After recently completing the installation of a new rear suspension under our 1936 Phaeton it was time to complete that installation with a working emergency brake. Our first order of business was to decide how the brake would be engaged, so we began this job on the inside.
Actually the original 1936 handbrake is a pretty cool piece, albeit quite large, to the point that it dominated the transmission tunnel area. Since there is a T5 swap planned for the car we wanted to keep the tranny tunnel clear for that installation. Another reason to keep things clean is that neat Stewart-Warner heater we plan on using. These two items put the gennie 1936 handbrake up on the shelf. It is worthy to note that FoMoCo is in agreement with my decision, as 1936 was the last year for the transmission mount handbrake, beginning in 1937 the handle was moved under the dash.
Lokar has long been the leader in brake cable kits and cool handbrakes so we decided to check out their latest offerings. Their old standby floor-mounted unit would have worked, and while this unit is small and compact we still wanted a clean floor. They also offer a transmission mount handbrake that looks like a vintage Ford brake but shorter and more refined. Ultimately, we decided to go with the underdash, hand-operated emergency brake (Lokar also offers a foot-operated underdash unit). We ordered the Lokar handbrake in a black powdercoated finish, and in the future when our black interior is installed the brake handle will all but disappear.
Prior to beginning the job we disconnected the battery and made certain the car was safely lifted for the undercar portion of the job. The Lokar underdash emergency brake unit is designed to fit between the lower lip of the dashboard and the firewall. The unit is adaptable from 11 to 15 inches, which will fit most applications. However, our 1936 tub measured almost 19 inches from firewall to dash, so some adapting would be required. We decided to fabricate two brackets to locate the emergency brake mechanism. One bracket was a simple piece of 1/8-inch flat stock with slight angle. This piece mounted to the dashboard and then the front of the brake assembly bolted to the fabricated piece. This moved the handle back under the dash an additional 2 inches and made any future removal of the brake assembly easier. The second bracket was a bit more complex and involved fabricating a mounting pad that would attach to the firewall and the side of the body underhood. This bracket was formed from 16-gauge sheetmetal and we ultimately bolted it to the firewall and the body. This same bracket could be formed and spot welded to the inside of the firewall and side of the body but since a former owner had insulated the firewall we decided to simply bolt the bracket in place with button-head bolts. We will fill the hex on the bolts and after paint they will then resemble a factory rivet.
After we fabricated these two brackets and mounted the handle and brake mechanism under the dash we turned our attention to the business of connecting cables to our newly installed handle.
Let’s face it, installing a fully functioning emergency brake system doesn’t make the list of “glory work” when you’re building a street rod. However, it does make the all-important safety list as the emergency brake could be your last resort stopping or simply a parking brake that keeps your hot rod safely parked even when the clutch is depressed or someone kicks the shifter in Neutral. Yes, an emergency brake is mandatory equipment for any street-driven car. It is a lot of safety for not a lot of money.
Once again we turned to the Lokar line of emergency brake kits and ordered one Connector Cable kit with black housing (braided stainless also available). This is a single cable that runs from the underdash brake unit to a single cable mount under the car. We also ordered a Lokar Universal Emergency Brake Cable kit. This is a two-cable kit that connects the parking brake levers on our new John’s Industries 9-inch rear to a double cable bracket we mounted to the floor. Armed with these two kits we were ready for the undercar portion of the job.
We decided to first find the optimum location for the single and double cable mounts. These mounts should be mounted so the cable has a direct, straight pull. The mounts should also be about 9-1/2 inches apart. Using a couple of magnets (available from Harbor Freight, and yes every shop should have some) we held the brackets in place on the floorpan. We then studied the best way to route the cables to the brackets. Satisfied that the cables could be mounted with smooth, sweeping bends, we drilled the floor and mounted the two brackets. Now it was a simple matter of routing the cables.
We began by removing the inner stainless steel cable from all three housings and set them aside. Next we bolted one cable to each backing plate and proceeded to route these cables to the mounted double-cable bracket. We attached the cable housing to the floor of the car with Adel clamps and stainless steel button-head bolts and cut the cable with a set of heavy-duty cable cutters.
Next we crawled under the dash and using a straightedge as a guide located the proper place for a hole in the floorboard. We drilled the hole and then slotted that hole to the outside of the floor panel. This will enable us to remove the floorboard without removing the cable should that need arise in the future. Next we installed the connector cable to the new Lokar handbrake. This is e-clip, so after feeding the cable down through the floorboard hole we installed the cable housing to the brake assembly by pushing the clip in place. We then moved under the car and routed the cable to the single-cable mount, cut the outer cable to length, and installed it first in the ferrule and then the bracket.
With all the outer cable housing cut and mounted we began work on the stainless steel inner wire cables. These are the cables that actually make the brakes work. We took one rear cable with the spring installed and fed the cable through the cable housing bolted to the backing plate. The ball end of the cable slips into the emergency brake lever on the backing plate with the spring between the brake lever and the bolt-in end of the cable housing. The same procedure was performed on the opposite side. With the inner cables fed through the double adjuster bracket we had several feet of extra cable. We left that hanging for now and turned our attention to routing the inner cable from the brake handle down to the single-cable adjuster bracket. This involved installing the cable through the connector cable clevis mounted to the brake handle. Then the cable is routed around the pulley on the brake assembly and down into the outer cable housing until the cable was protruding from the single adjust bracket.
With all three cables hanging down it was time to adjust and cut the cables. Before we did that, we went to the rear brakes and did a brake adjustment. When you order “loaded backing plates” from John’s Industries the adjuster are run all the way in. This makes installing and removing the drums easy during installation. Once the rear is installed the brakes need to be adjusted until there is a slight drag on the drum. This adjustment will also affect the handbrake, so it should be done prior to fitting and adjusting the handbrake cables. With the rear brakes adjusted we moved back to the single- and double-cable adjusters.
We removed the tension from the rear cables, being careful not to engage the emergency brake in the process. With the tension removed we tightened the two setscrews for each cable, but we did not cut the inner cables yet. Next we pulled the tension out of the connector cable and marked it for cutting. This cable will fit in the single cable union assembly and you must remember to leave 1-3/8 inches of cable to go inside the union. With cable properly sized and cut we tightened the two setscrews on the single-cable union assembly. At this point the cables are connected from the rear brakes to the underdash unit.
We went inside the car and pulled the handle up. The cable tightened on about the fifth click. Since three clicks is optimum we went back under the car and pulled just a bit of tension out of the cables. We then pulled the e-brake handle again and this time the tension felt perfect. The car was still up on jackstands so we went to the rear and attempted to turn the wheels. The passenger-side wheel was locked tight, however, the driver-side wheel could still be turned. We released the brake and checked the brake adjustment on that wheel and also loosened the setscrews and pulled a bit more tension on the driver-side cable. We tested the emergency brake again and this time both rear wheels were locked when the emergency brake was pulled. Satisfied that the system was adjusted properly we cut the two inner cables from the rear axle at the cable union block, leaving approximately 1 inch of cable protruding. And that completed our emergency brake installation.
Like most things it pays to work slowly, measure twice, cut once, and, here’s the tough one, not only should you read the instructions, it actually pays to follow the instructions. In the end we were more than pleased with the installation, the underdash brake handle fit perfectly, and looks like it may have come from the factory. SRM