Re: "Rod Brakes"
rod brakes are pretty cool. i've got a vintage phillips bike made in england and a japanese bike that have them. both are in pieces in my junk pile right now, though.
if the brake pads are in good shape they stop as well as any caliper, and all the rods and linkage look cool.
they work by pulling up onto the underside of the rim instead of the sides and might be a bit sketchy if the pad comes loose, since it could go into the spokes, but there's a lot of old antique motorbikes that used them.
pads can be hard to find.
if there's mounting holes in the fork and int the rear for a fender brace you could convert to calipers, but you'll need new handlebars and a gooseneck too, since the rod system is all integrated into it.
i'd keep the rods if i was building it.
also, they have skinny tires. not many (if any) options to go wider.
it would be a cool slow cruiser if you keep everything stock.