Tires for the TA

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When an 8 ounce package of butter costs almost $6, it seems extravagant to spend $400 on a pair of tires for a car that mostly just sits. But next year, an 8 ounce package of butter is probably going to cost $10 and that pair of new tires for the Orange Barchetta – my 1976 Pontiac Trans-Am – will probably cost $600.

It’s entirely possible neither the butter nor the tires will be available – at any price. Ask someone who lived through the old Soviet Union and they’ll tell you what it was like to not be able to get anything you wanted or needed because the state had become the arbiter of what you were allowed to have (and of what was allowed to be produced).

It seems evident we’re going to know exactly what that’s like, as America transitions into a state very much like that which obtained in the old Soviet Union.

So I decided to get the pair of rear tires the Barchetta has been sorely in need of for some time – and not solely because they are almost bald (a recurrent problem when you own an old rear-drive muscle car, especially one with a 455 cubic inch V8 up front). The ones it’s wearing are also old – a problem that arises when you own an old muscle car that only burns rubber once in awhile. The Barchetta – which I’ve owned for 30 years – mostly sits. The upside is a set of tires lasts decades. The downside is it’s not sound policy to drive an old muscle car seriously on decades’ old tires.

Like us, tires get old. Like us, as they age, they get tired. They even get wrinkly, sometimes. As in cracks along what used to be the smooth surface of the sidewall, as the rubber ages and dries out – not unlike our skin. And then there’s the aging you can’t see. The interior deterioration of the tire’s structure. Also of a piece with the gradual deterioration of our internals. With the difference being that when the aging tire fails, it might be at 70 MPH – or in mid-corner.

Is not spending $400 you probably ought to be saving up for butter worth losing your classic car?

Such are the dilemmas faced by an American dealing with the current state of things.

I thought about it a great deal and ended up deciding to get the tires now – and not just because I might not be able to afford them (or get them) later. There is also the matter of being able to safely drive the Barchetta. Of what use would it be if all it could do was remind me – visually – of that better, vanished time?

I need more than that, to deal with this time.

Some people drink. Sometimes I do, too. Some people meditate or exercise. There are many things one can do to forget the times we live in. But I need something that rails against the times we live in – and that thing is a bright orange ’76 Trans-Am with a 455 cubic inch V8 and no catalytic converters spitting aromatic hydrocarbons through a pair of chrome splitter exhaust tips.

The TA – and cars like it – are the antidote to these times and everything they stand for. Preserving them in life is far more important than keeping vigil over their memory. Reading about them, seeing pictures in books . . . it’s something. But it’s also like thumbing through an album of old family photos and remembering the past. I’d rather go out and punch a hole into the future – and you can’t do that if all you can do is look.

So, the new tires are coming. And that means the Barchetta will soon be rolling!

. . .

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51 COMMENTS

  1. One is shocked … shocked … that HOONERY is being promoted at EP Autos:

    ‘One of Houston’s most popular car meetups is laying down the law on a class of drivers it says is responsible for an eruption of hoonery that marred the end of its most recent gathering.

    ‘Coffee and Cars announced via Instagram over the weekend that organizers will no longer allow Mustang, Camaro and Charger drivers to attend its enthusiast meetup held on the first Saturday of every month at POST Houston. The decision, according to organizers, was made in response to reckless and rowdy behavior exhibited by some attendees as they left the parking lot during a meetup on Nov. 4.

    “Due to this morning’s burnouts and revving, we will be temporarily banning all Mustang, Chargers & Camaros,” the group wrote.’

    https://www.chron.com/news/article/houston-coffee-and-cars-meet-ban-18480242.php

    Had the organizers seen the reckless comments in ‘Tires for the TA,’ doubtless they would have banned Trans Ams too — another ‘dangerous dog breed’ of the auto world, regardless of who’s at the wheel.

  2. Do a few burn outs for me! I sure miss my 72 formula 400 4 speed poncho. My 93 BMW has 16’s which limits my choices. I have enjoyed my BFG Sport Comp 2’s, sticky, and have taken every curve that I have thrown them through.

    • Count on it, Peter!

      Maybe even today – as the weather’s spectacular. It’s a matter of me finding time to get out there and do it. But – rest assured – I will!

  3. Put a set of Firestones on my Outback in 2019 when the factory Yokohamas wore out. Those things didn’t last more than three years. Replaced them in the fall of 2022 with Yokohamas, which are the tires the Subaru factory puts on. Like night and day!

  4. Recently moved from the South to Alaska. I knew I was going to need better tires before winter arrived.

    I bought a set of 3rd Gen Tacoma wheels from a young fella who wanted “cooler wheels” and brought them with me.

    Once here, I went and got Cooper Snow Claws, had them studded, and installed them on the wheels I brought. I expected the price on the tires and the studs, but the TPMS valves, what a ripoff! We have gone from the most common vehicle part across all makes and models of vehicles that costed nearly nothing and replaced it with TPMS valves, because you know, SAFETY and all that. I knew I was going to need the valves because the kid used them on his new wheels, but I didn’t expect them to be that expensive.

    As a Southerner who has never lived and driven where winter is really WINTER, the past couple of days in the new snow with studded tires has been really nice. Doubly nice is how good 3rd gen factory wheels look on a 2nd gen Tacoma. Triply nice is that it is the largest tire/wheel combo that can be done before the truck has to be modified. Got a nice little lift out of it and the wheel wells are filled in nicely!

    As a final thought, I always tell others when this subject comes up, is that the tires ARE the MOST important part on your vehicle. It is what keeps you on the road. Never skimp on the tires. Just like a good bed or good footwear, don’t skimp on those items.

    • Although they are interactive, I would suggest that BRAKES are the most important part of your vehicle. Doesn’t really matter what tires you have if you can’t stop the vehicle.

      • Braking performance is very much affected by the tires.

        Most brakes are very capable of locking up the wheels—this means the limiting factor is the friction between the tires & the pavement

        (This also affects acceleration/takeoff greatly)

  5. $1,200 to replace the Michelins on my 2007Civic Si coupe. They last about 40,000 miles. I’m at 77,000 miles about due for my second replacement set. Will ask my Goodyear tire guys and gal to recommend alternatives. Bought Dunlops for my wife’s 99 Civic coupe. Perhaps they’ll work for the Si as well.

    • Hi Antoine,

      One possible way to save some bucks is to go down to all seasons (as opposed to “sport” tires with an H or higher speed rating). The latter is largely superfluous in that it’s not realistic to drive faster than 100 MPH for more than a couple of minutes in this country.

      • Speed rating also applies to sidewall rigidity, and will significantly or radically change the way the car handles, if you change from what you’ve been using.

    • Hi Antoine,
      I just replaced the tires on my 2004 VW R32 with some Nexan npriz ah8 tires. $650 for the set of 4. I have them on my Audi TT also. I like them, nice simple even wearing tread pattern.

  6. Ever since I had a set of Michelin XCX on a 4runner get old and hard, send me sliding through a snowy intersection, I replace tires every 5 years. Money well spent.

    Lately I’ve been getting tires off ebay. Much better selection than the local tire stores.

  7. It is time for new tires for my GMC Sierra. It originally came with General Grabbers, I liked them real well after i put something else on. Thinking to go back to General until i see a couple people here talking Cooper. Should I go this way? It’s a WT (work truck), I don’t go way off road, mostly road.

    • Drove through three sets of General tires, a good ride, no complaints. Ran into a curb by accident, the tire was injured, replacing all new Generals for a third time. Bought Cooper tires this time around. General tires became not as reliable during cold weather times.

      General tires on the truck had good tread wear, lasting 45,000 miles. If you’re in a mild or temperate climate, General tires will be a good choice.

      Sooner or later, you’ll own General.

      Can’t go wrong with Cooper.

      Kanati Trail Hog 10 ply’s on the Ford pickup. They’re good tires. Hankook has a decent tire. Toyo gets good reviews.

      Tire technologies are far advanced compared to 1970. Bought a set of tires for the Chevy Biscayne, 1962 model, 100 dollar purchase, the tires were going bald in less than 10,000 miles.

      Felt as though I was rooked on that sale.

      Maybe not all, but most tires are probably fairly good.

  8. Five tires per car, 100,000,000 cars, 500,000,000 tires, plenty of jobs in the tire industry.

    50,000 miles later, a new set of tires. Truck tires are a whole new ballgame.

    1,000,000,000 tires on 100,000,000 cars in a 10 year time frame. Have to go to a tire recycling facility, one billion tires will take up some room.

    Business is good in the tire business.
    I would hope that the tires could be burned at coal-fired power plants and haul away the ash from tires with the coal ash. Tires burn when struck by lightning, then you have a spontaneous tahr fahr. Might as well truck them to the power plant, kill two birds with one fire. Hitachi smokestack scrubbers will filter the toxic elements flying up the smokestack.

    Ground level coal seams when struck by lightning burn for many years.

    A farm about 30 miles out in the country has a large pile of old tires, a good thousand of them at least.

    Gave up Generals for Coopers.

    If you can’t drive an ICE vehicle, tire companies will go broke.

    My dad bought Seiberlings.

    Tires for farm tractors and combines are in a league of their own.

  9. Eric: Before you replace them, PLEASE do a long, smokey burnout and post the video. Some of us can only get the the antidote to these times vicariously.

    There’s something about a burnout that’s so uplifting. I remember during the “lockdown” in 2020 when 90% of the world seemed to be masking alone in their cars and everybody had dread fear in their eyes. I was at a red light and glanced over to the car next to me. It was an unmasked guy in his early 20s in a rat-rodded 90’s Jaguar with a loud, after-market exhaust. He looked over at me with an smirk and then proceeded to smoke his tires (he might have had a front brake line lock). His public act of recklessness and rebellion during that hideous time of mass conformity totally lifted my spirits.

  10. Please don’t delay, the aging rot is dangerous. Son in law found out fortunately the easy way, one of the really old Goodrich tires on the Defender finally gave out but he was sitting at a light two blocks from home when it happened.

    I’m facing this on the truck. Tires are ten years old but lots of tread left, rats.

  11. Nice closing video. Reminds me of my life back then too, lol! The excavator was Big Muskie, the world’s largest dragline excavator, strip mining coal in Ohio, possibly. I believe its bucket held 2,000 cubic yards, or 2 greyhound busses side-by-side. Big Muskie was scrapped in the late ’90’s, but the bucket remains on display.

  12. Eric, those back tires will last longer if you’ll stop doing burnouts and sliding it around corners!

    Last weekend I took my 440 Charger out for a spin, and on the way back home, I felt the need to punch it at a right turn, rolling through an empty intersection. While in 2nd gear, without even downshifting, it broke the tires loose. That 440 is a torque monster, even being stock.

    I don’t do that often, I really just enjoy a good cruise around town. I bought my Cooper Cobras just after I purchased the car about 8 or so years ago. No visible signs of aging yet.

    • Excellent, Philo!

      It’s what these rigs were made to do!

      I had a buddy back in high school who had a ’71 GTX with the 440 (single four barrel) and that thing would practically pirouette when you mashed the go pedal. I have no idea what the actual torque output of the 455 in my TA is – because it’s modded (RA III cam, cast iron headers, Performer intake and tuned Quadrajet) but prolly in the vicinity of 450 ft.-lbs. That’s hilarious fun in an ass-light car with 15 inch wheels. I can break the tail loose through 30 MPH without much effort at all!

      • My Charger unfortunately has an open differential, but I plan to make that change as soon as I collect a few more Biden Bucks.

        It has 3.23 gears from the factory, so it’s decent on the highway, but it would probably be more fun with a lower gear and an overdrive transmission.

        My Firebird has probably something like 2.76 gears (not sure exactly), but since it’s my daily, it does great for cruising down the highway at 65 at around 2600 RPM. I wouldn’t mind putting a TKO 5 speed in it, but $$$.

  13. When I had my Ranger, I had to switch from a 14 inch wheel to a 16 because the 14 inch tire was getting too hard to find.

  14. Sunday a beautiful 76 Pontiac Silver trans am pulled into the gas station behind me. Shaker hood, 455 nice. The guy was on a fresh gas run before the rain set in.

    That video takes me back to my day. Everyone was fit and did things. Today young adults are fat and do nothing and expect things for nothing. As they said in *Caddy Shack* “you’ll get nothing and like it.”

  15. I have two cars to replace tires for. Both daily drivers, I run about 25k miles a year on each. This gives me something to think about. I put new tires on the pilot about a couple of years ago. Still have plenty of tread. I bought rubber for the TL as well. Make sure you get front tires on that Firebird.

    I have thought about this issue for a while. Over the last two years, I have noticed much spottier inventory on tires. They are harder to get and cost about 30-50% more than they did before the plandemic

  16. ‘I need something that rails against the times we live in.’ — eric

    Driving home the other night in my 25-year-old manual-shift Frontier 4WD, mildly baked, I was more than usually attentive to its retro, intensely mechanical character.

    From the thumping of its pistons, to the vibration transmitted through its manual shift lever, to the meshing of the hypoid gears in its differential, it is a living repudiation of the sterile, vacuum-cleaner silence of an EeeVee.

    It is not smooth. It does not go Whoosh. It is not the same species as an EeeVee, whose only commonality is having four wheels.

    Now that none of its elements can be bought new at any price — not the compact pickup form factor, nor the complete absence of digital controls and wireless telemetry, nor (in most cases) its manual shift — I am become, by default, a bitter clinger, a refusenik, an heretical rejectionist.

    Auto makers, sealing their own doom as EeeVee Fever ravishes their financial metabolism like blood poisoning, offer virtually nothing that I want. They are stranded whales, flopping helplessly on a Left Coast beach as night falls, and not long for this world. Goodbye / who cares.

  17. On my motorcycle I’m trying Kenda tires next year, ordered them last month just in case. Any one here have any luck with them?

    For my daily drivers it’s Craigslist or the local u pull it yard that gets those kidney car cars. if the vehicle doesn’t look damaged I buy the tires with the newest date codes. Since I’m only looking for 15″ tires I can usually find like new tires for about 1/4 of the cost.

    Might still go that option on the resto mod but I’ve all ready got two new tires with less than 25 miles on them for free so I might just buy two matching tires.

  18. Eric, you might want to replace the fronts as well. Your statement about not being able to get them next year isn’t that crazy.

    The enviro “defenders” of Earth Mother Gaia are expanding their doctrine of hate toward cars and tires are next on the hit list…
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jun/03/car-tyres-produce-more-particle-pollution-than-exhausts-tests-show

    Unless and until these religious zealots are stopped we will eventually be banning the wheel as an attack on the planet. “look at the scars wheels leave on the face of the planet” will be the cry after pavement has been deemed “sinful”.

    • Maybe they can force everyone to wear a mask? In the case of tire particulates it might actually have a benefit.

      Wind is pretty heavy this afternoon. Coming up the hill I went through a big cloud of dust. Earth. Gaia. Maybe that’s the next thing to be banned. Because someone, somewhere might have a worry about the asthmatics of the world being exposed to Gaia’s exfoliation leavings.

  19. You are so right. I used to go through a rear set of Goodyear Gatorbacks on my ’88 LX 5.0 “Notchback” every summer in the late 80s – 90s. I installed a Vortech S trim on it 8 years ago and its still running the same drag facials. I only average about 500 miles a year on that car now, but that doesn’t exempt it from Massachusetts annual inspection that is so over the top every inspection is viewed in real time by a government bureaucrat. I thank our former RINO Governor “Captain Lockdown” POS Fraud Charlie Baker.

    The other issue as you mentioned is finding the correct tire size. Decent 15″ tires are nearly impossible besides BFGs and Cooper. I picked up a set of 1987 GTA wheels for my ’84 T/A only to find its almost impossible to find a 245/55-16. Cooper makes a Chyna version and there are a few in garbage looking “all season”. So it looks like $175 per tire for Generals…

    • Hi Steve,

      Yup!

      Some people install 17s (or larger) on their old muscle car to allow for the modern (high performance) tires but I really dislike the appearance, which looks completely wrong to my eye. Not the wheels, per se. The aftermarket 17 inch replica of the factory Pontiac snowflake wheels look nice. Just not on a classic 1970-’81 Trans-Am. The car and the wheels don’t match. It’s like an ammo clip grafted to an Arquebus.

      • Can’t stand “chariot wheels” especially on ‘70s muscle cars. Your Pontiac wheels are really great one of my all time faves.

        • Thanks, Sparkey!

          I agree in re the Honeycombs, which were a Pontiac trademark. I interviewed Bill Porter, who designed them. He told me some interesting things, among them that they were supposed to have been cast aluminum but this was too expensive at the time (1970) so instead they used a steel wheel as the platform and used a special injection-molding process to “weld” a urethan composite lattice Honeycomb onto it. Voila – the Honeycomb wheel!

          In ’77, the Honeycomb was replaced by the aluminum Snowflake wheel, which was offered (beginning in ’78) in 15×7 and 15×8 sizes.

      • Agreed about the aesthetic but also, the price! Yeah you can “trick out” your car with massive rims and tires but be prepared for the cost of that too.

        My Performance model Tesla of course has the 20″ rims, because… yeah, of course it does. They all do now. Another fun little factoid about EVs is you must run them at nearly max tire pressure because range is everything, right? Too much sag in the tire and you are cutting into your precious range. So my Tesla runs at a crazy 45 PSI on these LOW profile sidewall monster wheels.

        As noted in the other recent thread, God help you if you hit a few potholes in this tire/wheel setup. Colorado has some of the worst roads in the nation as I found out the hard way. After the 5th 2-inch pothole, no more tire. Under that high pressure and on such a low profile tire, sidewall blow out.

        These are top of the line Michelin Pilot Super Sport 4S tires. The price to replace ONE of those tires? $600!

        The rim wasn’t damaged, thankfully, but again on those big rims its very easy that would have been another $800 easy for aftermarket crap. OEMs are 2 grand each. 🙄

    • I think I’m going to pick up generals for my pedestrian 2006 Honda Pilot. For that car, the Generals get very good reviews. And they are made in the USA. We still make better tires than most.

      • If noise bothers you, look at Cooper touring (was CS5 might have a newer design/designation now) or Pirelli. I bought a set of Pirelli Scorpion Verde for the Grand Cherokee they’re great tires, quiet, smooth, great handling.

        Tire noise is an issue here in WA as we drive on what used to be paved roads. The concrete highways are worn down to the bigger rocks that settled out when poured back in the ‘70s, asphalt roads worn to where you’re traveling in the tracks left by trucks, be quick with the steering reaction as your rig trammels out and over as you change lanes!

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