Within a few minutes of setting off towards home with my newly purchased Mark 3 Cortina I met a car coming towards me on a narrow section of road. It was at this point that I discovered the joy of forty-year-old brakes. Apart from a short trip to the MOT station the car had covered little mileage since being put into storage in the late 90’s. Whilst meeting the MOT standards the brake performance not only fell short of modern standards but also of my memories of these cars when they were new.

NGX 87L 5

Driving steadily, with a heightened awareness of stopping distance, the next few days saw the brakes improve to a more acceptable level. It was however clear that an inspection of the brakes was high on the priority list. Before I could get around to any significant work I came to an unscheduled stop when the brakes locked on. For a few miles I had been aware that the brake pedal travel was getting less each time I pressed it and eventually the brakes were on without pressing the pedal at all. I pulled off the road to the accompaniment of smoke from the front brakes and a nasty hot smell.

Master Cyl (1)

Having owned a 1965 Beatle many years ago, which had a similar problem, I was aware of a ‘quick fix’ to get me home. This took the form of slackening off the front brake pipe union where it screws into the master cylinder, at the same time recruiting a passenger to gently press the brake pedal down about half way then tightening up the union while the pedal is held at the half way point. This was then repeated for rear brakes by slackening the rear brake pipe union. Checking that the brake pedal travel was normal, I made my way cautiously home. (If you ever have to do this yourself make sure the brakes are working correctly before rejoining the traffic and clear up any lost fluid from the road surface). Serious brake overhaul required.

More to follow

Click for Part 2