In addition to their aggressive and stylish modern bodylines, one thing that has set the latest generations of America’s favorite muscle cars apart from their predecessors has been the shift to larger, more eye-pleasing wheels. From 18- and 19-inch, to the overwhelming industry favorite 20-inch, and even 21-inch in some cases, big has been in since at least the turn of the century. Of course, it takes a big wheel opening to fit these wheels and their likewise larger circumference rubber, and while that’s of no concern to street performance enthusiasts who are utilizing factory diameter wheel and tire combos at the very least, it presented challenges early on for drag racers.
The early fifth-generation Camaro, in particular, posed a problem for the earliest drag racing adopters to the body, who found the common 24- to 26-inch diameter frontrunner tires to leave an unsightly amount of open air in the front wheel opening. Some even resorted to wholesale modification of the front fenders to improve the proportions of the front wheel and tire in the opening.
While it’s no doubt true that lowering the front ride height of the car will shore up some of that gap, getting the proper wheel and tire combination is the other half of the equation to address if you really want the car to look balanced front to rear. If the front has slightly more or less gap than the rear — or vice versa — then to an obsessive-compulsive observer and harsh critic like a hardcore enthusiast, it might as well be a mile.
Our Project TrueSStreet is a 2010 model Camaro that rolled off the assembly line as a V6 model in that very first run of fifth-gens. Our early selection of front wheels and tire included Mickey Thompson’s ET Sportsman in a 26-inch diameter, wrapped around Weld Racing S77 18×15-inch wheels, with 200-lb/in AFCO springs installed on AFCO Big Gun struts. Out back, we chose 28×10.50-15S ET Drag tires and tubes mounted on Weld Racing S77 15×11-inch to put the Whipple-supercharged, 376-B15 crate engine’s 1,000 horsepower to the pavement. Once we got the engine and transmission and other essentials in the car and on the ground, our OCD alarm bells went off as the car lacked uniformity in the wheel-well front to back, thus creating a visibly displeasing stance.
We needed a bigger tire, and a little less spring rate to drop the nose. With that, she’d sit juuuust right.
So we picked up a set of Mickey Thompson’s ET Street 28×6.00R18LT front runner (P/N: 3880), and then placed a call to AFCO to get a set of their 185-lb/in front coilover springs — specifically, their Extreme Chrome 2-5/8 -inch I.D., 12-inch length (P/N: 22185CR).
The ET Street fronts, with radial construction, have lower rolling resistance than their bias-ply counterparts, are DOT-approved, and they’re lightweight. In addition to the 18-inch we chose, you can also get these in 26×16 and 27×6 sizes in a 15-inch wheel size, and 26×6 or 27×6 for 17-inch wheels. These make the entire lineup perfect for early- and late-model muscle cars like Camaros, Mustangs, Corvettes, and older hot rods and street rods.
“We had the Sportsman SR’s out there, and while the fitment on that tire is right, it’s more of a touring-type tire — it was used in racing, but it isn’t really a race tire,” says Mickey Thompson’s Jason Moulton. “So, to go along with our rear tires that are a race tire that you can drive on the street, we wanted a front tire that matches that philosophy. When it comes to racing, you want a lightweight front tire, so we went all-out and made it a radial, and brought out a lightweight tire that’s DOT-approved. Guys using products like our ET Street R, typically have a race car or a really fast car, and dragstrip performance is key to them, so we thought, let’s bring out a front tire that matches what we’re trying to do with the rear.”
Mickey Thompson added a slight amount of tread gauge over a full-on race frontrunner tire, but Moulton assures it’s a very negligible amount of weight difference. But this allows the ET Street Front to have race characteristics, and drive well in any type of conditions one would realistically find themselves in with a high-powered car.
All said and done, the car now has a nearly equal stance front to rear, with a 1-1/4-inch wheel gap in the front, and 1-1/8-inch in the rear. We’ve also got a very capable set of tires, and a killer suspension from AFCO with all the adjustability we could need.
Next stop for our Camaro is the race track, as we wrap up some of the final electronics to-do items, dial in the tune on our Holley ECU, and then get after it. To get up to speed on our long-term True SStreet project, hit the “projects” tab on the menu and have a look at all of the articles highlighting the build of this potent machine. And keep your eyes out for updates from the track, complete with data and all the gritty details.