British servicemen are an enigma. One moment they’re good old chaps with pints, polite as a British person, the next they’re flying Harrier jets or storming your beaches alongside a member of their royal family. Their best-of-the-best military division wears a humble name. Special Air Service sounds like something you’d pay extra for when shipping a package to your grandmother.
No, SAS members know how to kill you in many, many ways. They’d just rather not talk about it, and would you like a cuppa? British military personnel are so tough that when they get too injured to fight, they recover by racing the Dakar Rally. And they’re more than happy to chat with you about it.
I rather feel the same way about my British-born EBC Yellowstuff brake pads. Full disclosure, here, they were free. Way back in February I spoke with EBC’s American VP James Hallet about EBC’s unique approach, and he graciously sent me a set to test out on my 2002 Subaru WRX wagon. I installed them last month in preparation for my trip to the Woodward Dream Cruise, and have put at least 2,000 miles on them since.
For all of those miles I’m reminded of that Janus-like British ability to package the very nice with the very fierce.
Unlike many car blogs, we don’t have the money for don’t see much benefit in track testing. We don’t have top secret testing facilities. We don’t measure stopping distances with lasers and interns wrapped in rolatape. But we do drive to work every day, just like you, and some of us, this author included, drive some tastefully quick cars.
I don’t, by the way, recommend testing your brakes on crowded freeways, even if you’re getting paid to write the review. But if you’re out early amongst the empty streets of your metropolis and you want to make sure everything’s in order, just check your mirrors first.
EBC rates their Yellowstuff pads for both track and street, and I find this accurate, though I haven’t taken them to the track (yet). Diving into a turn on a quickly-fading yellow light is no problem. Reacting to the behavior of a text-addicted teenager hogging up your lane is surprisingly easy. Yet, when you’re in “sane mode,” you won’t notice much of a difference. There’s no jerky grippiness when you’re rolling up to that stop sign. You won’t be dusting off your ABS every time you pull into your driveway. So when you need them to bite, they bite hard, but the rest of the time they play it cool, acting just like OE brakes.
But there is one key difference in everyday usability: dust. Hallet explained to me that most OE pads produce so much dust because they use cheap steel fibers as stock for their recipes. As these fibers heat up, they flake off and spray all over your rims, sticking there to form that dark and lovely wheel makeup we all know so well. Aside from a 5% quantity in their Ultimax line, EBC turns away steel fibers at the door. As a result, EBC pads produce virtually no dust.
I stopped in my hometown on the way to Woodward, where my meticulous friend Troy berated my filthy wheels. I told him about my new EBC pads and, as I happened to have a can of brake cleaner in my hand, I blasted away a section of brake dust. That was about 1,500 miles ago, and that section hasn’t filled in. (No, Troy, I still haven’t cleaned my rims).
Nor do I have to deal with any noise. I was prepared for a little squeaking here and there, since EBC’s next level, the Bluestuff pads, are known for wailing away like a sad Brian Setzer, but I haven’t heard a thing. Pedal feel could be a bit edgier. I’m not looking for on-off performance, but feel is important, just not as important as the massive grip I’m seeing.
Now it’s easy to gush and grin about a free product. There are plenty of things you’d eat for free that you wouldn’t pay for, so a free set of world-class brake pads will load the compliment pistol right up. In an attempt to be objective, I checked on the prices. A front set of Yellowstuff would set me back $154.99. The most expensive set I could get at a local parts store were one hundred dollars less.
Still, you get what you pay for, and I think here that quality trumps price. I’d be more than comfortable taking Yellowstuff to the track, but until I can arrange that (and we’ll certainly let you know), they’re the perfect street performance pad, changing on the fly from tame coast-stoppers to croc-jawed beasts. How very British.