Yes, those are some great brakes with awesome stopping power!


Installing AC Industries' front disc brakes on a Super Beetle
By Bruce Simurda | April 21, 2015

Photos by Bruce Simurda

Ironically, when VW “improved” the suspension of the Beetle with the introduction of the MacPherson Strut equipped Super Beetle in 1971, they did not do the same for the braking system. Just like in prior years, the front brakes were nonpower drums, although they were increased in width from 40mm to 40mm. These are definitely adequate for normal driving with the standard 1600cc engine, but add a little more performance in the back, along with performance tires and wheels, and the addition of front disc brakes becomes a practical modification.
AC Industries’ Super Beetle disc brake conversion kit comes with rotors, caliper brackets, and calipers. It’s an easy “bolt-on” mod that really made a difference in stopping performance.
Up until recently, disc brake upgrade kits were only available for the Standard Beetle, due to the easy swap over to Karmann Ghia disc brakes for ball-joint cars. But as companies developed different kits with their own proprietary components, they included the Super Beetle in their program. With clean, solid Beetles being harder and harder to find, and the first year of SB now being a true classic at 37 years old, more and more people are finding it the VW to restore of choice — and they’re modifying them with tuned suspensions and more powerful engines, which both require better stopping power.
Two items you may need, and are not included in the kit, are longer 10-inch metal brake lines, and new wheel bearings and seals. Both parts are available from So. Cal. Imports.
The kit we chose for this installation article was from AC Industries, and installed at So. Cal. Imports in Long Beach, California. This kit is a true bolt-on system, with only three main components to install — calipers, caliper brackets, and rotors. While it is an easy to install kit, it is also a high quality one, with the brackets cast of nodular iron and the rotors made of tough SAE 3000 material with a tensile strength of 30,000 psi. Of course, there are also the standard brake job items like bearings, seals, and brake lines (longer, 10-inch metal brake lines must be used), but those are not included in the basic kit, which retails for well under $200 (for both wheels). So. Cal. Imports offers a complete bearing and seal kit, which is highly recommended since this is a great time to replace those old bearings (although some people do tap the old races out of their drums and reuse them!). The 10-inch metal brake line is also available separately, for those not wanting to fabricate these lines themselves.
So. Cal. Imports’ Steve Wiedner tackled the disc brake installation, which took approximately two hours to complete. The first step is to securely raise the car off the ground, and then remove the front wheels.
Installation is not rocket science, and is straightforward and simple. However, if you do not have confidence in your own ability to do a standard brake job, then perhaps you should have someone else install the disc brakes for you. The process goes something like this — securely raise the car off the ground, remove the wheels, pull the dust covers, axle nuts, and drums, disconnect the hydraulic brake lines, then remove the four bolts and the backing plates from both sides.
With the dust covers off (don’t forget the clip on the speedometer cable), the axle nuts are loosened and removed.
At this point the stock brake drums should come right off the spindles.
Remove the metal brake line from the wheel cylinder, and then the four bolts securing the backing plates to the spindles. Save those bolts, they will be needed later. You can then pull the backing plates off the spindle with brake shoes and wheel cylinder in place.
The area where the new bracket will mount is cleaned to ensure there is no corrosion or other debris that would prevent it from seating completely flat.
Using the original bolts, the nodular iron brackets are set in place, and the bolts torqued to 36-ft.-lbs.
This is the new 10-inch metal brake line that must be custom bent to fit. Note that our Super has aftermarket struts without the stock brake line mounting bracket.
So. Cal.’s Brian Erickson taps the new bearing races into the rotors. AC Industries’ rotors are specially machined so that the seals properly clear drum brake spindles.
At this point you are down to the spindle, and any dirt/rust/corrosion should be cleaned away from the area where the new caliper brackets will be mounted. Then, using the same four bolts that held the backing plates in place, install the mounts and torque the bolts to 36-ft.-lbs. If you are using new bearings, tap in the races into the rotors, grease the bearings thoroughly inside and out, place the bearings into cleaned races, and install the axle seals at the inner bearings. Carefully install the rotors onto their spindles, install the washers and axle nuts, adjust nuts until there is .001-.005 inch of axial play (per VW Service Manual) as measured with a dial indicator placed on the disc, and then tighten the axle nut’s clamping screw. You can reinstall the dust cap and/or speedometer cable at this time. Before bolting the caliper in place (using the new bolts provided), set it in place loosely and check the position of the new metal brake line. It will need to be bent, and positioned so that is out of the way of any components as the tires are turned side-to-side. On a Super Beetle with stock struts, it will tie into the flex brake line at the mount in front of the strut body. On the vehicle used for this installation, which as aftermarket “adjustable” struts, they were simply tie-wrapped in place after all clearances were checked. At this point all that’s left to do is attach both calipers to their brackets, torque the bolts to 36-ft.-lbs., attach the brake lines, and bleed the brakes. While bleeding, be sure to get all the air bubbles out of the line, and check the fluid level in the reservoir before heading out for a test drive.
The bearings received a good coat of grease, both inside and out, before being place in the rotor, and the seal tapped in place.
Steve carefully places a new rotor onto the spindle. Since no actual suspension components are modified or changed during the installation of AC Industries’ disc brakes, it is not necessary to align the front suspension afterward.
It seems like everyone has their own way of adjusting the bearing tension, such as this one where you tighten the axle nut just to the point where you can no longer move the washer. According to the VW Service Manual, wheel bearings should be adjusted by measuring the “axial play” with a dial indicator placed on the drum or rotor to .001-.005-inch of movement.
The caliper is then placed onto its bracket, and the new bolts provided in the kit torqued to 36-ft.-lbs.
At this point the only things left are to attach the brake lines, bleed the brake system (being sure to maintain adequate brake fluid in the master cylinder reservoir), and carefully test drive the new brakes. You should also thoroughly inspect the entire brake system for leaks. As you can see, it is a quality yet uncomplicated disc brake conversion that just about anyone can install in a just few hours.
After a simple two-hour installation, we were ready to carefully test our front disc brakes. We shoud note that another nice feature about this kit is that there is no need to realign the car after installation, since no suspension components are modified. On the road, we noticed a huge difference in the stopping power with the front discs, with lighter pedal pressure required. And besides the improved gripping power, our Super’s front end stayed straight as an arrow — which is always a good way to stop! SOURCE: So. Cal. Imports, 6831 N. Paramount Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90805; (562) 633-4979;

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