How fitting taller tires can prevent further damage to our GT350

The tires on our 1967 Shelby GT350 were simply too short and too wide.

End result: Our exhaust hit the ground, while the tires rubbed on the bodywork.

While we fixed the exhaust leaks, it didn’t cure the underlying condition: We needed tires that simply fit better–a little narrower, a little taller. These had also aged out.

Time to take stock of the situation.

Our car originally came with 15x7-inch Magstar wheels with 4.25 inches of backspacing all around. The original Goodyear E70x15 Speedway tires would have a diameter of 26.73 inches, a section width of 8.4 inches, and a tread width of 6.63 inches.

Several years back, we moved to a 16-inch wheel setup: BFGoodrich g-Force Sport Comp-2 tires wrapped around five-spoke Vintage Wheel Works wheels.

Tire sizes: 205/55ZR16 front, 225/55ZR16 rear.

Wheel sizes: 16x7 inches front (3.5 inches backspacing), 16x8 inches rear (4.5 inches backspacing).

  • First issue: Even if we decided to live with tires that didn’t properly fit, the sizes we had been running have largely fallen out of favor regarding performance tires.
  • Second issue: We needed to increase the front tire diameter, as our BFGs measured just 24.9 inches tall.
  • Third issue: The car is lowered about an inch in front while the rear is close to stock ride height.
  • Fourth issue: That 2.5-inch exhaust system does take up some space.
  • Fifth issue: We’re running a Wilwood big-brake kit up front, meaning we can’t go back to 15-inch wheels.

After spending some time on Tire Rack’s website, we realized that we faced a bit of a dilemma. So we called Woody Rogers, longtime tire expert as well as VP of marketing at Tire Rack.

I’m thinking you need taller tires in the front,” he told us. He also recommended narrowing our rear wheels. He also confirmed that today’s market didn’t really offer a 16-inch tire for our Shelby.

What about 225/50R17 on 17x7.0 wheels all the way around?” he asked.

One concern on his end: Would we be happy with the retro-mod look?

That 225/50R17 tire did offer the right measurements for our needs: a 25.9-inch outside diameter while fitting well on a 6-to-8-inch wheel.

He suggested 17x7-inch American Racing Torq Thrust II wheels paired with 225/50R17 Vredestein Hypertrac tires. This would give us some classic styling along with tour-friendly tires. Total price would be about $1500, with everything coming mounted, balanced and ready to go. While we really wanted 8-inch-wide wheels, we hated the rubbing that they caused.

So we followed his advice.

Our GT350's old BFGoodrich setup (left), compared to the new Vredestein setup (right).

We’re happy with the new setup. Out on the road, the tires are quiet, perform well and ride well. The wheels look a bit resto-mod but are not too crazy.

We still had a little rubbing on the front fenders, but just a little more massaging of the wheel lip solved that problem.

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