El Cheapo: Building A Rat Rod For $1,500. Episode 11 – Backpedaling

You could spend $300.00 and order a brake pedal assembly for your hot rod and be done.

Then again, that wouldn’t be a low budget build and I wouldn’t have a job … so I digress. In a $1,500.00 hotrod, or in this case a ratrod build, every penny counts. There can be absolutely no frivolous spending. Therefore, I have found a killer little master cylinder that works great and sells for $21.00.

It’s part number #M1930 at Autozone. It’s lightweight and small in size, not to mention the cheapest you’ll find. Furthermore, for a non-power brake setup, it will be all the stopping power that you will ever need. The next step will be sourcing a pedal assembly. Here again, money is tight so there are two cheap options.

One would be to make a U bracket out of a 3-inch section of 4-inch x 4-inch tubing with one side cut out. A piece of 1/2-inch gas pipe with a piece of 1 1/2-inch x 1/4-inch flat bar welded to it will serve as a pedal. It will rotate between the u-bracket with bolt mounted through holes drilled in bracket and pedal assembly in between. A brake push pad can be made from a 2-inch x 3-inch flat piece of 1/4-inch plate and a push rod hole drilled into the flat bar for plunger action. If you have a lot of time and weld pretty well, this will serve you well.

Create a template from the mounting flange of the brake master cylinder.

On the other hand, you can spend ten to twenty dollars at your local recycle yard and buy a pedal assembly. I feel that more builders will go this route so I’ll spend my time on this option. One thing to note is: ANY pedal assembly will work with some alteration. We pulled our $10.00 brake pedal out of an older Ford pickup truck. The cockpits in these old hotrods lack for room big time so its pretty much a given that the bracket will have to be cut down.

This is where the pictures are worth 1,000 words. The main part of the assembly you will need is the part with pedal hanging down. For this reason, the amount of bracket you can get into that confined space will need to be measured on the bracket from the pivot pin.

Transfer the outline of the master cylinder’s mounting flange to the flat stock that will be used in the pedal box.

The back of the assembly is not nearly as important. It will simply have a plate welded across the back for a place to mount to. The front, however, will need some major changes. Once you know where the pedal will hang, you will need a measurement from the front of the assembly to the firewall.

The addition to the bracket can be fabricated from some 1 1/2 -inch flat stock. The front of it will need to be the same pattern as the master cylinder. To get this pattern, get a piece of thin cardboard and scribe a mark around the mounting end of the master cylinder.

Once lined up, this can be transferred to a piece of 1/4” flat plate. The purpose of this is so when the master cylinder comes through the firewall it will fit neatly into the plate you have made and bolt together. The pedal bar on the assembly will no doubt be too long but can also be cut down.

The pedal pad can be from the section you cut off or you can make something clever. The pedal bar will probably already have a plunger rod hole for mounting but in the case it doesn’t line up, booring a new hole will be fairly easy. If you got a plunger with the assembly when you bought it, that would be ideal. If not, it’s not a big deal. You can make one from a #8 bolt the same diameter as the plunger.

The hoop to mount it can be a thick heavy washer welded to it. Once this newly made assembly is tacked together, and I did say tacked – not welded – then place it in the vice to test the pedal travel with plunger. If it works great, weld it together. If not, grind the tacks and make adjustments where necessary.

Once together, place the assembly into spot where it’s going to be mounted, then mark out the front onto the firewall. This will tell you where to bore the center hole, and bolt holes. Check the master cylinder for level both ways. If both are true, you’re ready for mounting. At this point, you should have a whopping $31.00 in this unit, and of course a mountain of time.

Luckily, we don’t count time in the hotrod world because we love what we’re doing right? If not, this may be a great opportunity to take up checker playing or maybe basket weaving. You know, something that really pays off big time. At any rate, we have completed yet another money saving tip and will continue next issue with cheap homemade gas pedal and shifter unit.

About the author

Tommy Ring

Tommy’s love for Hotrods was passed down from the elder Ring who wrenched on cars and welded. Tommy’s living came from music as a road musician in venues across America. Tommy also worked as a studio musician and wrote for a jingle company, yet always had a project Rod going on the side. In 2009 Tommy opened RingRods HotRod Shop and in 2012 began writing for RatRod Magazine. Tommy also has a Rod Building Video sold worldwide. Tommy has been featured on TV, Radio, Podcast, and in several magazines.
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