I Had My Brake Calipers Restored And I'll Never Go Back To Rebuilding Them Myself

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Photo: Bradley Brownell

It could be argued that the most important system of a car is the braking system. Sure, you aren’t going anywhere without a drivetrain, but if you can’t stop you’ve reached the literal end of the line. When building a performance car, especially one in which you plan to shove a metric shitload of power, you should take your braking system extremely seriously. That’s why the Boxster track car project for which I have long-term aspirations of four-digit horsepower (not a typo) needed brakes that I could trust literally with my life.

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There are brake rebuilds, and then there’s what PMB Performance does. This little company based out of the Salt Lake City area has earned its reputation among Porsche restorers as a top-tier establishment. I have previously used their services to restore and re-plate the calipers on my 912E project, and I was absolutely blown away by PMB’s attention to detail and exquisite quality of delivered finished product.

My 1997 2.5-liter 5-speed Boxster has had a mix-and-match set of calipers for a few years now. I found a set of Cayman S brake take-offs with low miles on Craigslist a few years ago, and cobbled together a setup that some track day jokers swear by. With the S brakes and rotors bolted to the front wholesale, I moved the base Boxster’s front calipers to the back to pair with S rear rotors. The base fronts are the same Brembo casting as the S rears, but with larger pistons in them. All of that is managed by a 996 GT3 brake master cylinder.

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Photo: Bradley Brownell

I’m not usually one to pay much attention to detail or nuance, but it has always bothered me that the front calipers were red and the rears were black. I attempted to rattle-can the fronts black, but it just looked terrible behind the 996 GT3-spec wheels I’d installed. When I put the Boxster up on my Quickjacks for a total revamp into track-only homebuilt-hybrid half-assed hypercar spec, I decided that my terrible calipers needed a revamp, and there was really only one company who could do the job to the level of quality that this project required.

I packed up my original brake caliper setup in individual gallon-sized zip-loc baggies, hardware and all, and shipped them off to Utah for their chance to shine. My only requirement for this project was that my calipers return to me recolored in Porsche’s Acid Green, which is reserved exclusively for the company’s electrified performance models, like the 918 Spyder. I lovingly refer to my Boxster as Project 459, because it’s destined to become a half-assed 918, replete with a few dozen miles of electric-only propulsion.

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Photo: PMB Performance
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PMB took my original castings and stripped them down to the factory original casting, as it was straight from Brembo. All of the hardware was sent out for cadmium plating, and the caliper bodies were re-done in primer.

Once in primer, the cleaned-up bores were re-fitted with their original pistons, which were still in good shape. A fresh set of Brembo OEM replacement seals and boots were applied to the pistons for install. PMB says this is where a large portion of the rebuild’s expense comes from, but nothing aftermarket comes close to the factory original quality, and they won’t accept anything but the best. Smart.

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Photo: PMB Performance

Once the base color has been sprayed up, each caliper gets a painstakingly applied water-transfer Porsche decal. I was asked for a preference of silver or black, but felt black would do best as contrast to the retina-searing Acid Green of the caliper body. I’m glad I went with black, as it looks phenomenal.

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Illustration for article titled I Had My Brake Calipers Restored And I'll Never Go Back To Rebuilding Them Myself
Photo: PMB Performance

Once the decal has been placed properly, the calipers go back in for a few layers of clear coat. Once the clear has been applied, the calipers are placed in a drying oven overnight to cure.

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Photo: PMB Performance
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Photo: PMB Performance
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Once they’ve made it through the oven, each caliper is fitted with new bleeder valves and the now fresh hardware is packaged up.

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Photo: PMB Performance
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I was absolutely blown away by the result. This has been such a long project up to this point that I’d forgotten what it felt like to make real meaningful progress on something. Even if the result is largely cosmetic, I now know that these once leaky and mis-matched calipers are now indicative of what I intend this project to be. Despite the expense, which boiled down to $250 in labor and parts per caliper, plus $50 for the custom-mixed paint, and $60 to ship them back to me, I’m happy with my investment.

Illustration for article titled I Had My Brake Calipers Restored And I'll Never Go Back To Rebuilding Them Myself
Image: PMB Performance
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I have known the head of PMB, Eric Shea, for several years. He’s an honest dude, known to stick to his word, work hard, and deliver impeccable quality. It is important to note that while we are professionally acquainted, he didn’t cut me any discounts, and I’m not writing this at his behest. I paid full boat for this rebuild, with my own American greenbacks, and got exactly what I asked for and paid for. PMB provided me with detailed photographs of the rebuild in order to facilitate this story. Eric was proud enough of these calipers that he asked to use photos of my calipers in an upcoming print ad that the company is going to run (above).

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Photo: Bradley Brownell
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Is this a silly thing to worry about when your project is stationary for months, waiting for you to get off your ass and finish it? Possibly. Has this part of the project served as a major milestone for me, and spurred me on to get more progress completed in the meantime? Yes, that’s part of why I consider this expense to have been worth it. Because these calipers have set the tone for the rest of the project, and I need to bring my A-game to live up to this level of detail.

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Photo: Bradley Brownell
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My now decades-old calipers have been given a brand new lease on life, and will live on for decades more, inspiring me to be better and do better and build better. That’s worth every penny, if you ask me. I’d do it all over again, and I’m absolutely positive that next time I need calipers rebuilt PMB will do great work.

When I give the middle pedal a boot full of stop on track day, I’ll know that I can trust these PMB-built calipers to get me whoa’d up.

Jalopnik contributor with a love for everything sketchy and eclectic.

DISCUSSION

Weeks ago there there was a story about starting to learn wrenching on cars with the Brakes....(snark)