Written by Ainsley Jacobs
Photography courtesy of Baer Brakes
Performance breeds innovation, and Hal Baer’s love of road racing ultimately led him to start a company that services many areas other of motorsports, too. Since its inception, Baer Brakes has grown to become a name synonymous with the pinnacle of stopping power.
Growing up in Arizona in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Baer fell in love with American muscle cars and learned to work on the many Mustangs he owned over the years.
“Early on he drag raced, but eventually transitioned to road racing,” noted Rick Elam, sales manager at Baer. “Hal is now coming full circle, as he’ll soon be returning to drag racing with his original ’69 Mustang that he purchased in ‘73.”
Hal’s passion eventually took him and his friends to Dallas, Texas, where he formed the Baer Racing team in 1986. Baer installed parts and worked on other automotive projects to make ends meet, and wound up making a ton of connections.
“Hal and his friends realized that all the passing was done under cornering and braking. With no money for a competitive engine program, they focused on brakes and suspensions instead,” Elam elaborated of Baer’s time spent racing in the SCCA’s World Challenge Corvette Challenge series with his C4. Realizing a gap in the market for performance Mustang components of the sort, Baer went into business. “He put an ad in a magazine.”
Baer began adapting performance OEM brakes to other applications that were lacking. His success was so dramatic, in fact, that he even collaborated with GM and Ford engineers on similar projects and also became the North American distributor for PBR calipers. He officially formed the Baer Brakes company in ’94, and moved back to Arizona.
Operating out of a small facility at first, and still doing racecar prep, Baer’s business boomed. He was a pioneer of the Pro Touring era, and was one of the first to adapt modern braking systems to early domestic muscle cars with the introduction of the first big brake kits. The company grew, and currently occupies a facility in northern Phoenix just shy of 70,000 square feet.
Today, Baer Brakes manufactures all of its performance braking systems and components parts in-house.
“We touch every bit of the product. We source material from the USA, powdercoat in-house, and really do everything from beginning to end right in our own facility,” shared Elam proudly. Thanks to its incredible advancements in the performance friction and braking industry, Baer was recognized by Hot Rod Magazine in 2007 as one of 20 companies that changed the world.
From its roots in Mustang-based road racing, Baer has expanded its offerings to encompass other forms of motorsports, including drag racing.
“With the late-model muscle cars pushing so much power, people are doing double-duty racing drag racing them,” Elam stated. Although the factory brake systems today are significantly more advanced than their predecessors’ systems, there’s still room for improvement—like with Baer’s EradiSpeed product line. “We developed direct-fit drag racing brake kits that people can run on the street, too, and that are still a good price point.”
Baer also noticed the need for per-piece componentry replacement parts, and has made performance aftermarket brake rotors and calipers available individually.
“Now someone can get a really nice rotor that looks great and offers a performance improvement, or a pad with more stopping power, without having to change their entire braking system,” Elam said as an example of the upgrades that are available at a fraction of the cost.
In the early 2000s, a few radial-tire racers approached Baer looking for something that could handle the heft and horsepower of their cars. Baer turned from road racing and took a more dedicated look at drag racing, and developed something that was perfect for the application. Baer also partnered with the NMRA over a decade ago, and has offered up a performance braking system to the winner of the Spring Break Shootout class at the NMRA season opener race in Bradenton, Florida, every year since. Additionally, Baer is a proud contingency sponsor of the NMRA and is trusted by many well-known racers, including Mike Jovanis.