Older classic cars that have not been through a lot of upgrades often have front drum brakes. At the time the car was made, the drum brake was likely the best available, or at least the best available that also cost a reasonable amount of money at the time. Remember, what's classic now was once just a regular car, subject to regular budgets.
Since then, however, the disc brake has taken over as the standard front brake in cars, and for good reason. Converting your old car's front drums to disc brakes will make your life (and the life of every brake mechanic who works on the car) a lot easier. Braking in the car will also be safer.
Friction, Heat, Water, Failed Braking
When drum brakes are engaged, they expand to hit the interior of the wheel and use friction to stop the wheel from spinning. That friction heats up the brake and wheel and the heat actually makes it harder for the brake to work. Drum brakes can also get wet, and since a drum brake assembly is mostly enclosed and not open like disc brakes are, the moisture doesn't evaporate as quickly. That makes it harder to brake too. Disc brakes are open, so moisture evaporates more quickly. Disc brakes also need less friction to stop the wheel, resulting in less heat. If your car is a front-wheel-drive model, converting the front drum brakes to disc brakes is important for safety.
Maintenance and Repair Go a Lot Faster
A mechanic who knows classic cars inside and out will know how to fix and replace a drum brake, but that doesn't make the work any less annoying. The open design of the disc brake makes it a lot easier to spot what might be causing a problem, and repairs are a cinch compared to drum brakes. Converting the front brakes to disc brakes will make your mechanic very happy, if you aren't doing DIY maintenance.
If Front Disc Brakes Are So Great, Why Are the Rear Brakes Still Drums?
Drum brakes actually serve a purpose. They make parking a lot easier because they brake with more force than disc brakes. However, because of their friction and heat problems, they're left on the rear wheels, which don't bear the brunt of braking a car that's moving forward.
You want your classic car to be safe to drive, so converting the front drum brakes to disc brakes is a simple way to increase the stopping power and safety. You can find DIY kits, but having a mechanic take care of the work means you get a warranty that will protect the new brakes.
For more information, contact a mechanic for front disc brake conversion kits.