What are my brake options?

I thought I’d start working on my brakes while my engine block and head are being cleaned up, No surprise that my front calipers and pistons were seized upon removing them. The one surprise is how small the brake pads are for a vehicle this size. Since I am restoring a 63 model that has been sitting for twenty plus years to an above average driver, what other brake options do I have?

I have read about the Volvo conversion and some other after market upgrades. Any recommendations from the group using best value as a guide would be appreciated. I do have a couple of questions:

  1. I have never driven an E-Type before. Are stock brakes good enough for normal driving?
  2. If I upgrade the front with the Volvo conversion, do I also need to upgrade the rear brakes?
  3. Does anyone re-line the cylinders? Is that even an option?

Thanks - Kevin

A lot of users “upgrade” the brakes with Volvo’s or Wilwoods. The original brakes on a properly functioning and well-maintained E Type braking system will lock the tires up with the rubber-to-road adhesion being the limiting factor. How much more braking force do you need for normal driving? Installing Green Stuff pads may help with any fading problems while driving hard with heavy braking but unless you’re racing, the original Dunlops work just fine.

Considering the car is lighter than a modern sedan, the original brakes are very good when properly maintained and the linkages properly adjusted. A point that is often overlooked is the proper linkage setting on the 3.8 Dunlop (Kelsey Hayes) vacuum servo. Read the manual to learn the proper adjustment.

Saying all that - the PO of my Bettie had purchased a Willwood front brake upgrade kit which I installed. :slight_smile:


The E-Type’s brakes were considered the best out there in the day. They are better than good for normal use.

Modern brake boosting systems give modern cars a much lighter pedal pressure so some think the brakes are bad because you have to push quite a bit harder. That’s not an issue with actual braking, and of course it gives you a wide band of force with which to modulate them. Just push harder (man up)! Green Stuff pads (possibly some others) really transform brake effectiveness, too, be sure to get them. Some like Red Stuff but I don’t know about them.

Yes, S1 brakes are regularly sleeved to prevent corrosion, and this works very well. White Post is a good place who sleeved my system.

That said there are some specific issues with 3.8 brakes – and all S1 brakes. Their location inside the suspension and above the exhaust makes the rear brakes subject to brake fluid boil and loss of braking – but this occurs under really extreme conditions. I encountered it (stock 3.8 brake system) after 20 minutes of hard laps on Laguna Seca, which is a hilly track with lots of high-speed braking. I encountered it – once only – after an hour of crazy driving on California 36 (“Warning – twisty road next 140 miles”). You’ll never encounter it on the street, and you’ll never encounter it at all if you flush and refresh brake fluid every 24 months as required and use high-temp brake fluid (like Castrol DOT4) – brake fluid absorbs water from the air and this greatly lowers boiling point over time.

Another rarely-encountered issue is braking at interstate speeds in very rainy weather after a long stretch without braking. The system cools down and water on the disks takes a few msecs to scrape off. The result is that when you push the brakes there is a short period when nothing happens! Never had this happen, but of course I never drive the car in heavy rain any more. If you do, you just need to remember to brake lightly every few minutes, I guess.

If you do change the system, you are likely to reduce the overall braking at the max unless you carefully rebalance the size of the rear calipers with the fronts. Consider: braking hard, the rears may be providing less force than the fronts, and the fronts may then slide before the rears reach their max. The total braking force being applied just before the fronts slide will be less than the force provided by the stock brakes in good condition.

Note that with the stock system you can get the same imbalance and reduced braking if you use different brake pads front and rear. Very noticeable!

Note that the braking force applied just before sliding is going to be limited by the tires not the brakes, and will be never more than what the stock brakes provide – bigger brakes don’t provide more braking force.

Bigger brakes can provide better modulation, better resistance to heat and fluid boil, lighter pedal pressure. Also, cheaper cost of parts, maybe.

Also note that the biggest issue at max braking is not the front brakes but boiling at the rears, replacing the fronts won’t change the loss of brakes at extremes.

Psychological advantages to having “improved” the car, even if you actually diminished it.


The S1 E 3.8 master cylinder setup is different from the 4.2 and you don’t mention whether you have a 3.8 or 4.2. I already had a 69 at the time I bought the 64 and after I completely rebuilt the entire system, including having Apple Hydraulics sleeve all of the wheel cylinders, the brakes worked fine, would lock the wheels if necessary, but just didn’t “feel” as good, I don’t know how to describe the feeling, as the 69 brakes did. During the restoration I rebuilt the complete master cylinder/servo setup from a 68 parts car that I had and installed it, still didn’t have the “feel" of the S2 system, so on went the Wilwood front calipers with the old front calipers moved to the back, feels great.
I firmly believe that should rebuilt the stock system first and try it as many/most folks are satisfied with it.
Plymouth, Mi.


With this system you have to click on the icon to see people’s “signature”. If you do, you see he has a '63.


Hey Kevin. “No surprise that my front calipers and pistons were seized upon removing them.” If that’s the case for the fronts do you know what kind of shape the rears are in? With the car sitting for so long they’re most likely seized as well. Take a good look at the cylinder bores and pistons for pitting - if the pistons are pitted I believe they’ll need to be replaced but the bores can be resleeved as already mentioned. Resleeving is a good option but it’s also expensive especially if you need new pistons too. If that’s the case it might be cheaper to buy replacement cylinders complete and ready to install. Check the usuals for costing and look at Hye-Dra-Cyl for replacement stainless steel units.


Just fix them and don’t change things you do not know what they will do to the whole package. When the S1 brakes work as designed, they will have excellent feel and balance. They will lock all four wheel when necessary, especially if you use the right kind of tires as well. Having driven around Europe and a few times over the Alps with a S1 2+2 (ca. 50k miles) with stock brakes with my wife and two daughters I can tell you I would not change a thing.

Except of course original type nw seals, new hoses, replace the fluid and flush it every two years, or max three years and you will be good.

Of course the brake pedal pressure used will be much higher than any modern car, but that also applies to the steeing, clutch etc. IMO all part of the charm of the overall package. People who don’t like it I would advise to drive a modern car and leave the E-types and other classic cars to real enthusiasts. :wink: Maybe we could afford them again.

If you change everything in an E-type in order to make it feel like a modern car, you loose something that’s priceless: the feel of a genuine Jaguar sports car the way it is supposed to be. If you want a modern sports car, get an F-type, a 911 or a 458 or 488 or something else.


Pekka T. - 1S20183 with original brakes
(& original engine, gearbox, rear axle, interior, top etc.)

Thank you for for replies. I have decided to remain with the stock brake system.