Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
June 16, 2016
Photos By: Courtesy Of Firestone

For many drivers tires are nothing more than these black round things that they clean and spray Armor All onto and every few years look for the cheapest replacements they can find to get their “toaster” back on the road to drive to work. Thankfully, Mustang enthusiasts don’t feel the same way and often have a lot more tire education than the typical driver next to them on the highway. Treadwear, temperature ratings, grip, and even the tread pattern are all important to Mustang owners. We push our cars hard, even in daily driving, so having a tire that does what we need it to do is more important than saving $20 on a tire of lesser known quality.

Firestone gets it too. They’ve been building tires for over 100 years, and Ford history buffs will know that Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford were great friends and business partners. Starting with the Model T, Ford used Firestone tires on many of its products, including the first generation Mustang, through the end of the 20th century. From the famous Firestone Wide Oval performance tires to passenger and light truck tires, Ford and Firestone have gone hand-in-hand for decades.

The day before our test drive and evaluation, Firestone put on an excellent historical presentation, including a display with a replica of Ray Haroun’s Marmon Wasp. Ray was the first Indy 500 winner in the inaugural race held in 1911 and won on Firestone tires. Over the decades Firestone has been in the Indy 500 winner’s circle 67 times and has been the official tire of the race since 2002. The Wasp replica, owned by our good friend Corky Coker (of Coker Tire fame) is seen here with yours truly at the wheel for a great photo op!
As mentioned in our story, Firestone and Ford go way back; so far back that they often vacationed and went camping together. This image, courtesy of the Firestone Archives, shows, from left to right, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone.

We recently had the chance to drive on Firestone’s latest Firehawk lineup, including the Indy 500 UHP summer tire, and its AS (all-season) tire. The AS is a great tire for wet and light snow conditions, while the Indy 500 is an all-out dry and wet performance tire that is well suited for track days or just spirited daily driving that all of us Mustang owners love to do in keeping the daily commute fun and satisfying!

“Racing is an integral part of the Firestone brand’s heritage and the ultimate proof point for our tire technology. We are excited to bring our legacy of trusted performance to the consumer tire segment with our new Firehawk high performance passenger tires,” said Philip Dobbs, chief marketing officer, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. “Both the Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 and the Firestone Firehawk AS tires are great choices for drivers who work hard and play harder, and want to push their vehicles to the limits.”

We hit the small autocross track layout in the Firestone Firehawk AS first. These were mounted on a turbo-four front-wheel-drive vehicle, but it was still quick enough and handled well enough to show the tire’s wet traction and handling improvements over the comparison tire we drove as well.
Moving up to the rear-wheel-drive V-8 and the Firestone Firehawk Indy 500, not only were we having more fun with 400-plus horsepower, but the power of the vehicle really put the Indy 500 tire to the test. They were real confidence builders when braking and cornering.

We were given the opportunity to try the Firestone Firehawk AS first, and as luck would have it our visit to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, just weeks before the Indy 500’s 100th running, was during a couple of days of rain showers. No need to wet the course down, Mother Nature was doing it for us no charge! Due to an IMS agreement, Firestone had to use GM vehicles for our product testing, but we won’t hold that against them. Competitive product evaluation is always a good thing, especially when it is 2016 Camaro SS (horsepower is horsepower!). The Firehawk AS handled extremely well on the tight autocross type course we sampled, allowing us sharper turn in and reduced understeer/plow at speed. Full-depth tread features help the Firehawk AS maintain its all season and wet performance throughout the life of the tire, which is backed by a 50,000 mile limited treadwear warranty. The Firehawk AS is currently available in 30 sizes to fit 15-inch to 20-inch wheel sizes with more sizes coming later this year.

Moving on to the Firehawk Indy 500 UHP summer tire, also tested on the same wet rainy day and infield course at IMS, we could instantly feel how the larger shoulder blocks found on the Indy 500 greatly improved our traction coming out of the corners. By utilizing an improved tread pattern having more rubber on the ground, and an improved wet rubber compound that uses Pulse Groove Technology for quick and efficient water evacuation and reduced hydroplaning, we felt confident going faster and deeper into corners with more throttle on exit. Braking is even enhanced with the new tire compound and tread design, with the Indy 500 delivering 20 percent shorter stopping distances on wet roads. The Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 tire is currently available in 48 sizes from 16-inch to 20-inch wheel sizes with additional sizes being added to the line later this year as well.

The Firestone Firehawk AS tread pattern. The Firehawk AS has a Uniform Tire Quality Grade (UTQG) of 480 AA with speed ratings of V and H (size dependent) for optimized treadwear and wet/snow performance.
The Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 tread pattern is much different than the AS, promoting high performance characteristics via its large tread blocks for greater traction in dry and wet conditions. The Firehawk Indy 500 comes with a UTQG of 340 AA and a W speed rating. We can’t wait to try a set of these on our Mustang!
After our driving impressions Firestone’s staff shared its Vision 2020 plan. Bridgestone Retail Operations, which owns more than 2,200 Firestone Complete Auto Care, Tires Plus, Hibdon Tires Plus and Wheel Works stores, is working towards a revamping of all their store locations to greatly increase customer satisfaction. At their Store 2020 location, an innovation hub in St. Charles, Illinois, the company offers a concierge service with a greeter as soon as you pull into the lot, a redesigned and refocused customer area with plenty of power, tablets to keep the kids busy, free Wi-Fi to allow customers to work remotely, and a new Shield Shop where customers can pick up accessories for their car, home shop, and more.