I decided to install an 8-point Rollbar System in Panther. I imagine your first question is WHY? You may ask, "Isn't the stock Packard strong enough in a collision?" The answer in my opinion is: usually, but sometimes not. The weak point is the doors, particularly on a 2dr HT whose door is longer than a 4dr and it doesn't have a full "B" pillar. So, if one gets "T-boned" in an accident right at the door, the only thing keeping that offending vehicle's nose out of the passenger compartment is a 0.0629" skin panel, an interior door frame, glass and a regulator! Starting in 1973, some goobermint agency mandated that all auto manufacturers start puting reinforcements inside the doors to protect against side impact. This was actually a good idea. I'll be putting thousands of miles on Panther and there are a lot of crazy, inattentive, drugged-up, drunk and just inept drivers out there. If Panther gets smacked, that's too bad, but I don't want to be affected.
An "8-point" rollbar system is NOT a "roll cage". It is a multi-triangulated main hoop rollbar with front and rear bars and two cross braces on the main hoop. This makes 8 points of contact with the floor or frame. In Panther's case, it is to the very sturdy T-L frame or body for the crossbrace. The door bars also pivot for ease of entry, but this is optional unless you like playing "Dukes of Hazard" upon entry and exit, which I don't.
The first challenge was which rollbar kit to get. Of course, no one makes one for a 1956 Packard (or any other year Packard). I found a kit that I thought might work and contacted the manufacturer, Competition Engineering, which is one of the best in the USA in this field. I asked their tech department for the dimensional specs on a kit which looked like it might work. It turned out to be nearly perfect for the Panther with one minor exception: the main hoop legs were too short for the height of the roof because the kit was actually for a Mustang! That was no problem, however, because we cut and the welder attached some extensions to the lower legs and now the height is correct. The width was perfect because the Packard T-L frame is more narrow than the body, which is supported on "outriggers". The Packard T-L frame happens to be almost exactly the width of the Mustang subframe! Here is a catalog picture of the kit (C-3025-K):
The next challenge was how to go through the substantial Packard floor material to the frame. It is possible to weld to the body, but because of my experience with race cars, I wanted to weld directly to the frame. Well, after looking at some Youtube vids, the answer was obvious: cut out the floor in that area and then weld it back when done! Here's an example in the front strut/down bar area:
The next challenge was that there was no where to weld the front downbars! The front outrigger was too far forward and the next one back was too far to the rear. So, we just fabricated a new outrigger in-between those two with an underlying angle gusset for strength and had the welder attach it to the frame at top and bottom just like the original outriggers. The rest was just cutting the end of the downbar to the correct angle and welding it in place. It is not going anywhere, even in a side impact.
The next challenge was the side doorbars. This car is a driver and needs to to have easy entry/exit. Competition Engineering make a pivoting doorbar kit for their roll bar kits. This is NOT recommended for a full-on race car, but is fine in a street car. The only critical part was making sure the pivot point at the front downbar was at about the same radius as the door pivot radius because the doorbar will be attached by lanyard to the door: Here are some pictures:
The "dip" in the door bar is to clear the armrest on the door panel. It will still protect the driver/passenger.
Here is the rear (6 points) of the rollbar looking from the passenger front to the driver rear:
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