In the circles of hardcore road racing bench racers, there is often debate about the best device to control lateral axle control. Most will say a Panhard bar is great, but a Watt’s link is superior. That said, the Mustang suspension experts at Maximum Motorsports have long been supporters of the Panhard bar design.
In fact, the company offers a complete upgrade for Fox/SN-95 (PN MMPBA; $384.97) and New Edge Mustangs (PN MMPB99A; $389.97), which features a bolt-on mount and an adjustable rod. The company calls its Panhard upgrade the part that Ford forgot. It is said to tame the solid rear axles, improving cornering, and predictability while lowering the rear roll center.
Maximum also offers an adjustable rod upgrade (PN MM5PBAR-3; $159.95) for the factory 2005-2014 Mustang Panhard bar. It is not only more robust than the factory unit—particularly its spherical ends versus the factory rubber bushings—but its adjustability allows re-centering the rear axle on lowered S197s.
The amount of tire sidewall flex is many times greater than the movement from the Panhard Bar arc.—Chuck Schwynoch, Maximum Motorsports
To demonstrate that there are other variables that are more impactful than the movement of a Panhard bar, the company filmed its 1996 Mustang GT project car lapping the track while documenting the range of movement show by not only the suspension, but some parts you wouldn’t consider at first—the tires.
“The amount of tire sidewall flex is many times greater than the movement from the Panhard Bar arc, causing much more lateral movement of the rear of the car than does the Panhard Bar,” Chuck explained.
The Maximum video shows that the Panhard bar allows for about .079-inch of movement, which is more than a Watt’s link would allow. However, the real movement is seen in the tires. In hard cornering the sidewall moves as much as 1.75 inches, which would seem to make the slight difference in suspension movement a moot point.
According to Chuck, the lower roll center offered by the Panhard bar offers superior traction in a package that is more affordable to install. This is especially true on the S197 cars, where only the factory bar is in need of an upgrade. As such, the instances where a Watt’s link would be his top choice are extremely rare.
“Only if it’s a Watt’s link that provides a lower roll center than the MM Panhard bar,” he said. “That means it would be a lay-down design, mounted under the axle housing’s center section.”
So, if you are looking for an affordable way to shore up your Mustang’s handling, getting control of the solid axle with a Panhard rod looks like a pretty compelling option.