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SHOW STOPPERS Published: 17th Jul 2013 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

BMW Z3 V MGF The MoT test slip said our brakes were just adequate – roller figures improved after disc and pad swap
BMW Z3 V MGF It’s worth having brakes tested for efficiency before making any replacements – just a service may suffice
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First job on our cheap-as-chips BMW 3 Series rag top is to sort out the alarming advisory notice on the MoT certificate... Are the brakes really that bad?

Sexy and sporty – that’s how an increasing number of enthusiasts see their car’s brakes, even on traditional classics. Let’s face it, you can never have brakes that are ‘too good’ can you, especially on today’s roads. There’s a wealth of options open to the classic car owner to improve their anchors, from a simple pad replacement to a full on calliper and disc swap.

Apart from the obvious advantages of better retardation, sportier brakes can also cut down on brake dust, which can spoil and corrode alloy wheels. It’s usually kinder on the wallet, too, as these aftermarket brake products are invariably much cheaper than a typical standard OE replacement for a modern classic – like our project BMW, for example!

Our E36 convertible was purchased from a mainstream auction, with an MoT test advisory slip said that the car’s brakes just met the legal requirement, yet, worryingly, they felt perfectly okay on the road during normal use.

The discs and pads looked fine, but we wanted to replace them anyway, with EBC upgrades, which we’ve had positive results with in the past. Marketed by Freeman Automotive, you can opt for standard issue replacements or from a range of upgraded discs and pads, suitable for anything from normal road to serious track use.


Now, before you select a brake upgrade, you need to determine what you want from them. Yes, we know you want them to stop the car, but it’s easy to go overboard and not gain anything for your extra effort and expense.

Harder brake material, to combat fading, is usually the first step, but this results in more force on the pedal. This means that, in normal driving, the brakes effectively aren’t as good as standard, unless you press harder; anybody who used Ferodo’s famous racing DS11 pads on their classics will know what we mean! The answer is typically to fit bigger brakes, perhaps from another more powerful model, to your classic, or an aftermarket kit to improve braking performance across the board.

So, if you are not a particularly hard driver, then an exotic brake upgrade may not only be a waste but could also have a detrimental effect. We’ll go further and even suggest that many classics equipped with drum brakes needn’t be upgraded to discs – speak to your marque specialist about this.


By far the simplest and most effective mod on the majority of classics is to fit better discs and pads, so we opted for a straight swap Sport discs and Green Stuff brake pad upgrade.

As straight replacements, EBC offers the GR and USR Series discs. The former features slotted and dimpled discs surfaces, the latter slotted only. Apart from the fact that both look good – especially the black-coated USR type – the discs are also said to provide more uniform wear rates and better dissipation of water, dust and dirt.

You can either stick with stock replacements or use one of four pad grades offered by EBC. These are Ultimax for normal use; Greenstuff for ‘spirited street use’ at standard pedal pressures; Redstuff Ceramic for cars above 200bhp; plus Yellowstuff, which is aimed at track days and competition purposes. As our BMW 323i is rated at 170bhp, Green was the optimum choice.

The picture strip shows that the conversion is entirely straightforward on most cars and it took just a couple of hours on our BMW, chiefly because we encountered little resistance from rusty bolts and seized-on discs – your classic may be different, however so be prepared for the worst and spray liberally with a de-rusting agent before starting! 

Our only outstanding job was to check the separate internal rear ‘drum brakes’ which operate the handbrake. This was always poor on our car but a simple inspection and cleaning of the linings, plus adjusting them, soon sorted this.

EBC recommends running in the new parts for a couple of hundred miles, with the first 100 the most critical period. It also fits the pads with a special abrasive surface that aids the initial bedding in process, so driver care is important.


As we’ve come to expect from EBC’s wares in the past, the new discs and pads have improved the braking performance of our 323i, which makes us wonder whether some sub-standard pads had been previously fitted. Having said that, we’re not totally satisfied with their ultimate performance, so will carry out a more thorough brake inspection – master cylinder problems, perhaps?

The improved braking and bite is not at the expense of a heavier pedal, plus the discs are said to last longer than the standard items. Check out the application guide and you’ll probably find your classic in there:

1 First job is to raise and support the car – never rely on car’s jack

2 Modern callipers have to be ‘split’, older cars need split pin removal

3 Once the calliper is swung out of the way you can remove carrier

4 Depending upon age of car, disc removal can be easy or a pain!

5 Before new discs are fitted, clean hub facings thoroughly for true fit

6 Discs need their facings cleaned of storage film; change gloves!

7 Refitting is reversal of removing; smear ‘copperslip’ on pad backing

8 Finished job (front) and looking purposeful. Rears are very similar

9 Ah, our rears featured an integral drum for handbrake – well scored

10 Shoes were fine so it was just a case of adjusting via this ‘hole’

11 If calliper pistons are stubborn you may need this special tool

12 Final jobs are to check the fluid level and torque up wheel nuts

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