S30 Toyota Brake Upgrades

Posted on April 25, 2012 by in In the Garage

Everyone loves a vintage Z car.

As the owner of a 1975 280z, I can say that half the fun of these cars is that they’re a blank canvas of speed. They’re well balanced cars as long as they’re kept in good working order and they have loads of performance potential. That’s a double-edged sword, though. They’re very easy to make absurdly quick, but they need to be able to stop quickly as well.

Luckily, we’ve got a special treat for s30 owners. Toyota trucks happened to have incredible brakes, and shared the same caliper bolt pattern as Nissan cars. If you own a S30 (240Z-280Z car) then there’s a good chance you’re on a budget, and it doesn’t get more “budget” than these options. Toyota’s brakes were significant improvements over the s30′s right from the start, but kept improving as the trucks matured. This means there are several options available. We’ll organize them by the casting codes embossed on the side of each caliper, to make it easy to identify which we’re talking about

S12+8  Calipers (’79-’85 4×4 + ’86-’88 4×4)

This caliper comes in two varieties, a solid disc and a vented disc version. Both are based on the same basic casting, but there are key differences to note between the earlier (solid-style) and later (vented-style) calipers.

Brake Calipers

Toyota 4x4 s12 caliper compared to stock Datsun s30 caliper

Solid-disc calipers were made on the earlier Toyota 4×4′s, from 1979 to 1985. Without machining, they will only fit solid, non-vented discs, since the slot is not wide enough to accommodate wider vented discs. Although these are the least performance-oriented calipers of the Toyota lineup, they’re a noteworthy upgrade from the stock s30 calipers.

S12+8 Caliper for Solid Disc

The later vented-style caliper (1986-1988) is machined with a thicker gap for the wide vented rotors. The vented-style caliper will fit on solid discs without issue, but the solid-style caliper needs to be machined to fit around vented discs.
S12+8 Caliper for Vented Rotor

S12W Calipers (’89-’91 4 Runner) + (’89-’95 4×4)

This is the big daddy of the Toyota caliper swaps. This caliper has larger pads than either the S12 or S12+8 as well as larger diameter pistons. These only came in a vented-disc width.

Decisions, Decisions

The biggest decision that will greatly affect your brake swap is whether to use solid or vented rotors? Vented rotors not only have more mass to hold more heat, but they’ll dissipate heat more quickly as well. Performance is increased across the board. Although opting for a vented setup adds extra complexity, the additional performance will prove worthwhile to most owners who need better-than-stock stopping power.

The second important aspect of this swap is what master cylinder you want to use. A larger brake master cylinder (MC) is recommended for all caliper upgrades, otherwise you may plant the brake pedal on the floor without getting 100% of your braking potential. You can use either the 15/16ths MC from the 79-81 Nissan 280ZX or the Willwood 1″ MC (part #260-8794). The only reason not to go with the Willwood is that you’ll need to convert the threaded outputs the metric ones to match your Z car, then elongate the mount spacing so it mounts to your booster. You can find the right outputs here, or use the outputs from your Z car MC.

Here’s a shot of the Wilwood master cylinder:

Willwood 1" Master Cylinder

In comparison, here’s what the Nissan 15/16″ master cylinder looks like:

280ZX Master Cylinder

You may also be able to get away with using a Toyota master cylinder as well, with a shared dual-reservoir (which makes maintenance easier). It will cost roughly $80 plus shipping, making this the best price point for your upgrade:
1998 Toyota Tacoma Brake Master Cylinder Replacement Toyota Brake Master Cylinder REPT270902 98

The third (and least important) consideration is the brake dust shield. You may either trim it so it doesn’t interfere with the larger caliper, or remove it entirely. Many race classes actually require removal of the dust shield for full safety compliance, but if you do remove it keep in mind that many recommend more frequent inspection to make sure you haven’t gotten any debris in your caliper/pad area. Here’s what your dust shield should look like, if you decide to trim it down:

s30 Dust Shield

Quick Recap

Better than Stock/Light track duty – S12+8 Solid-style Calipers: Stock Disc, trim/remove shiled. Larger MC

Heavy track duty – S12+8 Vented-style Calipers: 4 lug 300ZX Rotor (84-86 non-turbo), spacer between hub and rotor, trim/remove shield. Larger MC

Just below FastBrakes/Wilwood – S12W (big daddy) Calipers: 4 lug 300ZX Rotor (84-86 non-turbo), spacer between hub and rotor, trim/remove shield. Larger MC

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8 Responses to “S30 Toyota Brake Upgrades”

  1. Taylor Johnson 28 February 2013 at 2:03 am #

    Hi i have S-12+8 calipers for my 75 280z and I wanted to know how large of a spacer do I need?

  2. WoodWorkerB 6 March 2013 at 3:44 pm #

    Thanks for the information. Gave me the confidence to do the Toyota 4-Piston caliper upgrade to my ’71 240Z.

  3. Rob 26 June 2013 at 11:59 pm #

    Great information, thanks so much. Unusual question here. On the photo of the Wilwood master cyclinder there is stamped F and R. I have had a Triumph GT6 that had “dual diagonal braking” where one front brake works with the opposite side rear brake if one of the master cylinders goes dry or boils. Instead of front brakes on one cylinder and rear on the other. Ever heard of this.

    • Jesse 4 July 2013 at 10:06 pm #

      It sounds like an idea that’s trying to be very clever, but I hadn’t heard of it before. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, but I would research it with some scepticism. I imagine it’s an idea that a marketing department came up with then forced engineers to find a way to have it make sense.

      Normally, all I look for in a master cylinder is a separate front and rear circuit, which is all the F and R stand for.

  4. Leonabi 15 July 2013 at 2:45 am #

    If I’m going for the “Big Daddy” setup, what size spacers would one need to get? I already checked out HybridZ.org and as you may know, Modern-Motorsports is no longer operating. By the way, thanks for this great tutorial.

  5. Derek 11 November 2013 at 9:15 pm #

    with the big ones is there a diffrence between the s12w and the s13wb? will they both work on a 280z?

  6. Brian Volken 25 April 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    I did the Toyota caliper upgrade to my 240z and I am delighted with the results. I went with drilled & slotted rotors (but not vented), I kept the same master cylinder and proportioning valve (it is on my list to add an adjustable proportioning valve at some point).

    WoodWorkerB at gmail dot com
    http://datsun240zrebuild.blogspot.com


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