Ford Falcon Panhard Bar

If you’re reading this, you probably know that leaf springs are not the most laterally rigid suspension pieces ever developed.  This is because nobody gave a shit about that on buckboards that were pulled by slow-ass horses.  At any rate, there are options here, which include the popular stiff bushings of polyurethane, aluminum, and brass or steel.  I’ve tried some of these in the past on Mustangs, and was not made so acutely aware of their effect/lack thereof, because I never had so little tire space in the wheel wells (1963 Ford Falcon, people)…  Moving on, you can also try leaf sliders in place of shackles.  These are all mostly crap, when you really want to keep that straight axle located laterally–just look at the Boss 302 Chassis Manual.  Your real location tools are the Panhard bar and the Watts link (both named after actual people).

To go off track for a moment, many people these days think that taking the pro-touring medicine of a three or four-link is the only way to tackle this problem, both of which, in good form, will make use of the Panhard or the Watts.  The crappy four-links will be the 80s/90s Mustang style with the angled upper links–these things just bind and create an improvement over leafs, but that’s not saying much.  Other four-links will be parallel and come with a Panhard, but it usually sucks, mounting to the top of the differential housing; this is okay for a Peterbilt, but not a light car, as the arc of the Panhard will move the axle at the wrong time (laterally).  Three links will usually have nicer lateral location, especially when they have a Watts, but this may just be overkill.

The leaf spring set up is fine, so long as it only has to move up and down.  A lateral location device allows and defines this, so long as your leaf bushings are compliant (read:  rubber).  Do your homework here, people–don’t be a victim of roll center contradiction.  Blah, blah, blah.  After doing my freaking homework, I was brought to what’s available for the Mustang:  the Fays2 Watts link (www.fays2.net) and Maier Racing’s (www.maierracing.com) adjustable Panhard bar.  Both have been talked up well among racers, so I felt confident in . . . doing more homework.  Necessarily, the Watts costs a bit more, and is more complicated–Jim Fays will reply to your questions personally, however, which is pretty cool (with a bit of copying and pasting).  I have a carburetor, so complicated is not my goal here, but function is…

After serious consideration, I came to some conclusions.  The Watts is probably better if you’ve got more up and down travel than I do, as it only allows for (strict) up and down movement–this is what they’ll tell you, anyway.  In reality, the Panhard really does not create much (if any, depending on your suspension travel) unwanted lateral movement, as many will attempt to contradict (see Walt Hane’s argument:  www.eps-hane.com).  The secret is the long and adjustable bar.  I have no argument against the theoretical symmetry of the Watts, but it is not necessary when you have a long Panhard and otherwise well-controlled rear suspension, as I do.  I chose Maier’s Adjustable Panhard bar, as it met my needs and desires.  It installed pretty easily (four hours or so), with a bit of straining, cursing, grinding, and welding, but here’s the thing:  It works awesomely!

With the bar installed, the rear of my car is now very predictable, and more precise than it ever was (or could be, without a Watts link).  I now have next to no inside tire rubbing, and the rear of the car is now much harder to break loose.  I drove the car harder than ever this morning for 40-50 miles, with heavy G-loading, and it was illegally fun!  What’s funny is this:  The Panhard has highlighted how bad my steering really is.  I wasn’t sure how much of an effect the (steering box) play had on my car’s tracking before (the play was minimal, but more than I realized) the bar was installed, but jesus, it was massive.  Suffice to say that Maier’s bar fits great, looks sweet, and even adds additional cross-bar rigidity between the flimsy rear frame rails–it is also infinitely adjustable for changing loads/ride heights/track situations.  The bar was worth every penny and cup of sweat, and now I’m awaiting a rack and pinion setup…

What would have been nice was this:  Finding someone else who had done this…  See pics below (yes, I need a better camera):

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