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Mustang Safety Equipment - Playin' It Safe
Protecting Yourself, Your Passenger, And Your Car Are Always Priority Number One On The Street And 'Strip
Horse Sense: Paraphrasing subdivisions of Section 27315 of the California Vehicle Code: "No person shall operate a motor vehicle on a highway unless that person and all passengers 16 years of age or over are properly restrained by a safety belt." And: "No person 16 years of age or over shall be a passenger in a motor vehicle on a highway unless that person is properly restrained by a safety belt." It really makes no difference where or how old you are. "Buckling up" is serious and we strongly recommend you heed the seatbelt laws of your state at all times, especially if you're operating or riding in a 'Stang that's packing several-hundred ponies and stump-pulling torque underhood.
We sincerely hope our '86 T-top coupe build series has given you insights on cool parts and installation tricks for your own Fox-rod resto projects, as well as ideas for great upgrades that can be done on your daily driven, street/strip 'Stangs. We know Editor Turner has been taking notes, as he has his own T-top 'Stang build in the works right now.
From the outset of the project, we made it clear that we want our rare 'Stang to have a true street/strip identity. The car's Paxton-blown, Keith Craft 347 pumps out nearly 630 lb-ft of torque at 2,700 rpm. Lightning-quick acceleration brought about by a 4.30 ring-and-pinion setup will quickly make things interesting when we take off from a stoplight or the Tree.
Because of this mindset, and since we have a good understanding of the situations and challenges we could experience on the road and on the track, it's critical for us to cover all the bases when it comes to making sure the T-top 'Stang is safe, as well as fast and great looking.
A 10-point rollcage was one of our project 'Stang's first upgrades ("'Cage Match," July '06, p. 176). Thanks to this Fox-rod effort, Chris Alston's Chassisworks now offers T-top-specific rollcage systems available in mild steel or chrome-moly for '79-'93 Mustangs. Our cage is highlighted by removable swing-out door bars and front tubes that run behind the dashboard instead of in front. It's much easier to enter and exit the cabin than it is in 'caged-up Mustangs that don't have those features.
For this report, we focus our attention on the G-Force Racing Gear five-point harnesses and other equipment installed in the project car's interior that will keep the driver and passenger safe. With the kind of power our car has, a harness that's secured to the rollcage and chassis, a window net, and a fire extinguisher are elements of the 'Stang that we can't go without including in this series.
We asked Dave Rifkin and Ryan "Junior" Shostle of DS Racing in Simi Valley, California, for assistance with installing belts and a window net in our T-top Fox. Dave and Junior specialize in all sorts of race- and custom-car fabrication. Since we're dealing with items designed to keep us from being seriously injured-or worse-in the event of an accident, we deferred installation of the safety harnesses to professionals because of their expertise with this type of job.
Read on to see the things we've done to ensure our safety when we're driving or racing the project 'Stang.
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There's no doubt-the nation's streets are teaming with quick and fast 'Stangs that haven't yet seen the dragstrip. While some of the enthusiasts who own beyond-the-norm-for this example, we'll call 'Stangs running in the 12s "the norm"-street cars have the forethought to install a rollbar or 'cage for their safety, the majority of them don't have bars of any sort installed, usually for vanity/appearance reasons. Those people are surprised when they finally venture to the track for Street Night only to be prevented from running because their car doesn't meet the safety requirements for its e.t. range. Sure, they might get a chance to make one bonsai run, but the minute word gets to track officials that they've run below the e.t. or speed limits for needing a rollbar or rollcage (minimum eight points for each), you can bet those people will be spectating the rest of the night. Why limit their fun? As we aim to prove with our project, street cars don't lose their cool just because a rollcage has been installed.
Here's a quick surface breakdown of the NHRA's rules on rollbars and rollcages for hardtops and convertibles. It's important to note that while the landing locations for the side/door tubes of a rollbar constitute two of its eight points, they aren't considered actual points of a rollcage. The landing positions of the rear struts, main hoop, subframe struts from the main hoop to the frame connectors, and 'cage side bars are the eight points. You can reference the following information to get an idea of what your street Mustang needs, but we also recommend you consult an NHRA rulebook to find out everything that's necessary for making your ultraquick street car ready to race at the track:
For hardtop and T-top Mustangs with unmodified firewall or floor
10.00 to 11.49-NHRA-approved rollbar
9.99 or quicker-NHRA-certified rollcage
135 mph or faster-NHRA-certified rollcage
For convertible Mustangs with unmodified firewall and floors
11.00 to 13.49-NHRA-approved rollbar
10.00 to 10.99-NHRA-approved rollcage
9.99 or quicker-NHRA-certified rollcage
135 mph or faster-NHRA-certified rollcage
Rollcage requirements are the type and thickness of metal, the number of bars and their placement in the car, and so on. They can be much more elaborate as e.t. gets lower and speed increases. There are ways to make this type of equipment look as stylish as possible, but the ultimate goal is safety, so don't be obsessed with how it looks. Its construction is what's crucial, so make sure the rollbar or 'cage in your Mustang is made of the right stuff and has been installed properly before you set out to break speed records.
Call it optimistic thinking, but we thought it would be cool to have our coupe's rollcage certified by an NHRA tech inspector; he actually made a house call and checked out the 'Stang right in our driveway. A 'cage technically doesn't require certification if the car doesn't run quicker than 9.99. While our 'Stang is outfitted with the right stuff for reaching the nines, it hasn't been proven yet. Inspectors use ultrasonic testers to measure wall thickness of each tube in the rollcage. Our bars range between 0.138- and 0.140-inch. A Mustang's unibody construction requires inspectors to check for the 6x6-inch (0.125-inch thick) steel plates that must be welded to the floorpan to support the landing points for each bar. Everything checked out fine for us, and the 'cage passed inspection with flying colors. The total cost was $125.
This is an up-close look at a coveted NHRA chassis-certification. Per this sticker, our coupe's chassis has been deemed safe enough to run e.t.'s of 8.50 and slower for the next three years.
Protective padding like this is a must for any street/strip 'Stang that sports a rollbar or a full 'cage. Adding pads on the doorbars along the A-pillar bars and in the area above the head on the main hoop will hopefully keep bruising or other serious injury to a minimum in the event of a hard contact with something. We purchased this high-density, half-cut padding from Day Motor Sports (PN RB-65162; $11.99 per 36-inch length). It's easy to install and features an adhesive strip on the back of each pad, which is used to secure the padding into position. In our opinion, it looks much cleaner than the Styrofoam sleeves that are commonly used.
Fire prevention is another important aspect of safety that should never be overlooked. We're impressed with H3R Performance's HalGuard series of fire extinguishers and installed an HG250C on the T-top support tubes of the rollcage. HalGuard utilizes an electrically non-conductive, clean extinguishing agent that rapidly turns into a gas to knock down flames, and the extinguisher won't leave impossible-to-clean residue all over our 'Stang if it's ever called into service. Check out the trick, 1 5/8-inch rollcage mount for it. This brushed-aluminum piece features a single-pin, quick-release that makes grabbing it from the mount quick-and-easy in the event of a fire emergency.