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Commander Brake rework

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  • Commander Brake rework

    Hello all. I have a 1955 Studebaker Commander that I'm trying to get road-worthy after over twenty years of storage. My Grandfather bought the car new in 55 so it's got some sentimental value.

    I bought a shop manual, replaced all the coolant hoses, belt, water pump etc. Now I'm working on the brake system. Everything is in pretty bad shape so I'm rebuilding/replacing everything from the master cylinder out. Questions:

    Parts - I assumed the brake parts would be easy to come by but my auto parts guy can't seem to find the shoes. Is there a GM cross reference that I can use to help him out?

    Master Cylinder - Is there an alternative to the OEM part that would have dual chambers to add some redundency to the system.

    Rear Wheels - Can I use a slide hammer to get the brake drum off or do I need the special tool listed in the shop manual? Where can I get one?

    Brake Fluid - DOT 4 or DOT 5. I read that the DOT 5 may be the way to go but it's not very common.

    I have many more questions but these are the most pressing. Any advice is much appreciated.
    John J

  • #2
    John J; I might mention that in the great photo that JDP has supplied, note that the axle nut has been loosened prior to installing the Drum Puller, he has wisely left it on, to prevent the drum from "flying" off! Also it protects the axle threads from damage. I usually remove the washer as well, to give it room to come off.

    Note: the time of this post was actually 6:10 PM Central time, the clock is wrong. Which would put it after wacker's post.

    Studebakers Northwest
    Ferndale, WA
    Second Generation Stude Driver,
    Proud '54 Starliner Owner


    • #3
      The rear shoes ought to be out there. It so happens they fit some kinda later Ford or something. The NAPA# is B-176
      The front ones (B-177) you'll either have to have relined OR buy a set already relined from one of our fine Studebaker parts vendors. Any number of them will be able to help you with the shoes - front OR rear.
      And PLEASE.... change ALL 3 rubber brake lines unless you KNOW they've been changed in recent times. They might LOOK fine, but at 52 years of age..... And while on the subject of hoses, CHANGE the hardened one on the rear of the right cylinder head! If feeds engine oil pressure to the gage on the dash. If it springs a leak, you won't notice until the engine starts to tell you.[}] Then it's too late![xx(] It's well wotrth the 12 bucks or so to get a new one.
      Go to for an adapter that'll allow you to use a dual MC on your car. Jim's products are well-engineered and appreciated by those who use them. There may be one or two other vendors that have their own adaptors as well.
      If you want the added safety of the dual system, it'll require some minor effort to adapt the adaptor as well as some new plumbing of brake lines. I'm personally not rushing to embrace this on my own Studes as I've never had a failure. Lucky? Who knows. Maybe if I blow thru a stop sign one day (and SOME have done just that!), I'll change my attitude.[B)]

      You HAVE TO HAVE the proper puller unless you wanna find yourself in search of some new brake drums as well![}]

      Brake fluid? If you're gonna drive it often, go with DOT 3. You can USE DOT5 (silicone), but you'll have to change the brakelite switch to one that's compatible with the fluid OR engineer a mechanical type switch setup. That's what I've done with my Transtar truck that I drive daily and use DOT 5 in.

      Use the search feature of this forum to find more about brake fluid pros and cons. There's folks that swear BY or AT any given type.

      Miscreant adrift in
      the BerStuda Triangle

      1957 Transtar 1/2ton
      1960 Larkvertible V8
      1958 Provincial wagon
      1953 Commander coupe

      No deceptive flags to prove I'm patriotic - no biblical BS to impress - just ME and Studebakers - as it should be.


      • #4
        All the parts you need are available from Studebaker vendors. You should replace all the wheel cylinders/master cylinder and the hoses. Jim Turner sells a kit to convert to a dual master cylinder. You need the puller shown in the picture, nothing else will work, Fairborn Studebaker sell one. You can switch to silicone fluid if you are doing the new system.

        64 Commander 2 dr.
        64 Daytona HT
        63 R2 4 speed GT Hawk (Black)
        63 Avanti R1
        63 Daytona convert
        63 Lark 2 door
        63 Lark 2 door #2
        62 Daytona HT/ 4 speed
        62 Lark 2 door
        60 Lark HT
        60 Hawk
        59 3E truck
        52 Starliner
        51 Commander

        JDP Maryland


        • #5
          The brake shoes are Wagner #177 for the fronts. The master cylinder (stock) is a Jeep CJ2 interchange, still used on a few forklift brake systems, easy to find. If you do want to change to a dual master cylinder, you need to contact Jim Turner at:

          You do need the special tool for the rear drums, or go to

          For directions on how to make one.

          DOT 5 is common and easy to find at most FLAPS, it is just referred to as silicon brake fluid. Check N8's website here:

          for more interchanges.


          • #6
            I think everyone pretty much covered it. The other thing is that when you go to repack the front wheel bearings, there is no good interchange for the original style hubs, if you use the one Fairborn sells, only drive them in about halfway. The 56-up hubs don't have this problem, modern lip seals that can be driven in normally are available.

            Also when adjusting the brakes, I like to adjust the star wheels all the way tight - as in can't physically tighten it one more click - and then back off 8-9 clicks. Makes for more consistent adjustment, and you're sure the shoes are centered that way.

            I prefer DOT 3/4/5.1 brake fluid, but this is a debate that will probably never have a clear resolution. If you do go to DOT 5 (silicone) you MUST flush the system completely with alcohol unless you replace all components, hoses, and hard lines.

            good luck


            55 Commander Starlight
            55 Commander Starlight


            • #7
              And I applaud you for doing a thorough brake job. Better to no go than to no stop.
              "All attempts to 'rise above the issue' are simply an excuse to avoid it profitably." --Dick Gregory

              Brad Johnson, SDC since 1975, ASC since 1990
              Pine Grove Mills, Pa.
              sigpic'33 Rockne 10, '51 Commander Starlight, '53 Commander Starlight "Désirée"