Our Project Mustang came stock with pretty decent brakes. From the factory our Ford features 4 piston Brembo calipers with 355x32mm one piece rotors. However, we still wanted to upgrade our brakes as our much wider tires, 20″ wheels, upgraded suspension and engine would stress the brakes a lot more. Our Mustang also weighs a punishing 3700lbs which really cooks the brakes. The Ford factory has put larger brakes on some of the higher end SN197 Mustangs so we figured we should follow suit as well.
When researching high-performance brake options we were drawn to the AP brake kit made by Essex Parts. Essex Parts manufactures their brake kit using AP calipers and rotors. What made their kit stand out in an industry full of good Mustang big brake kits is their use of the innovative, advanced AP Radi-CAL brake caliper.
With the advent of CAD and FEA, the best calipers started to get pared down to save weight while maintaining stiffness. Calipers were made with forgings and innovations like Monoblock construction and elaborate bridges which enabled designers to further trim the bodies without sacrificing stiffness.
What made the Radi-CAL caliper different from previously designed calipers is that it was designed to be optimized for dynamic loads, the first caliper to be designed with this in mind. When the brakes are applied the caliper distorts into a parallelogram and the Radi-CAL was designed using FEA with this in mind.
The result is a very unusual looking caliper that is over 30% stiffer and about 30% lighter than previous designs. The open design of the Radi-CAL with maximum material removal and flying buttresses means that that caliper receives quite a bit of cooling airflow. It also means that the caliper is low profile allowing it to fit behind smaller wheels with tight spoke clearance.
The caliper is made from a two-piece forging. The intricate bridge and flying buttresses left after the milling process improve stiffness greatly while eliminating excess weight. Cooling airflow can reach the interior of the caliper as well.
The caliper also features internal fluid passages and a corrosion and heat resistant hard anodized finish. The internal fluid passages lower the external profile and cannot be damaged by a hasty tire change in the pits. The hard anodizing won’t burn off or change colors with hard track use.
The caliper has staggered piston diameters to reduce brake pad taper wear and the piston sizing is selected to provide perfect hydraulic proportioning with the stock Mustang hydraulic system. This is critical with today’s cars equipped with ABS, electronic brake proportioning and stability control.
The caliper also has stainless steel abutments to prevent the brake pad backing plate from wearing and digging into the caliper’s aluminum body which can causes sticking, uneven pad wear, and poor pad life.
Finally, the Radi-CAL Pro 5000R caliper has anti-knockback springs. These are springs under the piston that push the piston back to the fully outward position when the brake pedal is released. The anti-knockback springs prevent a sudden low pedal caused by flex in the front wheels bearing system or upright. This is a common problem on fixed piston calipers on production cars modified for racing with wider R-Compound tires.
The increased load causes the hub, bearing and or upright to flex, this knocks the pistons into the caliper. When the brakes are applied, the pistons must push back out of their bores which causes a sudden low pedal! This can be very frightening for the driver. Anti-knockback springs keep the pistons fully outward and the brake pedal firm even if they are pushed in by flex.