Reader Question: A Bigger Footprint for an Old Muscle Car?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Doug asks: Like you, I have a vintage muscle car (’74 Corvette) and also like you am frustrated by the complete impossibility of finding modern performance tires for my car, which really limits the car’s handling abilities as well as high-speed safety. I can’t even find an H rated tire for a fifteen-inch wheel! What do you think about replacing the factory wheels with modern (larger) wheels so as to be able to take advantage of modern tire tech?

My reply: I have made my peace with being limited by the lack of modern performance tires for old muscle cars; rather for the 15-inch wheels most of them came with. My reason? Old muscle cars weren’t designed for modern wheels, especially the 18 and 19 inch wheels which are common today.

Not visually or functionally.

They look wrong on the car – unless you mod the suspension to compensate. You may also have to mod other things to deal with tire scrub and so on .  . . because cars designed in the ’70s and ’60s weren’t designed for wheels as tall and wide as modern wheels are.

And once you go down this road, you’ve begun to fundamentally change the car – into a modern car – and in that case, why not just buy a modern performance car?

One of the things I really like about my ’76 TA is its Honeycomb wheels, which are unique to Pontiacs of that era and (like the air bag-free Formula steering wheel) really set it apart. If I were to replace the Honeycombs with a set of 18 or 19 inch modern wheels, I’d have to give up the unique and special appearance of those (to me) extremely cool Honeycombs in favor of something non-specific, similar in appearance to the wheels on other modern performance cars. And yes, I know one can buy aftermarket Snowflake wheels for the TA – but these are wrong for my ’76 as the original Snowflake wheel was first offered in ’77 – and in addition to that, they’re just too got-damned big (18 inches).

Ditto the eighteen-inch aftermarket Honeycombs – which are made of aluminum and not “Polycast” like the original steel wheels with the urethane surface.

I like the real deal.

I am hopeful that, eventually, Coker or another supplier will offer an H-rated (130 MPH) performance tire for fifteen-inch wheels. But if not, I’m cool with what I have. If you’re not, you have the option to upgrade – provided you’re cool with how it will alter the look (and other things, not all of them good) of your ‘Vette!

. . .

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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