Maximum Motorsports NHRA-Legal 2011 Mustang Cage Install

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The Mustang is one of the most popular and highly customizable cars on the street as the “modular” design of this car has allowed many aftermarket companies to design bolt-on parts. This modular setup allows owners an option of installing performance components at home with little to no specialized tools or experience needed. The bolt-on component craze for the Mustang started with the Fox body due to their enthusiast-minded assembly and has continued on with the SN95 (1994-2004) and the S197 (2005-present) models.

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There are numerous performance upgrades that can be performed by the average user such as nitrous systems, centrifugal supercharger systems and even a potent twin turbocharged intercooled system. With an abundance of performance systems available, it’s quite easy to turn a bone stock Mustang into a 600 to 700-plus horsepower monster with very little effort. Of course the suspension package on these cars is easily modified as well to improve performance and looks.

With Project Wild E. Coyote, we were already pushing the legality bounds at the track with our previous supercharged combination. Now that we have upped the ante with a fully built Coyote and JPC Racing single turbo kit, a roll cage was a requirement to run fast.

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A bolt in roll bar allows the owner to powder coat the roll bar prior to final assembly. This not only adds an ultra-tough coating to the roll bar, it gives the owner an opportunity to add color to the interior of the car.

With all of these bolt-on performance and suspension components available for the Mustang it’s only logical that there are bolt-in roll bar systems available to make the car safer and compliant at the race track. This is where Maximum Motorsports comes into the equation with their bolt-in roll bar assembly for the Fox, SN95 and S197 Mustangs. We spoke with Chuck Schwynoch, the CEO of Maximum Motorsports to get the down low on their bolt-in roll bar kits for late model Mustangs as we embarked on a project to install one of their kits in one of our in-house Mustangs.

The Roll Bar Kit At A Glance

The Maximum Motorsports bolt-in roll bar assembly can be installed within eight hours by most owners with no specialized tools needed for the installation. The selling point of the cage is that it can be entirely removed from the vehicle, while leaving very little trace of the installation if the owner should choose to change directions in the future.  Maximum Motorsports also offers an EZ-Remove door bar kit that still meets NHRA requirements. According to Chuck Schwynoch, “The EZ-Remove door bar option can be added to any kit that does not already include it and it can also be retrofitted into any previously installed MM 6-point roll bar if you change your mind down the road”.

Another advantage to a bolt-in roll bar assembly is the ability to paint the finished assembly. A roll bar that’s welded inside of a car must be painted inside the car, which requires a lot of preparation and masking to prevent over spray. A bolt-in roll bar assembly, however, can easily be removed from the car and taken to a paint shop or powder coating facility for added customization to your ride. All of this can be done without grinding or painting inside of your car.

Maximum Motorsports' 2005+ Mustang Kits

Maximum Motorsports offers a wide selection of bolt-in roll bars for the 2005 and later Mustangs that are intended to meet the needs of virtually any late model Mustang owner.  If you plan on racing your car, then you should check out their Drag Race 6-point roll bars that meet NHRA guidelines, like the kit we installed within this article. 

Maximum Motorsports also offers a Street/Strip and Sport version of their roll that makes it easier to gain access to the rear of the vehicle.  The sport version is a 4-point roll bar which is primarily intended for the show car or autocross crowd since it does not offer the protection of the 6-point roll bar.  It is important to note that the Street/Strip roll bar will not meet the NHRA requirements since the horizontal harness mount bar is a bolt-in design, whereas it must be welded into place per NHRA requirements. We opted for the E-Z Remove door bars over the standard door bar that is welded to the 6″ x 6″ floor mounting plate at the forward most point in the car since it offer greater ease into the car when you are on the street.

A roll bar is a good investment for any performance street or strip car since it provides much needed safety to the occupant in the event of a roll over. Many sanctioning bodies require a roll bar on cars at the race track exceeding specific elapsed time or speed barriers, especially if the car is a convertible. The added benefit of installing a roll bar is the rigidity it adds to the car, which helps to eliminate twisting or flexing during launch.

Within this article we are going to describe the installation process for the Maximum Motorsports bolt-in roll bar as we walk you through the process on StangTV’s project car, also known as Wild E Coyote.

NHRA Roll Bar Rule Overview

As Schwynoch shares with us, “A roll bar provides a significant increase in safety for the car’s occupants in the event of an accident. The NHRA and the NMRA, who generally follow NHRA rules, requires a roll bar at certain specific elapsed times, with a different elapsed time standard for hardtops versus convertibles. That elapsed time marker also sometimes changes, as the NHRA evaluates their safety program.” The NHRA currently requires a roll bar for cars running quicker than an 11.49 elapsed time in the ¼ mile or a convertible car running 13.49 or quicker. While these elapsed time regulations can change, it’s important to note that these regulations are in place for your safety at the race track.

During the development of the Maximum Motorsports bolt-in roll bar, they worked directly with the NHRA to ensure their design met or exceeded the NHRA requirements for a vehicle in the 11.49 or quicker elapsed time bracket. That’s pretty good reassurance that when you tech your car in at the track, there won’t be any issues since the Maximum Motorsports bolt-in cage is designed specifically for this purpose.

Maximum Motorsports worked with the NHRA to ensure the materials and processes used meets or exceeds their guidelines.   Image: NHRA

Maximum Motorsports worked with the NHRA to ensure the materials and processes used meets or exceeds their guidelines. Image: NHRA

The NHRA has defined the minimum requirements of roll bar tubing as 1¾-inch tubing with a wall thickness of 0.118-inch for mild steel and 0.083-inch 4130 chromoly tubing. Maximum Motorsports uses 1 ¾”-inch DOM tubing with a 0.134-inch wall thickness to ensure that the tubing will always be within spec, even if they get variations in their raw material delivery.

The NHRA rules also state that the roll bar must be installed on 6-inch square steel plates that are securely bolted to the floor on uni-body cars. The Maximum Motorsports roll bar uses a fabricated steel support bracket for the main hoop and 6-inch square steel plates with a backing plate on the underside of the car for the front and rear support tubes. We will discuss the construction of these plates later within this article.

Construction

A roll bar provides a significant increase in safety for the car’s occupants in the event of an accident. – Chuck Schwynoch

Maximum Motorsports starts out with 1 ¾-inch DOM 0.134-inch mild steel tubing that is bent and checked on their assembly jig to ensure a consistent and precise fit. Each roll bar starts out with the construction of the main hoop and the remaining components are fabricated from this reference point. The roll bar is fully mig-welded, with the exception of the rear support bars, which are removed for the purpose of shipping.

Once the main hoop is welded to the floor support plates in the fixture, the horizontal support tube is welded into place. Maximum Motorsports uses a 1 ½-inch diameter tube with a 0.134-inch wall thickness for this tube, which greatly exceeds the NHRA specification. This is the tube where the five-point seat belt harness will be attached at the upper mounting point, so the extra rigidity is beneficial.

Because the NHRA rulebook allows the use of removable door bars, this has enabled the team at Maximum Motorsports to offer a removable door bar option that not only improves the ingress into the vehicle, it helps to reduce the box size for shipping which ultimately saves you money.

The roll bar is fabricated on an assembly jig at Maximum Motorsports to ensure the roll bar will fit perfectly during installation.

The roll bar is fabricated on an assembly jig at Maximum Motorsports to ensure the roll bar will fit perfectly during installation.

Maximum Motorsports uses a machined stud that’s welded to the main hoop which is used during the installation process to align the rear support tubes. These rear support tubes are initially bolted in place for mock-up purposes until they can be fully welded by the customer. The assembled cage can be removed from the car so no welding or grinding has to take place inside the vehicle.

“We invested in building precise, robust fixtures that are durable for many years of use,” explains Schwynoch. “That allows us to mass produce all of the parts that are used to build the roll bar, reducing the cost compared to one-off custom work.”

Mockup Installation

Maximum Motorsports has created some of the most detailed assembly instructions that we have ever seen. The highly detailed instructions show you in a step-by-step process how to remove the components in preparation for the install and every step along the installation.

The front and rear seats were removed from our 2011 project car in order to make room during the roll bar installation.

The front and rear seats were removed from our 2011 project car in order to make room during the roll bar installation.

The first step in roll-bar installation process is the removal of the seats, rolling up the carpet and some of the interior trim panels. All of the procedures are detailed within the manual so it is beneficial to take your time to make sure nothing is damage during this step in the process.

The Maximum Motorsports roll bar mounts to a new formed frame support, so the factory support must be removed. The instructions show how this frame support is removed and also illustrates a few tips and tricks along the way to make the installation simple and straightforward. We chose to spray paint the new support braces prior to installation. While you won’t see this brace after the installation is complete, it is reassuring to know that it’s not going to rust.

The factory frame support brace is shown on the left and the fabricated brace from Maximum Motorsports is shown on the right. The main hoop for the roll bar bolts to the Maximum Motorsports brace.

Once the frame support braces have been installed on both sides, torque the mounting hardware using the specifications listed within the assembly instructions. While it isn’t required, we would recommend using a medium strength thread locker such as Loctite on these bolts to prevent the bolts from loosening over time.

The rear support tubes slide over a spud that is welded to the main hoop of the roll bar.  The rear bars must be initially bolted to the main hoop.

The rear support tubes slide over a spud that is welded to the main hoop of the roll bar. The rear bars must be initially bolted to the main hoop.

The rear support tubes can be attached to the main hoop temporarily while the roll bar is placed into the car. It would be beneficial to have a second helping hand during this step to prevent your car from being accidentally scratched or damaged during the installation. Once the roll bar assembly is placed into the car, the hardware for the main hoop supporting brackets can be installed to align the roll bar to the frame support braces. At this point in time, the main hoop mounting hardware should only be hand tightened since we are mocking up the other support bars.

The rear support tubes should now be aligned with the wheel tubs so the bolt holes can be transferred to the car. Since the rear support tubes bolt from the underside of the car, is would be advisable to use a center punch to transfer the holes to the sheet metal. Once the hole locations are marked, you can drill the hole for the rear support tubes in the wheel tub. With the holes drilled in the rear wheel tubs, you can have a friend mark the doubler steel plate as you hold it up in the rear wheel well. The instructions clearly illustrate this procedure.

The rear support tube backing plates install in the rear wheel well of the car.  The bolts are installed from the wheel well area and tighten into a weld nut on the roll bar support tube.

The rear support tube backing plates install in the rear wheel well of the car. The bolts are installed from the wheel well area and tighten into a weld nut on the roll bar support tube.

At this point in time, the rear support bars are finished and you can move onto the front door bars. During this step, you should proceed with caution since there are fuel and brake lines directly under the driver’s side door bar mounting plate, so extra care should be taken to avoid drilling through these lines. A steel plate can be used between the bottom of the floor and the lines to prevent accidental damage when drilling during this step.

Once the door bar holes have been drilled, the backing plates can once again be installed. The door bar backing plates are formed to the floor and are already pre-drilled so the installation is straightforward. It’s important to follow the instructions during this step since there is hose protection added to the brake and fuel lines to prevent damage from chaffing the head of the bolt once the assembly is bolted down.

As you may have guessed, there is some cutting required of the factory interior panels to allow for the roll bar inside the car. The side panels just behind the front door latches and the rearward section of that same panel along the edges of the rear seats require some cutting. If you think you may return the car to stock at some point, purchasing an extra set of panels might be a wise move. Fortunately, if you do all of this work by the book, the modifications are virtually undetectable once the interior and the roll bar are complete.

The final section of the mock-up installation is related to the modifications necessary to the plastic interior panels so they fit around the roll bar tubing. The instructions clearly define all of the steps required to modify the panels and even includes some tips and tricks to ensure the interior panels are cut correctly the first time. If you plan on selling the car in the future without a roll cage, it might be worthwhile to purchase replacement interior panels for your car so it can be returned to stock appearance with little effort.

A small section of plastic tubing is placed over the rear support spud to locate the proper placement of the hole in the plastic side panel.

A small section of plastic tubing is placed over the rear support spud to locate the proper placement of the hole in the plastic side panel.

Since the rear support tubes are bolted to the main hoop, their alignment is already set, so the welding can be finalized by a welder at their shop. The roll-bar does not have to be in the car for this step, which eliminates any potential welding sparks and debris from getting into your car. If you don’t have the equipment and expertise to handle this step, take the roll-bar assembly to an experienced welder where the final welds can be made.

With the mockup of the roll-bar is complete, we took the opportunity to paint the roll bar since it is shipped from Maximum Motorsports un-painted. We chose to paint the roll bar black using spray paint, but if you have the money, powder coating would go a long way to create a durable and attractive finish that will last for many years to come.

Final Installation

The final installation is straightforward as long as you follow the steps outlined in the instruction manual. We would recommend using a medium strength thread locker on the bolts to prevent them from loosening over time. The bolts for the main hoop should be installed first, but they should not be fully tightened until all of the mounting bolts have been installed.

We opted for the EZ-Remove door bars on our 2011 Mustang. The door bars can be totally removed from the car by simply taking out two bolts.  This is a nice feature for cars that are regularly driven on the street.

We opted for the EZ-Remove door bars on our 2011 Mustang. The door bars can be totally removed from the car by simply taking out two bolts. This is a nice feature for cars that are regularly driven on the street.

The rear support tubes can now be bolted to the rear wheel tubs of the car. The rear support tube brackets have weld nuts on the inside of the car, so the bolts must be installed from the outside of the car. Again, it isn’t necessary to fully tighten the hardware until all of the roll-bar hardware has been installed.

The forward support door tubes can now be installed in the car to ensure all of the mounting locations are correct. Once the door tubes are installed the main hoop can be bolted to the frame supports and torqued according to the specifications outlined in the instruction manual. The rear support tubes can also be tightened at this point in time. We would recommend at this point removing the door tubes so the front and rear seats can be reinstalled in the car. Once the seats and interior are re-installed, the door support tubes can be fully tightened according to the specs defined in the installation manual. It’s important to double check your work to make sure no bolts were missed during this step. Simply marking the head of the bolt as you torque them down is a quick and easy way to ensure that you have tightened all of the hardware according to specifications.

The Maximum Motorsports bolt-in roll bar looks right at home in our Project Car Wild E. Coyote.

The Maximum Motorsports bolt-in roll bar looks right at home in our Project Car Wild E. Coyote.

The roll bar fits quite nicely with the interior of the car, and in a lot of ways, looks as though it came installed from the factory. A very clean look and fit-form finish from front to back.

The Maximum Motorsports bolt-in roll bar can typically be installed in a day by an average mechanic using your more basic tools. This is very fast considering the cost and complexity of having a custom roll bar made by a chassis shop. The Maximum Motorsports bolt-in roll bar is a much cleaner installation since you don’t have to grind and weld inside your pristine ride and it allows you the freedom to later remove it if you so choose. But above all, it provides an added degree of safety, whether you’re at the track or on the street.

 

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