Restoration Impossible: Rebuilding the Brake Calipers

Aug 3, 2017 update to the Lotus Elan project car

Here's one of the rear calipers we started with. Yes, we were able to save these and make them work perfectly.
After removing rust and media-blasting, we welded a bolt onto the piston, as it was frozen in place.
We then placed a piece of bar stock with shims over the caliper and gently tightened the bolt, pulling the piston out of its cylinder.
All of the brake components got a coat of Eastwood’s High Temp Coating.

Brake calipers that have been sitting in a field for nearly 40 years are bound to have issues. While our Lotus Elan’s were savable, it would take some work to get them apart to media-blast, paint and rebuild.

One trick for removing caliper pads is to carefully introduce some compressed air into where the brake fluid flows. Hold a paint stirrer (or similar-sized block of wood) between the pads and literally blow the pads out of the calipers. It’s worth a try.

These calipers were having none of that, so we resorted to more serious measures. Once we split the caliper, we took a piece of solid 0.25-inch bar stock and drilled a hole in the center. We welded a bolt (head down) into the recess of the brake caliper piston. We then put the bar stock over the caliper. With an air ratchet, we tightened a nut onto the bolt, shimmed the two sides of the bar stock against the caliper body, and pulled the piston out of the caliper.

Since we were installing new pistons, seals and dust boots, we were not concerned with damaging the old pistons.

From there we cleaned and media-blasted the calipers, then painted them with Eastwood High Temp Factory Coating. The paint nicely replicates a plated or more likely original, bare metal finish.

We used fine emery cloth to make sure we had nice piston sealing surfaces, then carefully installed new pistons, seals and dust boots using new brake fluid as a lubricant.

A Lotus Elan has a rather unique disc parking brake system. We cleaned up this area of the rear brake calipers, making sure to remove gunk from the threads on the parking brake adjusting bolt. We then installed a new nut, along with a locking nut to hold the adjustment nut in place. While the car wasn’t originally equipped this way, Lotus mechanics quickly started installing light springs on the threaded adjuster bolt to keep the emergency brake pads disengaged. We followed suit and installed springs on these bolts.

To finish the job, we added new pads for both the primary braking system and the e-brake pads. We sourced these, along with the rest of the bake parts, from R.D. Enterprises.


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Reader comments:

wheelsmithy
Aug. 3, 2017 5:44 p.m.

Always great to see this coming together. Semi-inboard rear discs? Very cool. The primered frame trips me out. I understand that that is factory correct, and that your coating will not encourage water infiltration like the original, but my inner critic really wants to see a gloss black frame. Beautiful work as always. No doubt it will be a show winner when complete.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
Aug. 7, 2017 8:57 p.m.

wheelsmithy, Thanks for the kind words. I too would have liked to see a painted frame, but while we do all kinds of projects at CMS and always try to something different every time, this time we really wanted to go all original. Kind of bolsters the Restoration Impossible idea and some readers have told us they don't want every car we do, to be hot rodded.

wspohn
wspohn HalfDork
Aug. 7, 2017 9:39 p.m.

Ouch! Those look like they are really roached. Nice job resurrecting them - I have a much harder/more expensive job on my Dunlop calipered cars as the seal rides in the piston and the cylinder wall has to be pristine (I usually hard chrome and grind back to spec).

On the frames, when I want original appearance I usually use Glyptal prime which is very hard and available in a range of colours.

APEowner
APEowner HalfDork
Aug. 8, 2017 8:50 a.m.

An alternative to the welded bolt trick is to adapted a zerk fitting to the brake line port and push stuck pistons out with hydraulic pressure from a grease gun.

wheelsmithy
Aug. 8, 2017 8:53 p.m.
Tim Suddard wrote: wheelsmithy, Thanks for the kind words. I too would have liked to see a painted frame, but while we do all kinds of projects at CMS and always try to something different every time, this time we really wanted to go all original. Kind of bolsters the Restoration Impossible idea and some readers have told us they don't want every car we do, to be hot rodded.

Yep. I get all that. But do agree with your approach 1000%. Take the worst elan in the world to the most illustrious car show in the world. True Class. This is my favorite thing you have done since the Ro-Spit. I may like the elan better. Then again, I liked the patina-ed Shelby, so what do I know? Carry on.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
Aug. 13, 2017 7:33 a.m.

wheelsmithy, I am trying to do something different with every project car, so it doesn't get repetitive.

And by the way, the Ro-Spit is alive and well. My good buddy, Steve Eckerich just bought it from the guy I sold it to and has refurbished it. You will most likley see it in Grassroots Motorsports again soon.

wheelsmithy
Aug. 15, 2017 9:37 a.m.

In reply to Tim Suddard:

Awesome!

Isn't Steve the guy who ultimately sorted the rear suspension?

You are a true artist with automobiles as your canvas. I never get tired of the vicarious living. Carry On.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
Sept. 27, 2017 9:59 p.m.

Wheelsmithy,

 

Thanks for the nice comments. Oddly enough, I used to do a lot of art and painting. I now tell people that restoration is what I do to scratch that itch.

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