By Greg Acosta
Photos Courtesy of Power by the Hour
In our world of high-performance, there are some things that don’t get the recognition they deserve. Generally, safety equipment isn’t flashy; it doesn’t make the car faster, and is something that can hinder the cars drivability on the street. Unfortunately, that means that the first time some people think about safety equipment is when they get bounced out of tech, or shown the boot after making a too-of-a-quick pass down the dragstrip. Fortunately, Maximum Motorsports understands the market and makes a roll bar that isn’t just safe and effective, but also looks darn good, and does its best at not being a hindrance on the street. They have been making roll bars for Mustangs for a long, long time, so it only makes sense that they have it down to an art.
Safety on the Street
First, let’s outline the differences between a roll bar and a roll cage. A roll bar is essentially the back half of a roll cage, with no roof or A-pillar bars forward of the B-pillar. It consists of a main hoop, and two rear hoop supports. There are a variety of enthusiasts who recognize the benefit of having a roll bar in their car, and as such, Maximum Motorsports makes four different base models of roll bar. Starting with the most basic model, the “Street” model is a four point design, which provides additional rollover protection and plenty of access to the rear seat. The “Sport” model adds a harness bar for you to attach a 5-point harness to. “The Street/Strip” is the same as a “Street” model (no harness bar), but with two door bars that extend down into the footwell, giving you the protection of a door bar, but with easy access to the rear seat. However, none of those three models are legal for competition use, which brings us to the “Drag Race” model, which meets NHRA and NMRA requirements for any 2007 and older vehicle going 11.49 seconds to 10.00 seconds, and for any convertible running 13.49 or quicker (Full roll bar specifications can be found in the NHRA rulebook– General Regulations. The “Drag Race” model features a four-point hoop with a non-removable harness crossbar and two door bars. Per the rules, the doorbars are offered in the standard fixed configuration or with “swing out” style bars (or Maximum’s new E-Z Remove bars, which we’ll cover more later in the article) to aid in the ease of entering and exiting the vehicle.
The Nuts and Bolts
Maximum Motorsports’ Drag Race roll bar has a host of features that make it such a popular choice among Mustang owners. One of the biggest is that it’s designed to work with the stock interior, with only a minimum of trimming required. All of the tubes used in the construction of the roll bar are 1.75-inch diameter, .134-inch-wall DOM mild steel tubing except for the harness tube, which is 1.5-inch diameter, .134-wall tube – both of which exceed the minimum size requirement set forth in the NHRA regs. The roll bar uses 6-inch by 6 inch mounting pads and backing plates along with Grade 5 or higher fasteners, which allows for extremely-secure bolt-in mounting. In fact, the only welding required in the kit, is the rear braces to the main hoop, which are left unwelded for ease of shipping. Once the roll bar is assembled in the car, it can be removed as one piece for painting or powdercoating, as the kit is shipped in an uncoated state.
With the installation of a roll-bar, generally comes a set of multi-point harnesses. NHRA regs require that any car needing a roll bar or roll cage needs SFI-certified restraints as well. RaceQuip offers a wide variety of SFI-approved restraint systems in five- and six-point varieties, with both latch and link and camlock latch styles. In latch and link, RaceQuip offers an impressive nine different colors – including camouflage – and three colors in five-point camlock belts and six colors in six-point camlocks. Basically, they have pretty much anything you might want when it comes to getting your new SFI restraints.
We got in touch with Power By The Hour Performance down in Boynton Beach, Florida, and followed along as they performed the installation of the Drag Racing spec roll bar into an S197 to make it 10.0-legal. “Maximum does a great job with detailed instructions and hardware packs. The rest is really about measuring twice to cut once,” said Frank Perdomo, of Power By The Hour. “With the right tools this is a weekend job you can do in the driveway. You will need welding capabilities [for the rear supports] which might hinder some DIY guys. However, Maximum makes it easier by putting a bolt hole on the rear legs so you can place it, then tighten the bolt, which allows you to remove the bar and weld it up outside of the car.”
Inside the car, Maximum includes some fabricated B-pillar gussets which are direct replacements for the sheetmetal factory units, providing an extra layer of strength where the base of the main hoop attaches to the car. “[The seam sealer on the factory gussets] was a bit of a struggle,” Perdomo said. “We used a knife to make a cut where the sealer needed to be removed then the chisel to forcibly remove it.” Up front, the S197 version of the Maximum roll bar doesn’t offer traditional swingouts, but rather their innovative new EZ-Remove door bar system. Perdomo explained, “Swingouts would be convenient, but it’s not much work to get [the EZ-Remove] bars out. They are super secure and with the way they install, they are a lot stronger when installed than a swingout. All you need to do is keep two wrenches with you when you go to the track, so that you can pop the bars off when you’re done for the night.”
With the roll bar powdercoated, and the final installation completed, normally the last thing to do would be to install the 5-point harnesses. However, in this instance, the customer opted to retain the stock restraints. “Stock belts are still capable in this case,” explained Perdomo. “For a real safety upgrade going with a 5-point harness properly mounted and run through the seat would really help with safety. I would also consider a seat back brace for any composite or aluminum seat. For a street guy that’s usually not in the cards for comfort, so at minimum get a good set of belts when the time comes.”
When all was said and done, this slick S197 is not only going to be stiffer and safer on the dragstrip, it’s also going to be turning heads, thanks to the custom powdercoat and near-factory fit of the Maximum Motorsports Drag Racing roll bar.
Power By The Hour Performance