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How much do you know about the history of the brake discs?
- Jun 05, 2017 -

Development of disc brakes began in England in the 1890s.

The first caliper-type automobile disc brake was patented by Frederick William Lanchester in his Birmingham factory in 1902 and used successfully on Lanchester cars. However, the limited choice of metals in this period meant that he had to use copper as the braking medium acting on the disc. The poor state of the roads at this time, no more than dusty, rough tracks, meant the copper wore quickly making the system impractical.

Successful application began in airplanes and tanks before and during World War II. In Britain, the Daimler Company used disc brakes on its Daimler Armoured Car of 1939, the disc brakes, made by the Girling company, were necessary because in that four-wheel drive (4x4) vehicle the epicyclic final drive was in the wheel hubs and therefore left no room for conventional hub-mounted drum brakes.

At Germany's Argus Motoren, Hermann Klaue (1912-2001) had patented disc brakes in 1940. Argus supplied wheels fitted with disc brakes e.g. for the Arado Ar 96. The German Tiger I heavy tank, was introduced in 1942 with a 55 cm Argus-Werke disc on each drive shaft. 

The American Crosley Hot Shot is often given credit for the first production disc brakes. For six months in 1950, Crosley built a car with these brakes, then returned to drum brakes. Lack of sufficient research caused reliability problems, such as sticking and corrosion, especially in regions using salt on winter roads.Drum brake conversions for Hot Shots were quite popular.The Crosley disc was a Goodyear development, a caliper type with ventilated disc, originally designed for aircraft applications. 

Chrysler developed a unique braking system, offered from 1949 to 1953. Instead of the disc with caliper squeezing on it, this system used twin expanding discs that rubbed against the inner surface of a cast-iron brake drum, which doubled as the brake housing.The discs spread apart to create friction against the inner drum surface through the action of standard wheel cylinders.Because of the expense, the brakes were only standard on the Chrysler Crown and the Town and Country Newport in 1950.They were optional, however, on other Chryslers, priced around $400, at a time when an entire Crosley Hot Shot retailed for $935.This four-wheel disc brake system was built by Auto Specialties Manufacturing Company (Ausco) of St. Joseph, Michigan, under patents of inventor H.L. Lambert, and was first tested on a 1939 Plymouth. Chrysler discs were "self energizing," in that some of the braking energy itself contributed to the braking effort. This was accomplished by small balls set into oval holes leading to the brake surface. When the disc made initial contact with the friction surface, the balls would be forced up the holes forcing the discs further apart and augmenting the braking energy. This made for lighter braking pressure than with calipers, avoided brake fade, promoted cooler running, and provided one-third more friction surface than standard Chrysler twelve-inch drums. Today's owners consider the Ausco-Lambert very reliable and powerful, but admit its grabbiness and sensitivity.