For reference, we're quoting the life expectancy of an R-compound or UHP tire based on our own experience with high-horsepower project cars that get autocrossed and road raced several times a year. Other folks may get more or less, but we think we're pretty hard core. We offer for example our '68 Chevelle project car, which has a set of 100 treadwear Nitto NT01s; we've had them for three and a half years and they're nowhere close to being finished. Our 1975 Laguna project car wears Nitto NT555R Extreme Drag Radials at all four corners, and the story is similar (check out our lead photo). Years ago, we also had a '93 Firebird road race project car with Nitto NT555RIIs that delivered over 17,000 miles from that set of 100 treadwear R-compounds. (Much to the chagrin of the manufacturer, we also drove them through three snowy New Jersey winters without incident.)

Your tires are your car's interface with the earth. Literally, it's where the rubber meets the road. Let that sink in for a moment: Unless you've got JATO rockets strapped to your roof, you aren't going anywhere fast without sticky tires. The more power you have, the bigger the brakes you wear, the more sophisticated your suspension is, then the better your tires need to be.

In simple terms, grip is where it's at, and grip comes only from sticky rubber. For now, there is no secret formula that creates grip without a gooey tread, despite what crafty Madison Avenue advertising types might dream up. And with no exceptions, extreme grip comes at the expense of tire life. There's no way around it, but things aren't as grim as this statement may make it seem.

Most people are surprised to find that a typical set of 100 treadwear tires will last 10,000 to 20,000 miles before needing replacement. If you drove your hot rod to work every day year-round, you'd need a new set of tires every year. In reality, people don't drive their project cars to work every day or in bad weather, so the actual life span of an Ultra High Performance or DOT-legal R-compound tire is much longer. At first glance, a set of ultra-soft tires might sound like overkill, but when you weigh the overwhelming performance advantage against the dollar cost of other performance mods, it's the bargain of the century.

For reference, we're quoting the life expectancy of an R-compound or UHP tire based on our own experience with high-horsepower project cars that get autocrossed and road raced several times a year. Other folks may get more or less, but we think we're pretty hard core. We offer for example our '68 Chevelle project car, which has a set of 100 treadwear Nitto NT01s; we've had them for three and a half years and they're nowhere close to being finished. Our 1975 Laguna project car wears Nitto NT555R Extreme Drag Radials at all four corners, and the story is similar (check out our lead photo). Years ago, we also had a '93 Firebird road race project car with Nitto NT555RIIs that delivered over 17,000 miles from that set of 100 treadwear R-compounds. (Much to the chagrin of the manufacturer, we also drove them through three snowy New Jersey winters without incident.)

For the purposes of this tire roundup, we've included every tire with a Uniform Tire Quality Grade treadwear rating of 200 or lower. These are tires that separate the men from the boys (and the tough girls from the prissy ones!). Our cutoff is somewhat arbitrary, but is based on the fact that many autocross events require a treadwear rating of 200 or higher. When treadwear rating gets much higher than 200, the rubber compound gets significantly harder and performance drops off rapidly.

Every year, tire manufacturers come out with more R-compound and Ultra High Performance summer tires. Also, more sizes are added to established lines. Moreover, some venerable tire lines are discontinued and replaced by newer technology. We've researched all the new products and sizes in this rarified market segment, and to the best of our knowledge, we've uncovered every manufacturer offering a DOT-legal street tire in the United States. We've limited our roundup to radial tires only, and to tire lines that accommodate 17-inch rim sizes or larger. If you want your car to be the best it can be, or even surpass more spendy cars with higher dollar hardware, this list of 22 tires is your meal ticket to success!