Handbrake Conversion.

By Brian Richards
June 2015

I do not know if it is my shape but I find the hand brake lever a real pain in the leg on long trips. There is a left foot rest in my car but in reality it simply replaces the dip switch which I used to use as a foot rest so I do not think it aggravates the situation.

My issue is that the lever applies pressure to one point on my left calf. After a while this becomes annoying. I always feel that if there is a problem, fix it or learn to live with it. Well I thought I would look at fixing this one. This started my search for a suitable hand brake replacement.

I considered an electric replacement but after some research of the two options I decided to simply move the lever to the tunnel. Of the two electric options, the most suitable would have been an electric linier actuator that applies about 600lbs pull to the original hand brake cable and could have been attached to the chassis near the original hand brake mount. This is an after market kit (about US$400) from the USA that is used on hot rods, kit cars etc. The other option is the one used on today’s cars such as those of the VW group. This system uses an electric actuator built onto the rear calipers. This would only work on cars with rear disc, which I have, but there is a real space issue.

After a good search through Pick & Pay wreckers, I settled on a unit from a 2001 Honda CRV. With this car there is no centre console so the dress trim around the lever is a stand alone unit which is what I needed. Also the mechanism is all above the tunnel. This meant that the only protrusion through the tunnel are the two mounting bolts and as such there would be no clearance issues with the drive shaft.

I purchased a lever and trim, took it home and had a good think about it. It all seemed to fit in well except I needed to shorten the two mounting legs to lower the height of the mechanism by about3/8”. This was required to get a better fit for the dress trim. I shortened the legs and made up two steel plates with nuts welded to them to act as captive nuts for the mounts. I drilled the two mounting holes and attached the two plates in place with two small screws. This allows me to remove and refit the lever without needing to get under the car. Mounting these two plates was a bit fiddly as it was achieved without removing the drive shaft.

I worked out that the original cable would fit OK if the inner cable was shortened. To mount the outer cable I modified the rear dress trim mount/outer cable holder of the Honda unit so that it would hold the outer cable and still act as the rear dress trim mount. This was then mounted on the tunnel. To attach the inner cable, I had to fabricate one small piece and used the original TR clevis to attach it to the Honda adjustment screw.  This allowed me to have an adjustment that is in the car and is easily accessible by removing the trim.

My car is a late TR3A with the occasional seat so I was able to bring the cable through the vertical face of the seat straight onto the lever. Not sure how this would work out with an earlier body. With the trim on, there is about one inch of outer cable exposed and I cover this with a short piece of black hose to camouflage it. If I was doing it again I would mount the unit one inch further back so there would be no cable exposed. It is not noticeable so I did not bother to remount the assembly.

All that was left was to fit the front dress trim mount and refit the carpet. The only Honda unit I could get was grey so I used a good quality vinyl paint to paint it flat black. Even with the ½” taken off the mounts, the trim sits about 1/4”above the tunnel. To disguise this I used a layer of foam under the carpet. This works well and the finished job looks as though it is an original fitment. The only mod to the original TR cable was to shorten the inner by about eighteen inches. All the rest of the TR hand brake assembly is unchanged.

The finished job looks like an original fitment and does not look out of place. Importantly, with the TR, it does not effect the load area or interfere with the driver or passenger. A job that only took about half a day but made a real comfort addition to the car. I have now done three trips to Goulbourn (about 400KM return) along with some other trips and really enjoy the absence of the hand brake lever.