KJ Jones Senior Technical Editor
December 4, 2006
Photos By: KJ Jones
Trick paint and graphics, body kits, and wicked exhaust notes are high-level attention-getters, but when you break it down to the bare minimum, a set of wheels (and even tires) can make or break a 'Stang's appearance.

Horse Sense: For most late-model Mustang enthusiasts, size and fitment play critical roles in the wheel-and-tire selection process. Plus-sizing-installing wheel-and-tire combinations that surpass the factory-specified maximum size for handling and appearance purposes-is becoming more popular. It's important to know what will work and what won't before throwing down large sums of cash for a Pony's new shoes. Wheel Consultants publishes an annual plus-sizing guide for those who want to outfit their Mustangs with 19s, 20s, and beyond. Check out www.plussizingguide.com for details.

If we were asked to summarize the most popular appearance upgrades for a '79-'06 Mustang, there's no question that changing the wheels and tires would rank somewhere in the Top 5.

The wheel-and-tire industry is booming these days, thanks to manufacturers offering an enormous variety of products tailored specifically for 'Stang enthusiasts who want to take their cars' looks to the next level of hot or are seeking a traction or handling edge on the street or racetrack.

Long gone are the four-lug TRX, Turbine, 10-Hole, Pony wheels, and the metric Michelin and Goodyear Gatorback tires that adorned thousands of Mustangs between 1979 and 1993. Post-Fox-era 'Stangs are equipped with five-lug hubs and axles and are shod with factory and aftermarket wheels that have been given handles such as "Waffle Star" (OEM), "Bullitt" (OEM), "Crosshairs" (Konig), and "Magnum P.R.O." (Weld). Converting a Fox car to five-lug solely for the purpose of upgrading its wheel style is a popular upgrade we covered in the June '06 issue ("Plus One," p. 152). Today, the number of available tire brands seems endless.

It makes no difference whether your preference is to cruise down the street and floss on Dubs (20-inch wheels and tires) or to race your 'Stang and keep it stuck to the track. Neither would be possible without the wide variety of wheel styles and tire compounds that seem to get bigger and bigger each year.

If you're in the market for new rolling stock, read on for our review of the latest in Mustang bling and rubber. Wheel sizing ranges between 15 and 17 inches for Fox 'Stangs, 15 and 19 inches as a norm for '94-'04s, and 16 to 18 inches for S197s. With the right modifications for adequate clearance, the bigger 20-inch hoops can be mounted on the '99-present 'Stangs and actually look good on the '05-'06 models. But be aware that larger-diameter wheels and tires will alter speedometer calibration.

Consult a manufacturer's Web site or The Tire Rack for price and size information when you find the perfect wheels and tires for your ride.

The BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KD is a street tire with a road-racing attitude. This tire is said to offer drivers exceptional feel and response, high-speed stability, and precise steering and cornering power. The g-Force T/A KD also features a fully optimized tread-contact area for enhanced wet and dry grip. The tire's BlackTech tread compound maximizes traction and resists heat buildup on dry pavement.

Many '99-'04 'Stangbangers use this tire to achieve the "stuffed" look-filling up the wheelwell with tire, without rubbing-on their lowered Ponies with 18-inch wheels. The g-Force Sport 275/35ZR18 tire and 18x10.5-inch wheel is the wheel-and-tire combination for achieving the steamroller look at the rear of a New Edge Mustang.

When speed is your thing, and you want superior handling to go along with it, BFG's g-Force T/A KDW is a great choice. This tire features a computer-designed unidirectional, silica-reinforced tread designed specifically for an aggressive appearance on high-performance vehicles such as Mustangs. It has wide grooves that help channel water and reduce hydroplaning for wet-road traction. On dry pavement, the g-Force T/A KDW's large tread blocks enhance stability and handling, which is a plus for those who drive their 'Stangs in a spirited fashion.

The Bridgestone Potenza RE-01R is designed for street and track performance. This tire features a semi-slick shoulder block that provides lateral stiffness for advanced cornering force and grip on dry surfaces. Cooling slits engineered in the tread help dissipate heat and make the tire more durable under high-speed, high-temperature conditions. The tread is also engineered with Bridgestone's Hydro Evacuation Surface technology that consists of wide lateral groves on either side of the center rib, and nose slots that enhance water evacuation and achieve outstanding wet performance.

The "PP" in this Bridgestone tire's name (Potenza RE050A PP) stands for Pole Position, which means the tire obviously has race-bred qualities. Its asymmetrical tread pattern and smooth shape can keep a 'Stang stable as it builds speed on straights or rockets through turns.