Affordable Classic: 1961 Pontiac Laurentian – Back into Brakes and Other Odds and Ends

The Great Beater Challenge is the main reason I bought this Pontiac, and the event date is fast approaching. Too fast in fact. This is not reality television-manufactured drama, there is just still a lot of work to be done, not much time to do it, and I really do not know if I will make it in time. In this segment I dig back into brakes in a thrash to get the car roadworthy. Hopefully reliable too.

In one of the previous segments I had mounted the front disc brakes and master cylinder. That is great but it takes a bit more than that to have a functioning brake system, especially when the vehicle has been off the road so long (1981 in this case). The rear brakes would need, at minimum new wheel cylinders but likely new lines as well. The first challenge was removing the rear drum. I had spend hours and hours attempting to get the stubborn drums off without success so I called in help. A friend and fellow Great Beater Challenge competitor brought over his expertise and 1966 Dodge panel truck.

He was able to remove the stubborn drum in a shockingly short time as well as loosen the front tie rod ends for me. The wheel cylinders were well past their best.

A replacement cylinder popped in without too much hassle. The shoes had enough meat left on them for the time being.

Not surprisingly the brake lines were not in great shape so I built up new ones for the rear.

New fluids were up next, including the differential …

gearbox …

and engine oil.

The headliner was rather gross looking and likely was hiding some mouse poop so …

out it came. Unfortunately it still looks terrible but at least the dust issue is better. I have a cheap idea to fix the cosmetic issue but I will just have to see if time allows for it.

I found a petrified mouse under the rear seat.

The next task was bench bleeding the new master cylinder, something I have never done previously.

The new master cylinder came with some very short hoses and the required fittings. I used to the push rod from the old cylinder instead of screwdriver to activate the cylinder during bleeding.

After what seemed like a long time the fluid was bubble free. The cylinder was ready for final mounting.

We ended up moving house this summer which really interfered with working on the Pontiac. I hoped to drive the Pontiac over to the new house, but after attempting to bleed the brakes a few times without success that was no longer an option. My wife convinced me to take it to a mechanic for the final bleeding. The old car got towed over for a brake bleeding and alignment (the disc conversion adds about 3/4″ of toe on each side).

Unfortunately the shop was unable to bleed the brakes. They did point out that my brake lines could foul with the control arm in the stock location during full steering lock and that I had forgot a copper gasket at the caliper.

After the house move, my friends once again bailed me out with a trailer ride to the new location. I was able to resolve the two items above and we successfully bleed the brakes. Huzzah! The shift linkage felt really stiff but after a good lube up it was back to working order. There are a lot of lubrication points on a manual column shift!

It is crunch time as I only have a few days left with front end alignment, exhaust and engine tune up to go. Hopefully there are no more snags and delays with the Great Beater Challenge scheduled for August 25th and 26th. I did manage to find a few minutes to dig out the Fuzzbuster II radar detector I had from the Reliant Scimitar I bought many years ago. Seems like an appropriate accessory even if it is ten years or so too new.


The whole Affordable Classic series:

  1. The Search Is On
  2. Landed One – 1961 Pontiac Laurentian
  3. Dragging It Home
  4. Assessment and Planning
  5. Little Fixes
  6. Shocks and Brake Removal
  7. Disc Brake Mounting
  8. Cooling and Fueling
  9. Back into the Brakes and Other Odds and Ends
  10. First Drive!
  11. Last Minute Fixes