by Joe Mazzei originally published as The Technical Tiger in the February 1977 RootesReview
Tiger and Alpine owners over time have experienced a variety of maladies centered around “stopping the beast”, i.e., brakes. Contrary to common belief the brakes on a Tiger are basically the same as those on an Alpine. (Keep in mind that there are two body series for and Alpine; Series IV and Series V and Tigers came as MK I and MK II.)
It is reasonably safe to say that at this time there are fewer than 5 percent of all Tigers and Alpines with their brakes in the best condition possible. Why so few? Several reasons, there are a number of brake service procedures that are required but almost never followed as most owners do not own service manuals or owner’s manuals which are needed for the necessary information.
There are three items that are most often overlooked.
#1-Brake fluid is hygroscopic; it absorbs water from the atmosphere and becomes contaminated resulting in internal corrosion (oxidizing) of all components. Reduced braking power and rapid brake fade under moderate use. The factory service procedure is to completely replace the fluid at one year intervals. Start with the engine off, depress the brake 3-5·times before bleeding to eliminate all vacuum in the booster. Bleed the rear (left wheel cylinder) see #2, first, then the left front, then the right front. Be sure to use only Girling amber or Castrol LMA (low moisture activity).
#2-To properly bleed the rear brakes they must be adjusted out until the wheels will not turn by hand, this ensures the removal of all air that may be trapped in the cylinders. Brake pedal height is also determined by proper adjustment of the rear brakes, usually two clicks back from hard lock.
#3-The brake servo air filter should be replaced every 6000 miles. Dirt in this filter or a blocked filter will result in a hard or apparent lack of servo assist.
It should be noted that a Tiger or Alpine with brakes in proper condition can lock up all fours at 15-20 MPH speed with standard 78-70 series tires and stock pads. For vehicles used in competition (auto-cross; short to medium tracks) standard pads and shoes are fair, however improved times may be had by using up-rated components. As one additional point of interest I must recommend that each of the bleed screws be loosened and re-tightened at least once each 6 months and that they not be over-tightened (5 lb. ft.). Also when servicing the rear brakes the brake adjusters should be disassembled, cleaned, coated with never-seize compound and reassembled. This does not apply to those later 1967 production Tigers and Alpines equipped with self adjusting rear wheel cylinders, these should be checked at 6-month intervals for freedom of operation.
Still on brakes and in answer to a question from a fellow member, the blue white smoke and heavy detonation or knock experienced after heavy braking is the result of brake fluid entering the engine through the servo to vacuum hose. This results from a failure of the servo rod bearing bush seal which forces fluid into the vacuum cylinder. If the failure has not occurred here it has occurred at valve control piston-either at the high or low pressure end which will allow fluid to enter the valve chest. In any event the servo must be rebuilt. Sunbeams from B9470001 thru B382001282 have small-chamber boosters which use Girling kit SP2230: from B382001283 have large-chamber boosters which use Girling kit SP2228. If a new servo is needed due to scoring of a piston, #64049127 is for the small chamber, and #64049460 is for the large chamber. These numbers also apply to Alpine series IV small and series V large.
To close this rap on brakes let me say that the limiting factor on proper brakes in a Tiger or Alpine is tires, particularly on the Tiger One can very easily overpower these tires with standard brakes. I’d suggest … well a lot of things, but for starters minimum size should be about 175/70-13 and not any smaller. The upper limits are determined by rim size and room in the wheel well – LAT9&70 wheels and T.A. 60’s (BFG) work nicely.