will also be the releasing  the IglooCase (  This case encloses your iPhone and adds a lens and camera mount. Prototype versions have been around for a season, but we just received our first 300 production pieces this week.  The cases will be order-able off the website in the week of 10/7/12.  At $59 plus a mount, it’s a cost effective alternative to a contour or go pro if you already own an iPhone.  I’ve called this product the title sponsor of this car, but the reality is its way more personal than that as I’m one of its creators.  Come by and check it out if you are at the track Sunday.  I’ll be under the 949Racing tent.

Get more updates at: