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Safe & Sound: Part 1 Rollcage Install
Part 1: Our Amsoil SEMA Stang gets an S&W Race Cars 10-point rollcage on its way to being 9-second legal.
Modding your Mustang is fun and easy to do over a long period of time, shaving a tenth here and there—until you hit the legal limit on track. Over the past two years, we’ve transformed our Amsoil SEMA Mustang from a stock GT to an all-out street/strip warrior. We started shaving weight here, adding power there, and before we knew it, we were running 9s.
When we did the initial build, we installed a bolt-in six-point rollbar from Maximum Motorsports, making it legal to 10.0. Recently, after switching to ported heads and cams, we cracked into the 9s with a best of 9.84 at 139 mph. We were scolded and told to either slow down or install a ’cage. Since we want to continue going quicker, we’re installing a rollcage.
If there’s one thing that guys and gals don’t want to do to their cars, it’s make a modification that’s irreversible—especially one that is intrusive and intense to install. Granted, rollcages aren’t completely irreversible, but it’s almost as tough to remove one as it is to install one. Nevermind how difficult it makes entry and exit. And with a ’cage, your car looks like a race car, raising the expectations of onlookers, friends, and fellow racers.
You can’t have the best of both worlds. If you want to go fast, then you need to follow the rules. What rules, you say? Well, since most quarter-mile race tracks (and eighth-mile tracks, as well) follow the rules of the NHRA or IHRA, then you must follow them as well. Founded in 1951 by then-editor of Hot Rod magazine Wally Parks, the National Hot Rod Association legitimized drag racing.
Since there are strict rules to follow when going quicker than 10.0 (6.39 in the eighth-mile), care must be taken when installing a rollcage. Many take their car to a local performance shop or reputable chassis shop. This is a great option but can be very expensive. The other option is to tackle the installation yourself.
Obviously, things like a tubing bender, a tubing notcher, and a TIG welder aren’t tools most of us have laying around in our attached garage. Ordering a bunch of tubing from a local metal supplier and tackling this job in a weekend isn’t a likely scenario. And for those who rely on their Stang as daily transportation, being out of commission for more than a couple of days just isn’t an option. There is a better way.
Many companies, like S&W Race Cars, offer pre-bent rollcage kits for almost any car or truck, and many offer a few options. The main choice is the material of tubing—mild steel or chrome-moly. There are three main differences between chrome-moly (or chromoly) and mild steel. The first difference is weight. Chromoly is much stronger than mild steel, requiring less material (thinner wall) to be effective, making it lighter. Another major difference are the welding requirements—chromoly requires TIG welding, while mild steel can be MIG welded, according to the NHRA rulebook. The last major difference is price—chromoly is usually more than twice the cost of mild steel.
Since a MIG welder is much more forgiving and easier to access, mild steel is a good way to go if you’re installing your own ’cage. But if you have a TIG welder and a very capable person to use it, then chromoly is a better choice. Thankfully, we have both: Lincoln Electric supplied us with one of its TIG175 Square Wave welders, and our good friend John Guerriero is a seasoned welder and chassis builder, having owned Chassis Connection in New York before opening his own aquarium business in Florida.
We turned to S&W Race Cars for a chromoly version of its ’05-up rollcage. Priced at $649.95 (PN 11-3574TD-CM), this weld-in 10-point ’cage is pre-bent and pre-notched. A few additional notches must be made, but the majority are already made by S&W. It even comes with 6x6-inch plates that the NHRA requires.
Since chromoly is stronger than mild steel, the tubing is only 15⁄8-inch in diameter with 0.083-inch wall thickness. The heavier mild steel tubing (PN 11-3574TD; $289.95), by comparison, is 13⁄4-inch diameter and has a 0.120-inch wall thickness. The difference in weight between the two ’cages is between 35 and 40 pounds, according to our contact at S&W. So we’re taking advantage of the weight savings.
On that subject, we’re taking the opportunity to shed more weight. We decided to remove the A/C system completely, gut the dash, and scrape away the sound-deadening material. We’re also considering switching over to manual brakes, but we haven’t pulled the trigger on that one yet.
Either way, follow us over the next couple of months as we install the rollcage and lighten our Amsoil SEMA Stang.
You can’t have the best of both worlds. If you want to go fast, then you need to follow the rules.
S&W Race Cars