What’s Stopping Your Ford

Table of Contents

Whats Stopping your Ford?

We will stick to Aussie Falcons for the moment and reference some American stuff as we go through, as these are the most common cars we have a passion for and modify on a regular basis. I will get to Cortina and Capri etc later.

Falcon XL to XP

Whilst only sold in Australia as 6 cylinder, the Falcon Sprint cars sold in USA were offered with 260 and 289 V8 engines. The engine bay takes the Windsor engine with ease but decent brakes are not so easy.

Ford did offer small solid discs on the XP series, in 4 stud pattern with 13 inch wheels and 5 stud with 14 inch. They were rare even then. Regular sedans and wagons came with drum brakes and 4 stud 13 inch wheels, where as commercials were 5 stud.

All retained the single “Jam Jar” single circuit master cylinder with remote VH40 boosters on the disc cars.

Mustang 65/66 were very similar spec and there is some interchangeability between these models.

6 cylinder, 4 stud cars had smaller wheel bearings, 5 stud cars, commercials and V8s, had larger bearings for the greater loads over the front axle.

Falcon XR + XT

The Mustang Bred Falcon or so the TV Ads would have us believe, and it was true that the Falcons shared a lot of their suspenison and brake components with 67-69 Ford Mustang.  But the same was true for the previous models.

All models went to the 4.5” x 5 stud pattern that Falcons still used up until the cease of production in 2017.

Base models and comercials got drum brakes all round with early cars still using the “Jam Jar” single circuit master cylinder. Later cars got a dual circuit master cylinder following on from the American’s in 1969 where it became mandatory.

Disc brake cars used a remote VH40 booster mounted on the passenger side of the firewall and solid rotor disc brakes with twin opposed piston calipers.

Falcon XW + XY

The most revered models in Ford Austrailas line up, ‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ ringing true as “Phase” and “HO” became iconic in the Australian Automotive Commununity. Suspension set ups stayed largely the same as that of the previous models utilising the unequal length double ‘A’ arms up front and leaf springs outback.

The best change was for the front brakes, going from solid rotors to vented 280mmx22mm front rotors and single piston calipers by ‘Girling/PBR’. These brakes bought a new level of confidence to Australian drivers allowing them explore the limits on the new generation of V8s that were changing the Automotive landscape.

The old drum brakes up front were still around for 6 cylinder commercials and other lower spec models. But the new disc brakes were optional through the range and standard on Fairmont and above.

The move to a combined Master-Vac Brake Booster System gave us a much neater engine bay and more compact Master cylinder unit incorporating a ‘Brake Fail Switch’ which triggered a Warning light on the dash if the front or rear circuit of the brakes lost pressure which would indicate a failure. The model range through XW started with single Diaphragm Booster and grew to Double Diaphragm through XY.

XY GT also got a larger set of finned drums that were highly sort after. These were sourced from the American Mustang and Thunderbird by Ford Aus in a bid to give themselves an edge on the racetrack. Canadian Alan Moffat leaving no stone unturned to stay at the top of Austrailain Touring car racing.

Falcon XA to XF

This series of cars represent the biggest changes to the braking formula for Fords to bring in a new era in driving dynamics. While the Bodies grew larger the engine outputs stabilised as ‘scare mongering’ from the mainstream media put and end to the “Phase 4”. The imminent “fuel crisis” halted things further along this model line leading to arguably Ford Australia’s worst decision (marketing wise at least) to drop the V8 from the line up towards the end of 1984.

Front suspension and brakes remained unchanged from XY including some of the base models still offering Drum front brakes through XA/B. There were some Minor Caliper changes along the way up until XD when Alloy Calipers became available which was a big step forward for ‘unsprung weight and suspension tuning’.

Ford made a change in stub axle diameters mid way through XB series, at this time the bearings went from 1.25”inner/.75”outer to 1.375”/.875” respectively. Centre hole went from 2.5” to 2.75” at that time so early wheels don’t fit later hubs and later wheels have a loose fit instead of being tightly spigoted.

XB also saw the first rear disc brake set-ups on Aussie assembled Fords as an option on high end models. They had the same size rotors as the front and the rear calipers had a built in handbrake mechanism either lever actuated or on a worm drive. Four wheel disc brakes became the thing to have and many of these diffs found there way under many weird and wonderfull projects. The cool thing was these brakes were Aussie Designed and Manufactured and were only available in Australia, the Yanks didnt even have this stuff. 40 years later these calipers are not so much fun to own or rebuild but they were state of the art at the time.

The XE Falcon saw the introduction of a 4 link rear suspension system with ‘watts link’ to further improve handling and the intrduction of alloy rear disc brake calipers to match what was happening at the front. Rear rotors lost the venting of the earlier cars as they went back to solid rotors. With the earlier design being well over engineered this wasn’t the backward step it might seem.

Majority of the models from this era would have been bought as Disc front, Drum rear combination with rear disc being reservered for the more Luxury and Sporting Model designations.

Through XC saw the move to Alloy Master cylinder with Plastic reservoir. This still incorporated the brake fail switch of previous models but the alloy master used a diagonakl bolt pattern as opposed to the previous models horizontal bolt patterns. These Master cylinders became ‘Fast Fill’ meaning the used a short large bore (upto 32mm) section to preload the caliper for for braking effort by supplying a large amount of fluid very quickly then reverting to the 25.4mm bore to supply the braking effort required. These style of masters are still used today even with modern ABS and Traction control systems.

Brake Booster right through these models were double diaphragm units with the only change being the bolt pattern from Horizontal to Diagonal.

Falcon EA-AU1

The unloved Falcons… at least until the invent of the XR models and the return of the Sprint and GT badges.

EA ushered in the era of standard 4 wheel disc brakes, vented front and solid rear, on all models using an updated version of the “worm drive” handbrake rear caliper seen in previous models.

A new front suspenison configuration that comprised of a stub axle that was incorporated in the caliper. Same dimention front rotor was retained with taper roller bearings right through to EL (AU1 went to sealed ball bearing hubs) and the same front caliper assembly that did not allow a larger rotor to be fitted as 2 ears protude from the stub axle to hold the front pads in place.

With EF the rear brakes changed to an internal drum handbrake inside the ‘hat’ area on the disc and the rear caliper only having to perform the function of braking the car not holding it whilst parked. Rear rotors varied slightly in thickness from base model to sports and luxury models.

The rear suspension was still the 4 link with ‘watts link’ suspension so these brakes would  become the easy conversion for projects requiring rear disc brakes. Lending themselves to adapting to 9” and other rear axles.

EL GT were the exception to the rule with unique Stub Alxes allowing the mounting of the a front 330 rotor and PBR “C4 Corvette Caliper”. These got a whole lot closer to offering the braking these cars deserved but were unique to the GT only.

EA-ED used steel brake boosters with the modern Alloy ”Stepped Bore” (Fast Fill) master cylinders with plastic reservoir. EL-EF Falcons went to a single diaphragm Plastic Booster which when new had no draws back but as you can imagine were prone to damage and could be found to crack as age and UV took its toll on the plastics composition. EF-EL masters were the same basic design as the previous cars.

And now the biggest step forward in Safety since the dual circuit master cylinder was designed, we saw the prolification of ABS through the model ranges starting in the highend Luxury models through EB-D and their Long wheelbase cousins Fairlane and LTD. Right up until AU where it was harder to buy a car without ABS than with. With out saying these ABS systems were crude they were and (still are) reactionary systems. The wheel speed sensors in these iteration only new two speeds. Moving or Stopped. If the wheel was stopped and it should be moving the ABS Module released the brake pressure to that wheel and pulsed it, meaning the wheel could regain traction. Remember “reactionary” the wheel had to lock before the ABS knew there was something wrong. Todays systems use more sensors and more information gathering to “PREDICT” and hopefully prevent the problem rather the ‘react’ to it.

AU2+3-FG-X, the Last of the Home Grown Falcons

Finally with the AU2 Ford got some decent brakes under their flagship family cars, unfortunately as history will show it was all too late for the unloved packaging. 290x28mm front rotor squeezed by twin piston front calipers with single piston rears and internal drum handbrake the same as EF-L meant for the first time since the XF that you could have confidence in your Ford stopping well time and again. Tickford cars got better again with C4 Corvette and Brembo Calipers fitted to 330x28mm rotors up front on the higher spec TE, TL and TS models.

Unfortunatly the redesign for the BA meant the car gained some kilos, Ford slightly upgraded the brakes by adding 10mm diameter to the front rotor, but it wasnt enough. The vehicles being plagued by Brake Pulse as the brakes over heated and warped the rotors.

As the models progressed and with the advent of the Territory we saw some larger brakes intergrated into the fleet. 322X28mm rotors adorned BFmk2 XR6 Turbo and XR8. FPV models got C5 Corvette brakes with 330x32mm front rotors right up to 355mmx32 fronts with 6 Piston Brembos on the last of the GT-F Falcons. FPV rear brakes started at the Territory Single Piston Caliper set-up with 330x26mm rotor right upt to 4 Piston Brembo Caliper on 330x26mm rotor.

Steel Double Diaphragm Boosters adorned all models with the latest version on the Stepped Bore/Fast Fill Master Cylinders. ABS graduated from 2 Channel to 4 Channel systems meaning each wheel could be controlled individually not just pairs at each axle end. Towards the end of the Model life through FG Traction Control and ABS system were combined to give you Vehicle Stability Control. This system used more sensors to gather information about the dynamics of the car, Throttle Input, Steering Angle, Individual Wheel Speed Sensors gave the ECU a picture of what the car was doing and it reacted accordingly. Getting much closer to the “Pro-Active” systems of the high end luxury cars of today.

Interchangeability and Upgrades

Front Brakes For XL up to XF.

Most V8 conversions dictate 5 stud wheels in 4.5 PCD as used on all bigger Fords. They never did change the tapers of the ball joints on Falcons from XL to XF, but Ford regularly increased the tie rod end tapers over the years.

That means that you can bolt a full stub axle with matching brakes from any Falcon XW to XF but as the tie rod end adjuster thread was smaller the later tie rods would not fit. To make the later steering arm fit the early tie rod a tapered sleeve is needed.

Another consideration when bolting in later Falcon stubs is a slightly longer stub axle height and the different position of the steering arm. This has the effect of raising the car, but more importantly the steering change will give a degree of bump steer. To correct for this it is recommended an inner tie rod relocation kit be fitted (Available @ Castlemaine Rodshop). This resets the inner tie rods to the correct spot but does reduce the turns lock to lock, making the steering more direct (good) but heavier (not so good).

The later Falcons XW-XF have longer wheelbases, and Wagons, vans, utes, and Fairlanes/LTD can be even longer again. Ford apparently did vary the bend in the steering arm to give correct Ackerman angle according to wheelbase, ie stubs are different between sedan and wagon and so on.Use a sedan stub if possible as this will be closest to correct for the early cars.

XR and XT follow the same princible as XL-P.

Should you want bigger and newer brakes and have at least 15 inch wheels then our 300 by 28 twin piston big brake upgrade will have the toughest of early Falcons stopping brilliantly. For something totally outrageous there’s our 330 kit but that needs at least 17 inch wheels. (An overkill for street but really impressive for show) Either way you need to fit an XW to XF stub and go from there.

300mm Front Brake fits are available to suit the early cars Drum stub axles which means you can keep the Factory Suspenison Geometry. Disc Brake Stubs from XP-XT are not compatible for our kits, either go back to a Drum Stub, recommended for XL-XP or forward to a XF Stub, recommended for XR/T.

Rear brakes would come along with diff up-grades etc. A popular conversion for the XL-P over the years is the 5 stud Centura diff, basically a Borg Warner diff in Falcon pattern, correct width, cut off the coil spring mounts and weld on the leaf mounts. It’s much the same inside as an XB to XF diff and quite up to mild V8 use. However if retaining original drums you will need to fit 1 inch Valiant wheel cylinders to get sufficient braking, seeing how you will probably not run them boosted.

Narrowed 9 inch or Falcon Borg Warner diffs are another way to go, once again watch those rear wheel cylinder sizes if not boosted. Plenty of options for disc brakes rears too.

Small Bearing 9” and 8-3/4” diff can be easliy upgraded to EL Style rear disc brakes by Hoppers Stoppers.

EA to AU1 cannot be done up graded easily… EL GT stubs are no longer available and were rare to begin with. Aftermarket kits were available from Race Brakes on a change over stub axle basis but are no longer being manufactured. Leaving very few options. If you are super keen on getting bigger brakes on your E series Falcon then you may need to look at swapping out the whole front suspenison and crossmember for AU2+ components. This is theoretically achievable and has been done but it will mean an increase in track and a wheel offset change. Trawl the E series forums for more details.

AU1 can be swapped to AU2+ suspension arms etc the only real tricky part being the relocation of the front sway bar.

AU2-FG-X is where you can get a little creative, so long as you keep Calipers and Rotors matched from the donar vehicle. Basically any of the front set-ups from FG-X will fit all of the Falcons right back to AU2 with only differences being to hose’s and wheel size requirements. Rear brakes are interchangeable from BA onwards, AU had a Different rear suspension assembly, bigger brakes can be made to to fit on the AU’s with a little bit of work.

Master cylinders #

The firewall of an early Falcon was never intended to have a tandem master cylinder and combined “master vac” booster, the room is simply not there, and the tower brace can interfere. However fitting a V8 or even a bigger 6 will have the Engineers insisting on some sort of 1 inch Tandem master, remote booster and a brake fail switch/light.

There are a few tandem masters that meet this need, the favorites being HQ, XB, XT and similar. One way or another you will be drilling some holes, fiddling with pushrod lengths, and fitting a stop to avoid the brake pedal lifting too high. Make sure it’s all strong and see our story on selecting master cylinders for ideas on correctly setting them up.

Hoppers Stoppers also do a kit to fit a Booster and Master to the firewall of both the XL-P shape cars and XR/T. Again this requires a bit of metal and fab work but gives a pretty neat result. See our fitting instuctions for more info.

Any disc system will need a remote booster, ie VH40, and a separate brake fail switch is needed for the HQ and XT type masters. (XB has it combined)

Going to four wheel discs adds a new problem, another booster for the rear if using the remote style Boosters, all a bit expensive, but that’s the price of progress.

Smaller Fords

Cortina: We do 300mm brake upgrades for the MK1+2, there is no other easy upgrades that we know of. Master and Booster is usually attacked as a case by case basis depending on the engine wedged into the engine bay. Follows similar princibles as above.

TC-TD and TE-TF have been done in the past by adapting Falcon Stub Axles (XF) however this poses the same kind of suspension issues as the Early Falcons. Again Hoppers Stoppers can offer kits to suit the original Stubs meaning the Suspension Geometry is un affected. Original Boosters from these car should be kept and rebuilt and we can fit 1” bore Master Cylinders to these Boosters.

Capri: Similar to Cortina where by we offer brake kits to suit, rebuild original booster and fit larger bore master. Some early upgrades based around Falcon and HQ brakes with bearing spacers etc can be had but not recommended. We can do things better now days.

Escort: More of the same in regard to brake kits from Hoppers Stoppers, Although we do had a kit suit smaller 13” and 14” wheels for those wanting that look or limited by rules in a racing class. Booster and Masters are same as above, if your “Esky” has one, keep it and rebuild. If not a case by case basis depending on engine etc.

Hopefully that has given you an over view of what your Ford project had and/or what it needs to get you out there cruising, racing or just daily driving to your hearts content!    


Written by Peter Koning, 2000

Edited by Duncan Benn 2017

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