Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
Project Smog-Legal Killer - Rollbar Installation and Mickey Thompson ET Rubber
Hooked Up and Rolled Out: With a Maximum Motorsports rollbar and plenty of Mickey Thompson rubber, we’re finally ready for a 10-second timeslip.
It's a scenario gearheads are all too familiar with: Person gets car and wants to go moderately fast, then gets bitten by the bug and wants to go faster and faster until, without realizing it, they've added a rollbar, big slicks, and constructed a serious beast far beyond what they ever imagined. Wrenching, driving, and hot rodding can be an evil thing (in the best kind of way). It's a tricky beast that tempts you with excess and rewards you for indulging. Maybe it's the thrill of a fast car or the zing of the chase, but building a fast Ford can be an addictive endeavor.
So it came as no surprise that one day we woke up and realized the Smog-Legal Killer was fast enough to warrant a rollbar. In what seemed like an instant, the old coupe went from a weathered hide to a respectably fast Fox-body. Lost in the pursuit of more power and better e.t.'s, we nearly forgot that with 10-second timeslips come mandatory safety precautions.
While some might balk at spending money on safety parts instead of go-fast bits, solid safety components are a wise investment for several good reasons. First, shutting down early or going through the traps on the brakes in order to avoid getting kicked off the track for running too fast without a rollbar sucks. Secondly, actually getting kicked out for running too fast because of improper safety equipment sucks even worse. And lastly, safety should always come first, because as much as we love the sport, investing in such hardware helps insure we'll enjoy it for years to come.
So with safety in mind we contacted Maximum Motorsports (MM) in search of a rollbar that would make us legal and also keep us safe. After some discussions with Jack Hidley, one of MM's best engineers, we decided on the six-point bolt-in Drag Race rollbar (PN MMRB-2) with an additional diagonal crossbar for even more strength. The beauty is not only NHRA legal, but it's designed to bolt into place.
Never one to cut any corners, Maximum Motorsports insured the bar was more than up to the task by constructing it out of 13⁄4-inch by 0.134-inch-wall DOM tubing for the utmost strength and rigidity—in case you were wondering, the NHRA rules only call for 0.118-inch ERW tubing. Even the harness bar is beefier than the NHRA regulations of 11⁄4-inch ERW, measuring a stout 11⁄2-inch by 0.134-inch thick.
Furthering the fortress are six 6-inch by 6-inch by 1⁄8-inch reinforced floorplates that mount to the rear fender wells, the floorpan just in front of the rear seat floors, and near the kick panels on the floorpan up front. These burly bits sandwich the floor and are secured in place with the supplied Grade 5 nuts and bolts.
We asked Hidley about the strength of the bolt-in plates and got an explanation that made our heads spin—about what you'd expect from an accomplished engineer. In street speak, the floorplates create enough friction between themselves that it's literally impossible to separate them and with a wide footprint you won't find them poking through the floorpan in a rollover crash either. In other words, you're in good hands ... or bars.
So you know the rollbar is beyond safe and highly engineered, but other noteworthy features include swing-out door bars that ease entering and exiting the car. The bars are also easily removed for street driving where the cage becomes virtually nonexistent. Never ones to miss a beat, Maximum Motorsports sends the rollbar in bare-metal form since welding a bar with powdercoat or paint adds several steps to the process.
Although the rear braces bolt to the main hoop, in order to remain NHRA-legal, they must be welded. While the bolts hold the bars in place and make them easy to weld, doing the duty inside the cockpit is highly unadvisable (aside from tack welding) since it's not only precarious at best, but interior bits are highly flammable. We had ours powdercoated semi-gloss black beforehand and simply grinded, welded, and then spray-painted the areas that needed the NHRA attention.
Since quality parts mean nothing without a proper install, we paid a visit to the West Coast Mustang gurus at AED in Shingle Springs, California, where brothers Drew and Greg Wallace helped make quick work of the install. Chances are good if a company makes a part, these guys have track-tested it, and the dynamic duo had the 'bar marked, welded, and mounted in nothing flat. There are shops that install parts and there are shops that install and track test the parts, AED falls into the latter group and thankfully has first-hand experience with what works and what doesn't.
Once the 'bar was installed it fit like a glove, but the installation procedure can take time and a fair amount of patience is needed for those unaccustomed to rollbar installs. Making sure everything is plumb before drilling holes is key, because once you've punched a hole, there's no turning back. And having to elongate holes or drilling another set as a result of improper measurements can quickly become your nightmare. Remember, measure twice, drill once!
The MM rollbar fits snugly around the interior so be mindful of the headliner and interior panels during the installation—be prepared for a tight fit. Taking your time is paramount, but you'll be happy you did, because the finished product looks factory-fresh.