A hand-operated, fat Ford...
A hand-operated, fat Ford e-brake has a vintage look and feel, and tucked up against the driver's kick panel is unobtrusive and easier to reach than a floor brake. What it needs is just a little more leverage and a modern cable.
Like most of our readers, we have utilized various hand-operated parking brake mechanisms in street rods over the years. Several Deuces were fitted with classic '40 Ford underdash units tucked up close to the driver's kick panel, and a few cars with Pinto/Vega-style hand brakes that mounted closely to the floor, next to the shifter. The '40 piece has its historic appeal and keeps the floor less cluttered, although it does take some adaptation in pre-fat fender installations. The low-profile, floor-mounted units, aftermarket or wrecking yard, are inexpensive and easy to install on a tunnel or a flat floor, but most have short handles that dictate that you use more "armstrong" power. This can be a drawback if your better half has to yank hard to release the e-brake. You will hear about that.
This installation is in a '40 pickup, but the basic ingredients can be applied to almost any make or model. We have a typical 9-inch Ford rearend and we retained the stock parking brake cable loop that was on it. The 112-inch wheelbase on a '40 pickup is long enough to allow using the full length of the cable loop, which is good because the cutting and splicing that comes with shortening these OEM cables can get ugly; it usually starts with some cursing and ends with antiseptic and bandages.
The stock '40 brake cable...
The stock '40 brake cable (bottom) is hell for stout, but not very flexible. At the top is the new cable we ordered from Control Cables. It's flexible, smooth-operating, and has the right ends for our application. We're keeping the 5/16 SAE-threaded Ford yoke (center), but you can order these new as well.
We made a small crossmember of 1x1 steel tubing that would function as a driveshaft safety device (although not for legal racing) and mounted it to the rear legs of our X-member at a point that would make easy mounting of the rear parking brake cable housing ends.
Now we had the forward location of the center of the brake cable loop, and could measure the approximate length of the front brake cable we needed, plus find a good location for the rear of the front brake cable to be secured. We had an original 1940 Ford e-brake cable, but decided against using it. In Henry's overbuilt design the steel wire-wrapped outer cable housing, though bulletproof, doesn't lend itself to making bends to snake around typical hot rod additions, like big exhaust pipes, bulky TH400 transmissions, and an OHV engine stuffed right up against the firewall.
A modern cable would be the answer, both for flexibility in routing and because you can order exactly the length and end mounts you need. Our experience with previous rods and a Bonneville car told us we needed only make one call: to Control Cables. Our gennie cable was much too long for our application. This is a perfect time to rephrase a popular expression, "Measure twice, order once!" Another stray thought that occurred to us was a means to increase the application power of the hand brake. As we remember from history, the ancient peoples built their amazing monuments of stone by applying the basic physics of leverage. Instead of lifting a bolder by hand, they learned they could stick a long prytool under it, put a log under it and push down (probably a bunch of guys pushing down). We remembered some cars of the '50s and '60s that had a "leverage bar" that was attached at one end to the chassis, and the other end was pulled by the front e-brake cable.
We used a steel strap as a...
We used a steel strap as a leverage bar to connect the front and rear cables. The middle hole here is for the rear brake cable equalizer, the right hole mounts to the X-member.
Not having any luck finding one of these at a swap meet or wrecking yard, we used a length of 1-inch-wide, 1/4-inch-thick steel strap. One end was mounted to the bottom flange of the right rear leg of the '40 X-member. The spot to mount it was arrived at by attaching a front hoop to our Ford rear cable loop, inserting a 4-inch-long bolt as an adjuster, and seeing how far forward we wound up. With the right end of the bar mounted, we could now measure from the left end of the bar (with the bar basically at 90 degrees to the truck's centerline). Our X-member had been gutted and reinforced with a Chassis Engineering kit, which includes a rear stiffener plate that gave us a flat area to mount the rearend of our brake cable.