While brakes were part of the plans for this season, this specific setup wasn’t. This was one of those times where the car guided me, but I won’t complain about it.
Building the S15 with the approach generally being that of working in order of worst-to-best areas (hence why the repaint was among the first substantial modifications), as it sat this year it had a very well-sorted exterior to grab your attention, a nicely redone interior to give you something to look at next, and of course was sitting on the wheels for an S15, Super Advan V2s. However, a quick look beyond those iconic spokes would reveal not just stock brakes but the tiny Spec S versions, naturally.
Let’s be honest – for how the car is used, stock Spec S brakes were never going to be a weak link in terms of performance but there’s no denying that something a bit fancier would be nice given how visible they were. That said, I still hadn’t been expecting to do much here just yet beyond servicing them this year with pads and rotors. Then, the OEM calipers started to show their age a bit. After a quick check with Ken for new parts came back with the word “Discontinued”, I took that as an opportunity to step things up a notch. A small notch, to keep this sensible, but a notch regardless.
With a caliper replacement now being in the plans the main decision was which pieces to run. There are many options that are often used on S-Chassis builds so I had no shortage of choice, with it instead coming down to what I felt best suited the car in terms of theme, usage, and colour scheme. CTS-V brakes are one common choice but I didn’t want modern American parts mixed in, a co-worker had some STI calipers but they too were older parts and I wanted to go all-new if possible, and other brake kits were either overkill in terms of performance or too flashy. After a lot of research and debate I finally opted for the Parts Shop Max (PBM) Z32 kit.
The PBM kit consists of the pair of calipers, which are new castings based on the Z32 300ZX Twin Turbo calipers meaning that future servicing will be easy as anything for that platform will fit. Pads are included but I did have to order another set of front rotors (the new Spec S pieces I had would be too small) as well as new front lines since the Z32 calipers use a different fitting. I added new rear lines to the cart as well so that all four would be matched (and fresh), and with that the simple brake service grew to include what you see above. Special thanks goes to VS-One for ordering in the rotors for me!
With all of the pieces in my hands and ready to go, I messaged Jackie for a time and found myself down at Balance just a couple of days before Sunday School so that everything could go on. A number of friends asked why I didn’t just do it in my garage; with the front brakes having never been apart in the time I’ve had this car (and iMSS that same weekend) I wanted to play it safe – a seized bolt or otherwise would be much easier to fix at Jackie’s than in my garage, plus I am simply over doing installs like this on jackstands if I don’t have to. My body doesn’t appreciate it any more, haha. Plus, I was long overdue for a visit to Balance to see what the guys were up to, so while Jackie was handling the brakes I could wander around and see some of what was on site.
As it happened, that day Jackie’s NSX was in its own final stages and specifically was having its initial tune looked after. This was one of the hotly-anticipated debuts at this year’s iMSS and for good reason, given the time it had been off the road and just how far Jackie was taking it.
Punit’s Integra could also be found outside, following its own rebuild over the last little while. Two of Calgary’s best Hondas, set to return after their respective overhauls.
Anyway, as I was wandering around with my camera Jackie was getting right to work, removing the tired old Spec S brakes to set aside.
One of the rear rotors in particular put up quite a fight but the BFH won in the end.
For the rear of the car – as shown by the parts pile – it was kept essentially factory-spec save for the new braided lines. PBM does offer a rear caliper kit but it was definitely unnecessary from a performance standpoint, not to mention if I were to fit it I’d then also have to upgrade the master cylinder as the tiny Spec S unit wouldn’t be suited any more.
Up front is where the new eye candy sat. The signature finish of the PBM calipers does stand out a bit from the S15’s existing accents, but I felt the hue wasn’t too overpowering and with the yellow fog lights not sitting too far away, I thought they could work together quite nicely anyway.
I’ll let you make your own decisions, but I quite like it!
Parts all fitted, it was then time to fill and bleed the system. Jackie asked how “crazy” I wanted to go with fluid and I said nothing over the top (i.e. Endless) so he used some StopTech STR 660 he had on hand. Note the sneak peek of the new Cusco strut bar, sitting in a bay that still needs its own visual overhaul some day. Pace yourself, Bill…
A random shot of the light reflecting off of the Miracle Bar, as I waited for the car to come down off of the hoist. Yes, it was filthy; its last outing at this time had been during a heavy rainstorm.
At this point though, the wheels could start going on and I could properly see how the new brakes would look behind the tri-spokes. You’ll note that the overall setup isn’t large, nor are the rotors even drilled or slotted. Effectively, this is just an OE-spec 300ZX brake upgrade with braided lines (and PBM’s pads), perfect for a tame street toy like the S15.
The big benefit of using PBM’s calipers specifically was that everything was brand new and not also 20+ years old like the rest of the car’s underside, so I can run them as-is for quite some time. As a side note, if you’re paying close attention you may have spotted that the valve stem caps in the two photos above are different colours – those are also from PBM, and I decided to carry what was started with the seat delete’s damper access panels a touch further with more mismatched pink (driver’s side) and blue (passenger) accents such as these. The hardware for the foglights has also been replaced with parts from Downstar, the washers for which are pink and blue again.
Back to the brakes though – with the S15 and Mustard both being at Sunday School this year it gave an opportunity for a side-by-side photo showing their respective brake setups, so I could highlight the different approaches for them. Mustard’s V-Maxx kit is complete overkill in regards to what is really needed (you don’t need a BBK to stop in a show parking lot) but fits in perfectly given how far the rest of the car has been taken – Stage 3 engine swap, flares, upgraded brake cooling, etc – and looks good for judges as well (because show car). The entire car is meant to be pushing the envelope a bit for the Mk3 platform so anything other than monstrous brakes behind the wheels would look a bit lackluster.
The S15 in contrast is more subtle and will never be the wildest example of the platform, instead always walking the line of restrained and staying true to how Nissan built it, while still mixing in some custom touches and updates. Some flashy, 6-piston BBK with massive slotted rotors for an SR20DE-powered, stock-bodied car would look a bit out of place to say the least.
So far I’ve been quite pleased with PBM’s 300ZX-based kit and the calipers have been drawing the eyes of many at events, while at the same time not screaming for your attention. Importantly though, this brake overhaul meant that I could cross a number of items off of my to-do list for the car, as while it’s still in good shape mechanically there’s no escaping the fact that it’s over 20 years old so a refresh underneath wouldn’t hurt. With brakes now completed, come next season I can turn my attention elsewhere, perhaps getting to more arms and bushings to tighten up the car. At this rate I’ll predict that the engine’s refresh and bay’s visual makeover will be the last major phase of the car’s build and come afterwards, but if the S15 starts dropping hints again like it did with the OEM calipers, I won’t ignore them.
Thank you again to Jackie for fitting these and letting me run around with my camera, as always!