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!

Editor's note: All tires are listed in order of treadwear rating first, then by alphanumeric order. All tires and sizes were available for retail sale in the U.S. market as of June 15, 2010.

UTQG Ratings
The government has established the Uniform Tire Quality Grading (UTQG) system to help consumers choose their tires. The UTQG is a relative comparison system, and is not a safety rating, nor a guarantee that a tire will last for a specific number of miles. Under the UTQG system, "treadwear" is a comparative rating based on the wear of a tire when tested under laboratory test conditions. Under this scheme, a tire graded "400" should last twice as long as a tire graded "200." Nevertheless, another tire manufacturer may grade a comparable design "300," so a grade of "150" would last just half as long under its grading scheme. It is also common with R-compound tires for a manufacturer to assign a treadwear rating that is conservative for that tire, whereby a tire that could qualify for a "100" rating is actually given a "00" rating. (Theoretically at least, a tire with a "00" rating should last zero miles, but contrary to common belief, they do not disintegrate upon mounting!) The "Traction" rating is how well a tire brakes in a straight line on wet pavement. In the case of R-compound DOT-legal tires or UHP tires, which are seldom driven in wet conditions, a "C" rating means it passes minimum requirements for wet weather-the rating is not indicative of dry traction, nor is it an indication of turning or handling performance. The "Temperature" rating is a measure of how hot the tires run, not an indication of grip or safety.

SOURCE
Nitto Tire
6021 Katella Avenue
Suite 250
Cypress
CA  90630
877-565-8448
http://www.nittotire.com
Hankook Tire
1450 Valley Road
Wayne
NJ  07470
973-406-3500
www.hankooktireusa.com
BFGoodrich Tires
P.O. Box 19001
Greenville
SC  29602
877-788-8899
www.bfgoodrichtires.com
Yokohama Tire Corporation
601 S. Acacia Avenue
Fullerton
CA  92831
800-722-9888
www.yokohamatire.com
Mickey Thompson Tires & Wheels
4600 Prosper Drive
Stow
OH  44224
330-928-9092
www.mickeythompsontires.com
Kumho Tires
10299 6th Street
Rancho Cucamonga
CA  91730
800-445-8646
www.kumhousa.com
Toyo Tires USA
800-442-8696
http://www.toyotires.com
Falken Tire
13649 Valley Boulevard
Fontana
CA  92335
800-723-2553
http://www.falkentire.com
Dunlop
10 Sheridan Drive
Buffalo
NY  14207
716-879-8200
http://www.dunloptires.com
Michelin Tire
PO Box 19001
Greenville
SC  29602
866-866-6605
www.michelinman.com
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