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Choosing the Right Foxbody Tires

Written By: Connor MC

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Picking the right rubber can be a huge difference maker. If you run your car at the track, proper tires can give you the edge over the competition and for those who daily drive their cars, choosing a good set of tires is a must for safety purposes.

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A good tire is a critical component of any vehicle and is made even more so when put on vehicles like a Fox Mustang (big V8, lot’s ‘o potential for speed). This guide will help you make the right selection based on how you drive your Mustang.

American Muscle

Foxbody Tire Buying Guide 

Using the right rubber can potentially have life changing results – it could be the difference between running a 13.xx and a 12.xx quarter mile or stopping 10 feet shy of a collision with a semi. Typically, tire choice plays a role in handling, acceleration, braking, road noise, and vibration. Different tires are going to have different characteristics across those categories.

In terms of Foxbody Mustangs, the original tires were sized as 225/60/R15 and were fitted on 15-inch rims (later on in development Ford went to 16 inch rims), which is pretty puny by today’s standards. Logically speaking, a larger tire ought to provide greater grip and traction. So with this in mind, what exactly can we fit?

  • The largest wheel a Foxbody can accommodate without modifications is a 16 or 17 inch wheel
  • Tires can be chosen from three main categories: high performance, drag radials, or drag slicks
  • Drag radials and drag slicks are not necessarily DOT approved, and are not recommended for street-only use
  • The type of tire you choose should be dependent on your intended application and current power output 
Foxbody Convertible Changing Tires at the Drag Strip

Max Fox Mustang Tire Sizes 

The aftermarket has learned the largest wheel a Fox can accommodate on all four corners without any rubbing or clearance issues is a 16 or 17 inch wheel shod with 245-width tires (ex: 245/50/R16). Running a larger tire/wheel combo can certainly be done, but not without modifying your Foxbody. Problematic areas in the rear end are the fender lips, quad shocks, (if equipped) and the exhaust hangers. In the front, the fender lips and lower control arm are the major restriction. Going larger than a 245 wide tire can lead to rubbing/hitting any of the above.

Looking for different tire sizing calculations, or just want to see how much those new rims are going to throw off your speedometer? A tire size calculator will help you solve fitment and spacing issues as well as give you insight into measurements and differences between tires.

Convertible Foxbody About to Run Down the Strip

Types of Mustang Tires 

Having gone over sizing, finally we can dig into the meat of the matter – actually picking a tire. Considering a Mustang is a performance oriented vehicle, it's deserving of an equally performing tire. There are three main categories to choose from: high performance, drag radial or drag slicks. Each tire is designed very differently. Whereas one may excel on the drag strip, it will be awful on the road. Let’s go through them.

High Performance: High performance summer tires are pretty straightforward. They offer good performance across the board and have great road handling characteristics, making them perfect for daily drivers and weekend course warriors alike. Better yet, should the asphalt suddenly become wet, your pony will still be able to prance around without significant trouble. Due to the softer and sticker compounds used over traditional all-season tires, tread life is moderate. They won’t last as long as regular all-season tires, but nor will they be as short-lived as the tire types below.

1979-2004 Mustang Performance Street Tire
Performance Street Tire

Drag Radials: Often branded as ‘drive to the track, race, and drive home on the same set of tires’, drag radials are a cross-breed between slicks and street tires. The mule of the performance tire world, if you will. Drag radials typically deploy an even softer compound than high performance street tires yet maintain a sturdy enough sidewall so the vehicle can still turn a corner (however, the sidewall is softer than a performance street tire). Furthermore, separating drag radials from a full slick, despite looking eerily similar, drag radials all come with a light tread pattern. This makes it so you can drive on them off the track. However, a drag radial on the street will never perform as well as a regular tire. If conditions get mucky, things can become a hot mess quite fast. Drag radials are best suited for the track with only light driving on the street. Tread life for this hybrid is not great as to be expected with the stickier compound.

275/50R15 Mustang Street Drag Radial
275/50R15 Street Drag Radial

Slicks: If you’re all about launching hard and racing down a straight line, these bad boys are for you. They offer uncompromised and unparalleled traction, but at the expense of everything else. Slicks are basically a big block of a very special rubber compound with no tread, maximizing contact area. Coupled with extremely soft sidewalls that deflect significantly under load (again, maximizing contact area), slicks cannot be beat for an all-out drag racing Foxbody. Take note: slicks are only for track use. Their treadless and soft sidewall design is a recipe for disaster on a wet road or simple corner. Tread life… what tread life?

29.5in Mustang Drag Slick
29.5in Drag Slick

DOT Approved Mustang Tires 

The term ‘DOT approved’ means the Department of Transportation approved a tire for secret use based on certain test results (tread wear, hydroplaning characteristics, sidewall rigidity etc.). As the definition implies, all street tires sold in the United States are DOT approved. However, the same does not apply to drag radials or slicks. Certain drag radials and slicks may be DOT approved, but this certainly does not mean they are entirely suitable for the street. Exceeding the minimum and meeting the minimum are two entirely different things, and typically drag radials and slicks are in the latter category, thus not recommended for extensive street driving.

Foxbody Mustang on Damp Pavement

Choosing Which Foxbody Tires Are Right For Your Mustang 

The type of tire you should shoe your pony with is entirely dependent on the intended application. Outfitting a daily driver pushrod 5.0 with slicks is not appropriate, nor is having your 9.xx-capable drag monster at the tree wearing some low-profile Sumitomos. In terms of brands, you can’t go wrong with any big name. Big name companies like Nitto, Mickey Thompson, Sumitomo, M&H, etc., they all spend big coin and use the latest technology (despite my describing a slick as a ‘block of special rubber’). The compounds in today’s tires are highly complex to field the best possible tire.

Two Foxbody Mustangs at a Show
Fitment includes: 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, GT, Cobra, LX, SVO