Tire Sizes By Mustang Chassis Types
When it comes to maximizing your Mustang's performance, there are many factors to consider. Power, suspension package, brake setup, and of course, to put it all to work, the proper wheel and tire package are all essential elements to getting the most out of your performance investments. Here is a quick look at some tire and wheel recommendations for the various years of Mustang.
Fox-Body ('79 - '93)
The Fox-body cars witnessed a huge growth in the number of wheel and tire packages available. Of course, upgrading the Fox cars to a five-bolt configuration greatly expands the number of combinations available. Typically, fender clearance and quad-shock interference are the limiting factors for tire packaging under stock Fox fenders. 225/60-16 are an easy fit under most stock Foxes. Making the move up to 255/45-17 tires will fit under the stock fenders, as long as they are mounted on wheels with the proper backspacing and offset. The real hot set up for road course going Foxes is the move up to 275/40-17 tires mounted on 17x9 wheels. However, this package will require some "clearancing" inside the rear fenders, including rolling the fender lips. Up front, it will take some seriously "tweaked" front fenders to make room for the big 275 section width. It can be done by an accomplished body shop or via the installation of some flared front fenders.
SN95 Body ('94 - '04)
When they first came out, the Mustang faithful claimed our new, lithe, more sculpted ponycars looked like 4x4s. OK, so at their stock ride height, maybe they did have a little too much fender clearance around the tires. But, as modified suspensions became the norm for these cars, those same large fenderwells provided excellent room for a staggering array of tire and wheel combinations, be it street, strip, or road course. When a 17x9 wheel and 275 section width tires fit under a stock ride-height car, you know good things await those wanting to maximize their tire contact patch. Personally, I like the looks and performance envelope of a 275 tire mounted on 17x9 wheels on this car in all four positions. Yes, you can fit 11-inch wide wheels under the rear, but that eliminates the possibility of being able to rotate your tire and wheel package from the rear to the front. Another nice tire and wheel combination for SN95 cars is the 18x9.5 wheel and 275 tire package that debuted on the '00 Cobra R.
S197 Body ('05 - current)
If you thought the SN95 fenderwells were large, take a look at how small 16-inch wheels and tires look under stock V6 Mustangs. Once again, the engineers and designers at Ford gave us some huge fenderwells, made to look even larger with their exaggerated exterior fender arches. The only wheel and tire drawback to these cars is that they need larger wheels and tires to deal with the extra mass (and horsepower) the S197 cars bring to the party. The SVT/Shelby GT500 utilizes 18x9.5 wheels front and rear, but uses slightly larger tires out back (285/40-18 versus the front 255/45-18) to try and cope with the 500+ horsepower these cars put out. For me, I would most likely stick with the 18x9.5-inch wheels, but look to a more balanced tire package, something that could be rotated front to rear.
Here is an extreme example...
Here is an extreme example of a tire that was "flat spotted" during high-speed braking. You can easily see just how much rubber was removed as the locked (and heavily loaded) tire ground it's life away on the pavement. This tire is ruined. ABS brakes have virtually eliminated this particular form of tire death.
Here is yet another example...
Here is yet another example of tires that were severely flat-spotted when driven past their limits on cars not equipped with anti-lock brakes. Tires like these are completely unsafe to ever put on a car again-don't even think about it!
The tire on the left has been...
The tire on the left has been treated to a tread-depth reducing "shave" by a skilled tire shaver. Believe it or not, shaving off excess tread will actually help this tire live longer on the track because of reduced tread squirm; treat block tearing and excessive heat buildup. Yes, it's difficult to order a new set of sticky track tires and then ask the nice folks at Tire Rack or other reputable retailers to shave off all but 3/32-in of tread. But it does work and has been demonstrated repeatedly.
Getting all our stuff to and...
Getting all our stuff to and from the track is complicated even more when we start toting around a second set of wheels and tires. This resourceful corner carver has come up with a nicely constructed trailer to haul his tools and tires to the event. Nothing cooler than unhitching the trailer and then driving the heck out of the tow rig on the track!
This is the type of tire damage...
This is the type of tire damage typically found on hard-driven cars that are equipped with anti-lock brakes. Notice that these tires have cords showing along the outside edges of the tires, indicating they were working hard in turning the car. Eventually, tires will wear out - the trick to getting the most out of your tire investments is not to wear out one part of the tire too much before another.
Yes, they make track tires...
Yes, they make track tires in sizes for the venerable SVT Lightning trucks. And they too can really load up a tire when driven aggressively.