In January of 1953, Dwight D. Eisenhower was sworn into office as the 34th President of the United States. According to records, Ike requested that Chrysler Corporation built two presidential limos for his administration. This was likely because Ike was fan of Chrysler products and owned many of them in his civilian life.
Both of the limos Chrysler built pushed the envelope. Each was over 25 feet long and weighed over 8000 pounds. This presented some unique challenges. Speed wasn’t a problem as each vehicle had a 331-cubic-inch Firepower HEMI V-8 under the hood, but stopping them was another matter. The bottom line was that it was not prudent to outfit such a heavy vehicle, especially one carrying the leader of the free world, with the standard brakes of the day.
Up until Ike’s administration, the standard technology used to stop automobiles and trucks was a design called “drum brakes.” Zeigler Chrysler of Downers Grove, a Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer in Downers Grove, IL, explained to us how they work: When the brakes are applied, a pair of curved, asbestos-lined brake shoes expand outward and are squeezed against the spinning drum and wheel. The resulting friction from the process slows down the rotating wheels and brings the vehicle quickly to a stop -unless it’s a real heavy vehicle, then it doesn’t stop so fast.
In the early 1930s, Chrysler combined forces with Auto Specialties Manufacturing Company (Ausco) of St. Joseph, MI to develop a more advanced braking system. Within months, the two companies working together developed a series of new brake designs. One was especially significant. It used a stationary disc enclosed by a cast-iron housing that rotated with the spinning wheel. This was basically an early “disc brake.”
They were better
Conventional drum brakes required some 120 pounds of pedal pressure to lock up all four tires in a panic stop but the Ausco-Chrysler disc brakes took only 75 pounds. This was a considerable reduction in force and soon these “Hi-Tech” brakes were outfitted on the two limousines being built for the Eisenhower administration.
Soon were available on standard cars
The Ausco-Chrysler brakes performed so well on the Eisenhower limousines that they soon were installed on other high-end Chrysler cars. Unfortunately, they were expensive to make and Chrysler was forced to make them an expensive option. Records show that about two thousand 1949–1954 Chryslers ended up equipped with Ausco-Chrysler four-wheel disc brakes system. While this number may be small, the technology started a movement.
Today drum brakes are all but extinct. Disc brakes won out and are being installed on just about every motorized vehicle made in the World. Is it the final word in brake systems? Probably not. Engineers are constantly innovating so other designs will undoubted be developed in the future.