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From digest.v7.n1104 Tue Feb 10 00:24:14 1998
From: Duane Collie <>
Date: Mon, 09 Feb 1998 22:57:05 -0500
Subject: Harnesses and Bars

>From: Jim Ochi <jochi_at_firstfloor.COM>
>Date: Mon, 09 Feb 1998 13:10:05 -0800
>Subject: <E36> Harness Bar?
>Does anyone have any experience with the European Autosports harness bar
>kit? I guess I have two questions about it. One, how easy is it to
>install/remove? Two, how sturdy is it - do I fasten the shoulder straps
>around the bar, or do I have to run the straps over the bar and bolt them
>to the floor? I'd like to add harnesses to my E36 M3 for autocrossing and
>driving schools, but I'd like to be able to remove them easily when I don't
>need them. Also, I'd like to do this in the safest, but lowest-impact
>method (I don't want to drill any holes or cut anything if possible). The
>European Autosports kit seems to offer this, and in addition would give me
>a secure video camera mount, so it seems like it may be the way to go. Any
>pros or cons that you may have would be appreciated.


This is a real mixed bag. You really need to figure out how SAFE you want to be before you install any harness and bar systems as its all a trade off. For autocross and low-impact Driver's School (if you are merely slightly-rabid), consider the 2" Schroth Ralleye 4 harness which is very non-invasive and does a real good job of holding you securely in the seat. Its also has a non-invasive mounting system. You can get these new from HMS Motorsport for about $ 160 a seat. Skip the Harness bar with this system.

Harness bars are designed to work with wrap-around 3" Competition belts. A couple of problems with harness bars....yes you can remove them but its not all THAT easy. You'll probably leave it hooked up. Harness bars (and rollbars) are deadly to rear seat passengers in a collision if your passengers are not securely buckled up and even then they should be well padded. You still need mounts for the lap portion of your 3" Competition belt, even thought the top is wrapped around the bar and guide slots. The best and proper mounts require you to drill into the car floorboard, two per side for the lap belts. The Harness bar is a convenience item, not a safety item.

Now, if you are a RABID Driver and are into pushing your M3 hard on the course, you should skip the harness bar and get a rollbar. A rollbar can save your life whereas all the harness bar (with camera) can do is video tape the roof collapse around your head for your next of kin. Would make a great short film for your wake! Remember that once you upgrade your belts, you can no longer be forced to 'slide' sideways out of them in a crash as you can with street belts. A harness holds you FIRM in the seat and your neck becomes the fulcrum point if you roll the car. Necks don't do to well at this (biologically underengineered). I've seen the roof structure of my M3 when we replaced the roof of the car - there's not a lot there. A good rollbar is not much more invasive than a harness bar. Yes you have to drill holes (12) to install a roll + the belts holes. No big deal once you get the courage to Drill your $ 40K car full of holes.

A cage is even better, but at that point you cease having a street car. Tough Choices. Auto-X is not very dangerous, harness alone should do it as the point is to HOLD you still in the seat so you don't slide around on the hard, tight turns. When you get to track speeds however, the harness has a new job - to save your life in a collison. To that end they should really be used with a roll bar or cage, and a proper rigid (non-reclining) seat. One of the nightmares that can occur is to roll your car at speed with a competition harness and no roll bar. Lights out.

When I started Driver's Schools I had nothing more than a helmet and long sleeve T-shirt. As I keep watching car 'incidents' at these schools I have become a real believer in safety gear and now have everything the Club Racers have except the window net: SA95 Helmet, Rollbar, 3" Competition Belts, Fire Extinguisher, Helmet Collar, Nomex Suit, Gloves and Shoes. Rigid Driver's seat will be next (did you know the back of the stock recliner seats can break and collapse in a hard collision - decapitation from the roll bar diagonal is possible.)

Another quick tip for the track and harness crowd: Disconnect your airbag on the track IF you are running a harness. That way you won't blow your airbags if you hit the Armco barrier and can come away with a $ 1,500 bumper fix instead of a $ 4,000 job when the airbags blow (The E36 passenger side airbag has a nasty habit of blowing the windshield when it activates as well). To disconnect, pull up the rear seat, locate the airbag sensor, pull the sensor lead wire off. Your airbag fault light will glow but you can put a piece of tape over it for the day. Hook up your wire again before you drive home (Bob Stommel tip!).

As you can see, I'm not a harness bar supporter. They look nice, but a rollbar is WAY better and makes a hellva stiff strut support to boot.

Duane Collie
National Capital Chapter

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