Finding the best fitting tyres is a challenge for UK muscle car drivers
The iconic muscle car is part of American culture and is celebrated in some of Hollywood’s classic movies. From Steve McQueen’s Ford Mustang GT 390 in ‘Bullitt’ to Gene Hackman’s 1971 Pontiac LeMans in ‘The French Connection’, and Burt Reynolds’ 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am in ‘Smokey and the Bandit’. In the 60s and 70s US muscle cars were the coolest cars you could own. More affordable than sports cars and GTs, but with powerful V8 engines, muscle cars were used for often illegal drag racing. The undisputed king of the muscle cars is the Ford Mustang: today one in every two sports cars sold in America is a Mustang. Muscle cars have become a symbol for freedom and defiance of authority so have a huge following with youth culture in particular. Muscle cars are also popular with younger drivers because they are so accessory friendly. By customising wheels, tyres, rims and body parts, the muscle car makes a statement about the driver and his own individuality.
While the UK never quite echoed America’s obsession with the muscle car to the same extent, there is still a clear influence on British motoring as a result of the craze. The Ford Capri and Vauxhall Firenza design is closely based on muscle cars, although they are technically ‘pony cars’, the muscle cars’ cheaper, less powerful younger brother. Most probably due to the muscle car ethos getting lost in translation across the Atlantic, car servicing options are limited and it can often be difficult to source parts for these cars in the UK.
In terms of tyres, there is not a lot of choice in the UK. As the cars are designed for drag racing, they need rather wide tyres for a mid-size car. The unusual sizes mean finding tyres to fit muscle cars can be difficult. The most popular choice in the UK, and arguably the best tyre for the job, is the Cooper Cobra GT. The Cobra GT is a big seller for sizes like 265/50 R15, perfect for muscle cars, and the flat tread and optimum “footprint” shape helps to distribute the vehicle load. It also improves handling and overall wear. But Coopers often come in quite expensive. Another option to consider is to fit the cars with aftermarket alloys, non standard wheels, which would open up considerably more options on the tyre sizes available to source within the UK.
For muscle car drivers that are interested in fitting aftermarket alloys, there are a number of online tools, such as the one on the Miata website, that can help you calculate the correct tyre size to fit your new wheels, and advise you of how it will affect your speedometer readout. You should always aim to keep your speedometer reading as close to the original as possible, to avoid accidental speeding.
Some popular brands of tyres in the UK which best suit non-standard wheels found on muscle cars include Yokohama, Bridgestone and Hankook.