This is where we defy the misconceptions and show how to make an S197 Mustang into a corner-carving track car. We are going to cover the pros and cons of Panhard Bars vs Watts Links, and go through the entire suspension with Steeda, picking the least expensive way to make our car fun to drive and competent on track.
Over the past 30 years, Steeda’s production-based equipped vehicles have won more championships, set more track records, and won more races than all of their competitors combined (including Shelby, Roush, and Saleen). Racing and performance is at the core of Steeda’s DNA and they are committed to providing the best customer service and highest quality parts on the market.
Taking my experience winning more professional races in the S197 Mustang chassis than any other driver (apparently the FIA does not recognize the SCCA), and competing in everything from the FR500C, FR500S, BOSS 302R, and BOSS 302S; I worked with Steeda to put together what I feel is one of the least expensive ways to make the Mustang extremely reliable, fast, and fun to drive for the beginner on up to what I would enjoy lapping for an entire day. It was also important to make sure the car was still comfortable as a daily driver and not turned into a compromised “racecar for the street”.
PANHARD BAR VS WATTS-LINK
The first thing to address is the age-old debate between the Panhard Bar (PHB) vs Watts Link (WL). While they both locate the solid axle laterally when cornering, each layout has their own inherent strengths and weaknesses. I am going to limit discussing “theory” and focus on how S197-specific products effect the S197 platform.
The S197 Mustang’s 3-link rear suspension comes from the factory with a PHB (left). Aftermarket WL’s (right) are far more complex, heavier, and use two arms that are roughly half the length of the factory PHB, which are then bolted to a bell-crank that is either mounted to a beefy aftermarket rear diff cover, or to a tubular sub-structure that is bolted to the rear of the car.
Feel free to read though all of the ensuing technical analysis of PHB vs WL, or skip ahead to PAGE 4 to see the install.
PANHARD BAR (Positives):
-Less expensive. $160-260 vs $810-1,300
-Light weight. Lowest weight and unsprung weight option.
-Roll center moves ½ the distance of the Center of Gravity with suspension travel.
-Roll centers can be easily lowered ½-1” by drilling a new hole.
PANHARD BAR (Negatives):
-Rear axle moves less than 0.1” laterally in the normal suspension travel range – (not significant).
-Rear axle moves less than 0.2” laterally from full droop to full compression travel – (not significant).
-Asymmetric roll center migration in roll left to right. Left turns lowers RC, right turns raises RC.
WATTS LINK (Positives):
- Zero lateral movement of the axle with suspension travel.
- Symmetric roll center migration in roll left to right.
- Roll centers may be fairly easy to adjust depending on design.
WATTS LINK (Negatives)
- More expensive.
- Heavy. Increased sprung & unsprung weight.
- Often raises the rear roll center even at its lowest setting – reducing rear grip. (Depending on design).
- Often reduces suspension travel due to links binding. (Depending on design).
- Often requires stiffer rear springs – reducing rear grip. (Depending on design).
- WL is Axle-Mounted = Roll Center is fixed to the ground, causing rear roll moment & roll resistance (distance from Roll Center to Center of Gravity) to change with ride height. = Roll stiffness variation 2X that of a PHB. OR:
- WL is Chassis-Mounted = Roll Center stays at a constant distance (constant roll moment) to the Center of Gravity, but these are significantly heavier both from a sprung and unsprung standpoint.
Page 1 – Panhard Bar vs Watts Link Pros & Cons
Page 2 – Analysis: Panhard Bar Geometry vs Watts Link
Page 3 – Overview & Front S197 Geometry vs Extended Ball Joint LCA
Page 4 – Front LCA Removal
Page 5 – Front LCA Install
Page 6 – Rear Axle Weight Removal
Page 7 – Rear Lower Control Arm & Panhard Bar Install