Wayne Cook
December 1, 2009
Photos By: The Manufacturer

Rolling Stock Review
Tire Guide

Whether you're driving a classic Ford or a new Mustang, eventually you'll need to replace the tires. On a classic car our choice of tires seems to be just as important as our choice of shocks, antisway bars or other suspension upgrades. We've taken many a classic Mustang and replaced the stock 14x5 wheels and high-profile tires with a set of 16x8 (or larger) wheels shod with low-profile performance tires. The improvement in vehicle performance and handling is profound, and just with the wheels and tires, half the battle of getting your classic car to drive like a new car is won. Needless to say the wheel and tire selection can make or break the appearance of your project too.

On the modern side of the equation we're coming up to the point on our '06 Mustang GT where a new tire purchase is definitely on the horizon. Although there are many excellent tires designed to perform in ice and snow conditions, the car's Southern California location means that we won't be dealing with too much snow or winter weather. While having the proper winter tire for parts of the country that fall below 45-degrees during the winter months is important, we decided to confine the parameters of our discussion to tires designed to perform at their best in dry or wet and dry conditions.

Often it's hard to criticize the tire choice of the OEM. Naturally it wants its new offerings to perform at their best and on our Mustang GT the Pirelli tires have been excellent. Although there are more expensive and grippier tires out there, the P-Zero Nero tires have shown a good balance between cornering adhesion ability and tread life.

Always remember to buy a tire with the correct speed rating for your project. If you think that your Mustang will see 140 mph during the Silver State Classic then you'll need to select a tire that's rated safe beyond that 140mph speed. The following chart in our story's sidebar shows what rating is required. An S-rated tire is fine for your '63 260 V-8 Falcon, but higher-performing cars should have an H or V rating at a minimum. While every tire manufacturer out there is not included here due to space constraints, we think you'll find that this overview will expose you to some of the best choices available.

Deciphering Tire Sidewalls
When we select a tire, the series of letters and numbers on the sidewall tells us a lot about what we're getting for our money and exactly what the tire's capabilities are. After the tire size designation, the two most important things to look for are the service description and the uniform tire quality grade or UTQG.

Let's look at a new tire sized at P235/55RR17 98W. The first number in our code, 235, is the tread width in millimeters. The next number, 55, is called the aspect ratio. Here, sidewall height is expressed as a percentage of tread width. In this case it's 55 percent, or slightly more than half the width of the tread. The 17 tells you that it's made to fit a wheel 17-inches in diameter. The R stands for radial tire. The second set of values, 98W, is the tire's service description. The service description is divided into two parts, the load index and the speed rating. The load index for cars and light trucks ranges from 70 to 110. The load index table is as follows. Capacities shown are for a tire that is properly inflated.

Bridgestone Potenza RE760 Sport
The Potenza RE760 Sport is Bridgestone's ultra-high-performance summer tire developed for drivers of sports cars and performance sedans who want to maximize sport driving pleasure without sacrificing tread life. The Potenza RE760 Sport is designed to deliver sharp response along with traction in wet and dry conditions. However, like all summer tires, the Potenza RE760 Sport is not intended to be driven in near-freezing temperatures, through snow or on ice. Bridgestone's UNI-T Technology focuses on three primary tire components-the beads, casing, and tread-that influence overall performance by enhancing comfort, handling, and traction. The Potenza RE760 Sport molds an ultra-high-performance tread compound into an asymmetric tread design with a 3D center block to enhance dry traction and cornering ability. The tire's asymmetric internal structure includes a Computer Optimized Component System that combines two high-tensile steel belts reinforced by spirally wrapped nylon to stabilize the tread area, enhances handling, high-speed capability, and ride quality while minimizing weight. The tire's stiffer outer sidewall reinforcement enhances steering response and cornering stability.

Fitment Example
P235/45R17
Service Description: 94W
Price: $135
(800) 807-9555
www.bridgestone-firestone.com

BFGoodrich G Force T/A KDW
The BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KDW is billed as an ultra-high-performance summer tire developed to provide a blend of excellent dry and wet road performance. The BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KDW is available in most popular sizes. This tire is not intended to be driven in near-freezing temperatures or through snow or on ice. The design features large tread blocks to enhance dry road stability, handling, and wear under high cornering loads. The rounded shoulder profiles help provide feedback for the driver communicating the tire's progressive and predictable characteristics as they reach their limits of adhesion. The tire is made with a silica-reinforced tread compound. The directional tread design has wide circumferential and lateral grooves to speed water evacuation. This provides improved wet traction and reduces the risk of hydroplaning. This design is similar to the g-Force T/A radial racing rain tires used in the Sports Car Club of America Trans Am Series. Other construction features include twin steel belts reinforced by spirally wound nylon strips to provide excellent strength, consistent footprint pressure, and maximum contact area while reducing weight and enhancing ride quality. The g-Force T/A KDW tires feature "g-Control" sidewall inserts to resist deflection and generate cornering force while rim protector ribs help protect alloy wheels from curb damage.

Fitment Example
P245/45R17
Service Description: 95Y
Price: $132
(877) 788-8899
www.bfgoodrichtires.com

Continental Conti Sport Contact 3
Continental developed the Conti Sport Contact 3 for manufacturers and drivers of performance oriented cars. Consequently, the main characteristics of this high-tech tire are short braking distances, excellent handling, and increased safety on wet roads. For powerful, rear-wheel-drive sports cars, and for customizing requirements, the Continental portfolio includes an additional tread pattern option for each. The Conti Sport Contact 3 tire features an asymmetric design with solid tread blocks and a continuous rib on the outboard shoulder to improve responsiveness and cornering stability. Continuous intermediate ribs provide constant rubber-to-road contact to reduce noise and control the longitudinal forces experienced when braking. The circumferential tread grooves help disperse water to resist hydroplaning and their asymmetrically angled walls further stabilize the tread ribs, increasing steering precision and reducing deformation while cornering. The tire's design includes twin steel belts reinforced by nylon to stabilize the tread area and enhance handling as well as high-speed capability. The Conti Sport Contact 3 is available in a wide range of sizes and has OE approvals from well-known sports car manufacturers.

Fitment Example
P235/45R17
Service Description: 94W
Price: $171
(704) 588-5895
www.continentaltires.com

Dunlop SP Sport
Dunlop's SP Sport 01 and SP Sport 01A tires are ultra-high-performance summer tires for sports cars, coupes, and sedans. Dunlop's SP Sport 01 tires were designed to be multi-talented tires and were initially developed for Original Equipment use by leading automotive manufacturers to complement the latest in vehicle design and construction. SP Sport 01 and SP Sport 01A tires are not intended to be driven in near-freezing temperatures, through snow, or on ice.

On the outside, the Dunlop SP Sport 01 features a 100 percent Silica tread compound that increases dry and wet grip while reducing rolling resistance and increasing tread wear. The tread compound is molded into an asymmetric Tri-Area-Tread design that is divided into three tread segments to unite the aspects of smooth running, sportiness, and safety.

On the inside, the SP Sport 01 features twin steel belts reinforced by Dunlop's spiral-wrapped nylon to provide high-speed durability while minimizing weight. The tires feature a rayon cord-reinforced casing to enhance ride quality and an Aramid-reinforced bead to ensure tight and secure fit of the tire on the rim. Dunlop SP Sport 01 tires feature an attractive graphic sidewall design of smooth black letters reversed out of a serrated band and include a rim protector rib on all sizes to help protect wheels.

Fitment Example
P235/45R17
Service description: 94W
Price: $179
(800) 321-2136
www.dunloptires.com

Cooper Zeon 2XS
The Cooper Zeon 2XS is a premium ultra-high-performance summer tire. The perfect choice for your high performance Ford automobile the V-, W-, and Y-speed-rated 2XS is designed to provide excellent cornering ability and steering response along with optimum wet and dry traction and high-speed capability.

The central rib provides quick and crisp steering response and the slightly rounded tread profile provides a good balance between wet traction and long tread life. The shoulder tread block is composed of two harmonically balanced segments. The stagger designed into the tread element reduces noise and provides a quiet ride. The tire is designed with deep tread at the center and slightly shallower tread at the shoulder putting more rubber in the fastest wearing part of the tire. As a summer tire, the Cooper Zeon 2XS is not intended to be driven in snow or ice.

Fitment Example
P245/45R17 Service Description: 95W
Price: $117
(207) 230-0011
www.coopertire.com

Goodyear Eagle F1 All Season
The Eagle F1 All Season tire features carbon-fiber technology and is Goodyear's ultra-high-performance all-season tire. It's designed to give sports car and performance sedan drivers piece of mind in virtually any weather condition. It offers crisp responsiveness and confident handling with year-round traction, including in light snow. Eagle F1 All Season radials have a directional tread design featuring performance zones that include a continuous center rib with large inboard and outboard shoulder blocks for dry road traction and steering precision, along with dual intermediate all-season zones featuring channels to direct rain, slush, and snow away from between the tread and the road to resist hydroplaning and enhance traction.

Goodyear "tredlock" technology offers interlocking micro grooves to provide the biting edges needed for acceleration and braking in foul weather. The tire's internal structure includes twin steel belts reinforced by spirally wound DuPont Kevlar on top of a two-ply polyester cord body, featuring carbon-fiber-reinforced inboard and outboard sidewalls to help keep the shoulders firmly planted on the road for crisp responsiveness and maneuverability.

The Eagle F1 all-season radials feature Goodyear's Perma Black compound additive that maintains new-tire appearance throughout the life of the tire. The tires feature subtle, smooth letters reversed out of a stylized serrated sidewall band and a protective "rim recess" on their lower sidewalls to help protect the wheels from curb damage.

Fitment Example
P245/45R17
Service Description: 95Y
Price: $149
(800) 321-2136
www.goodyeartires.com

Mickey Thompson ET Street Radial
If you've got a Cobra Jet-powered '68 Mustang then chances are you're more concerned with traction issues than you are about carving corners on Mulholland Drive. If that's your situation then the Mickey Thompson ET Street radial tire might be just what you're looking for.

With this tire the nod is definitely toward traction and the tread surface has a large percentage of slick area. But here you're also getting a DOT-approved, street-legal radial tire that provides the normal amount of sophistication and safety we've all come to expect from a tire with radial construction.

Those of us old enough to know can remember the many miseries provided by bias-ply and bias-belted tires on a powerful car. These Mickey Thompson tires will provide responsive and reliable handling, an excellent ride on the street, and dependable high-performance on the strip.

Fitment Example
P275/40R17
Price: $208
(330) 928-9092
www.mickeythompsontires.com

Hankook Ventus V12 Evo
The Ventus V12 Evo utilizes the latest technology to maximize steering response and improve high-speed stability while the tire's water drainage system ensures safety on wet surfaces. The Z-rated street tire has the proven Ventus ultra-high-performance tread compound, and comes in 25/30/35/40/45 and 50 series.

The directional tread of the tire gives a sophisticated look and improves traction while helping to protect against hydroplaning. It features a solid center tracking rib that enhances braking performance and ensures optimal road contact pressure and controlled steering response at high speeds. The Ventus V12 Evo evenly distributes road surface contact for optimal handling and braking. A special high-polymer and specific resin compound ensure outstanding traction and braking on wet roads. A high-density nylon reinforcement belt allows even distribution of contact pressure during cornering. Y-shaped channels and linear grooves effectively sweep water away from the tire.

Fitment Example
P245/45R17
Service Description: 99Y
Price: $99
(800) 426-5665
www.hankooktireusa.com

Michelin Pilot Sport PS2
The Pilot Sport PS2 is Michelin's ultimate performance tire. The Pilot Sport PS2 tires offer an impressive combination of performance for many of the world's fastest cars. The Pilot Sport PS2 is a high-performance summer tire member of the Michelin Pilot family of low-profile, high-speed tires. Initially developed for OE on some of the worlds best sports cars and performance sedans, the Pilot Sport PS2 combines world-class dry road traction, handling, and cornering. The Pilot Sport PS2 is not intended to be driven in near-freezing temperatures, through snow, or on ice.

The Pilot Sport PS2 features two different tread rubber compounds for optimum performance. The tread is molded into an asymmetric design with large outer shoulder blocks and continuous intermediate and center ribs to enhance steering response and cornering stability. The tread design also features wide circumferential grooves and lateral notches that help channel water through the footprint to enhance wet road traction. On the inside, two high-tensile steel cord belts are further reinforced by Aramid/nylon filaments for improved steering response, enhanced ride quality and high-speed durability. The result is excellent cornering ability and consistent straight-line performance.

Fitment Example
P245/45R17
Service Description: 95Y
Price: $216
(866) 866-6605
www.michelinman.com

Pirelli P Zero Nero
Drivers' needs and expectations are becoming more sophisticated, especially at the top end of the market. Increasingly Pirelli customers require low-profile tires with larger diameter wheels as well as higher tire load capacity. The P Zero Nero works-harder-and-plays-harder design philosophy is shown in the tire's two major characteristics.

The Extra Load capacity assists in maintaining the performance of both sports sedans with full equipment options and increasingly heavy and powerful tuned cars. New technology ensures a higher load-carrying capacity without compromising driving comfort. The comprehensive range extends the limits of driving pleasure and means no compromise in dry and wet handling and significantly reduced stopping distances.

These features make the P Zero Nero an ideal choice for tire and wheel upgrades. Asymmetric ultra-high-performance tread design with variable angle grooves help minimize aquaplaning and optimize pitch for acoustic comfort. A self supporting run flat version will soon be available.

Fitment Example
P235/55R17
Service Description: 95W
Price: $109
(800) 747-3554
www.us.pirelli.com

Nitto NT 05
Nitto NT05 tires are a maximum performance tire that was developed using advanced computer simulation and extensive on-track testing. These development methods along with rigorous quality standards helped produce street tires that provide precise and responsive handling and performance.

The new NT05 tire is a maximum performance summer tire that holds the road tenaciously during highway driving, serious corners, and on both dry and wet roads. The Nitto NT05 has large tread blocks and a pair of generously sized rain grooves down the center. Cornering grip is impressive, as the Nitto NT05 generates near race-compound grip in a package that will also survive on the street. Steering response is excellent thanks to stiff sidewalls that transmit steering inputs immediately to the tire.

The Nitto NT05 provides good feedback and excellent traction on wet roads and at highway speeds.

Fitment Example
P235/40R17
Service Description: 95Y
Price: $159.99
(714) 252-0007
www.nittotire.com

Toyo Extensa HP
Combining great quality and performance at a budget-conscious price, Toyo Tire U.S.A. has introduced the Extensa HP. This is Toyo Tires' first entry-level, high-performance tire for the U.S. market and the second product in the new Extensa line, a family of value tires launched earlier this year. Twenty key sizes cover popular performance cars, offering value-priced options for original equipment replacement and plus sizing. The Extensa HP offers exceptional wear life, all-season handling, and high quality at a remarkably low price. This all-season, unidirectional tire incorporates sophisticated design elements such as Toyo Tires' "Silent Wall" for quiet operation and optimum performance and ride comfort.

Additional features include four wide circumferential grooves and full depth sipes for excellent wet traction, interlocking tread blocks to enhance stability and cornering, and a three-variable pitch design to minimize tread noise. Ten sizes, ranging from 16 to 20 inches in rim diameter, are available to fit vehicles from most manufacturers. An additional 10 sizes, including 15-inch, will be released in the fall.

Fitment Example
P245/45R17
Service Description: 95W
Price: $101.91
(888) 444-8696
www.toyotires.com

Yokohama ADVAN Sport
The ADVAN Sport is Yokohama's Max Performance summer tire developed for some of the world's most prestigious sports cars, sports coupes, and high-performance sedans. The ADVAN Sport is designed to achieve both ultra-high speeds and a high level of comfort and traction. Like all summer tires, the ADVAN Sport is not intended to be driven in near-freezing temperatures, through snow or on ice.

The tire's structure includes a silica blend tread compound developed specifically for the ADVAN Sport and provides grip that's less affected by extreme low or high temperatures. The compound is molded into an asymmetric tread pattern featuring five main ribs including a massive, outer shoulder zone to blend handling with ride and noise comfort. Four wide, circumferential grooves help water flow through the footprint to resist hydroplaning.

On the inside, a tire structure designed for the ADVAN Sport, offers durability in the ultra-high-speed zone of over 186 mph (300 km/h) with two wide steel belts reinforced by spirally wound nylon cap plies, providing strength and uniform ride quality, while the sidewalls are tuned to resist lateral deflection to provide predictable handling.

Fitment Example
P245/45R17
Service Description: 99Y
Price: $189
(888) 284-5085
www.yokohamatire.com

Treadwear/Traction/Temperature
Here the UTQG ratings for tread wear, traction, and temperature are shown on the sidewall of a different P245/45R17 tire. This tire is unidirectional, meaning it's meant to rotate in one direction only. The arrows on the sidewall indicate the correct rotation direction to the person installing the tire. The tread wear grade is a comparative rating based on the wear rate of the tire tested for 7,200 miles under controlled conditions on a U.S. government-specified test course.

In this test, for example, a tire rated at 150 would wear one half as well as a tire rated at 300. Traction grades are from highest to lowest. The highest mark is AA, followed by A, B, and C. The grades represent the tire's ability to stop on wet pavement as measured under controlled conditions on various surfaces. The traction testing is done as straight ahead traction and doesn't include cornering evaluation. The temperature grades are A, B, and C and represent the tire's resistance to the generation of heat and its ability to dissipate heat when tested under controlled conditions in an indoor laboratory. The tests are done on a tire that is properly inflated and not overloaded.

LoadCapacity
Indexin Pounds
71761
72783
73805
74827
75853
76882
77908
78937
79963
80992
811,019
821,047
831,074
841,102
851,135
861,168
871,201
881,235
891,279
901,323
911,356
921,389
931,433
941,477
951,521
961,565
971,609
981,653
991,709
1001,764
1011,819
1021,874
1031,923
1041,984
1052,039
1062,094
1072,149
1082,205
1092,271
1102,337

Speed Rating
The second half of the service description is known as the speed rating. Devised to give the buyer an awareness of the tire capability for safe operating speed, it's the W in our 98W service description. As you can see the tires on our new Mustang are rated safe to 168 mph. Three of the most common speed ratings are S, H, and V. The complete speed-rating table is as follows.

Speed
RatingMax MPH
M81
N87
P93
Q99
R106
S112
T118
U124
H130
V (VR)149
W (ZR)168
Y (ZR)186
* Temporary spare

From our service description we know that a set of our P235/55/R17 98W tires will carry a total load of 6,612 pounds at up to 168 mph safely. You should note that the speed rating doesn't apply to tires that are worn out, repaired, damaged, retreaded, or not properly inflated. Make sure your installation technician has paid attention to any unidirectional marking on the sidewall as required.

The uniform tire quality grading, or UTQG is another important source of information on the sidewall of the tire. In the UTOG, three graded categories include the areas of tread wear, traction, and temperature.