What size wheels and tires will fit?

Running larger wheels and tires is a great way to enhance and individualize the look of vintage Mustangs
June 11, 2016 – 10:30 am
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We've been getting numerous inquires about installing larger wheels and tires on vintage Mustangs. Are you worried about backspacing, tires rubbing fenders, and tire sizes that may or may not look right on your car? We'll answer these questions and more to steer you in the right direction for fitting the ideal wheel-and-tire package to your vintage Mustang.

While we have plenty of photos to help you decide what you want, this isn't a wheel-styling guide, but rather a look at what fits in terms of wheel diameter, width, backspacing, and tire size.

In general, installing larger wheels and tires on vintage Mustangs falls into two categories. The '65-'66s are in a separate group. They have a few limitations because they're a bit smaller in every dimension than the later cars and have smaller fenderwells. For example, we've seen 18-inch wheels on these early cars, and they don't look right.

The second category is the '67-'73. There are more choices for what will fit in the fenders and look good. Any '67-'73 Mustang with the right 16- or 17-inch-diameter wheel and tire filling the wheelwell provides that cool open-track, road-racy look many owners desire.

We're using a '65 to discuss the small cars, and our reliable '69 fastback for the '67-'73 cars. We'd like to thank the folks at Vintage Wheels Works (VWW) and Islas Tires for helping us get the wheels and tires mounted.

Our '69 fastback test car is a textbook example of any '67-'73 Mustang in terms of wheelwell room and wheel/tire fitment. We believe the current wheels and tires on this car are perfect because they're big enough to look cool, but don't cause interference with fenders or suspension pieces. Remember-we're discussing dimensions only and aren't recommending a specific make or model of wheel or tire. We love VWW wheels in a big way, but are leaving the design and style choices up to you.

The wheels are 16x8-inch Vintage 45s all around, which are the original wheels VWW began offering about eight years ago. With 41/2 inches of backspacing, there's plenty of clearance from all obstacles and they fit exactly where you want in a '67-'73 wheelwell. The tires are staggered sizes, with 225/50R16s in front and slightly larger 245/50R16s out back. You could also run the same size tires all around (a 245/50R16 at each corner on a '67-'73), but we like the look the staggering provides. We think 225/50R16s all around might be too small for the rear wheelwell of a '67-'73 Mustang. You could also run a 255/50R16 tire out back, which we've seen on other '69-'70 Mustangs, with a 245/50 or a 225/50 up front. That would depend on how much size difference you want with the front and rear tires.

For a compromise between looks and ease of fitment, a 16-inch wheel is the perfect diameter for a '67-'73, but that's not to say the right 17-inch wheel isn't just as cool. The 8-inch width of the Vintage 45s is also ideal for this or any aftermarket wheel. Seven-inch-wide wheels are also good for whichever style you choose.

At Vintage Wheels Works, we mounted a set of 17s on our '69 to see how they looked. Cool, eh? They fit as well as the 16s, but are more radical with respect to a restomod look. They provide more clearance up front in relation to the front suspension's upper control arm. A staggered setup all the way, these two-piece 17-inch Vintage 45s differ from the 16-inch wheel's one-piece construction. We had VWW mount a 245/45R17 tire to a 17x8-inch wheel up front-which would also look good out back and would allow tire rotation. But the car here has a big 17x9.5-inch Vintage 45 out back with a 275/40R17 tire. VWW feels safer recommending a 17x8 for the rear, but the bigger wheels fit well enough to run them with no worries. Some inner-fender rolling at the rear might be needed with the bigger wheels, which will vary on a car-to-car basis.

The difference in looks between 16s and 17s is evident in our photos. Though we love the 17s, we were content to leave VWW's shop with our 16s still in place; they've been on this car for nearly two years. As for tire sizes on 17-inch wheels, 245/45s up front or all around are ideal on any car, though we love the bigger 275/40s out back. The biggest tire we'd run at the front would be a 255/40R17, although we'd likely be satisfied with what you see here.

It is possible to fit 18-inch wheels and tires on a vintage Mustang, but that's beyond the scope of our discussion. We're sticking to 15-, 16-, and 17-inch wheels, since the 17s already provide a low-profile look most of us might seek on an early Mustang.

Using the '69 as the guinea pig, we'll show what 15-, 16- and 17-inch wheels look like on the front of a typical vintage Mustang. Using VWW wheels of various styles, we begin with a 15x7-inch Vintage 50 with a 37/8-inch backspacing. Essentially a Shelby 10-spoke copy, it looks great with the 225/60R15 tire (about the best size for this wheel). However, a 235/60R15 tire would also fit well. You could also stagger tire sizes by running a 225/60 or 235/60 up front and fit a 245/60 on the back. Although the 245/60 might be a little big for a wheel that's only 7 inches wide, it will fit and would look good. The Vintage 50 is also available in a 16x8-inch size with a 41/4-inch backspacing and would work great with the 16-inch-diameter tires mentioned earlier.

A 16x8-inch wheel with a 41/2-inch backspacing wrapped with a 225/50R16 (shown here) or 245/50R16 tire is a true no-hassle fit on the front of any '67-'73 Mustang. Use these dimensions with just about any make or model of wheel and tire and you can't go wrong. This one-piece 16x8-inch Vintage 45 wheel started it all for Vintage Wheel Works.

Now we're going big and it's really cool. This two-piece Vintage 45 in a 17x8-inch version with a 245/45R17 tire is the de facto setup to use in terms of size should you desire 17-inch wheels of any make and style. Fitment is perfect, fenderwell clearance isn't an issue, and you have plenty of rubber on the road-much more than any Mustang came with from the factory. Backspacing is 41/2 inches. A 255/45 or 255/40 tire will also fit here with the same size out back, or a larger 275/40 if you want to stagger tire sizes.

Moving to the back of the car, our current setup is the same 16x8-inch wheel as the 16-inch wheel shown earlier up front, but with a slightly larger 245/50R16 tire. This ideal combo looks great and won't cause any problems. On some cars, slight fender rolling might be required because some 245/50 tires are fairly big. You could have four tires that are the same size, but are different brands, so the tires will measure differently. For example, we've seen 245/50R16s on the back of two different '69 Mustangs and the tires were from different makers. One brand was clearly taller than the other, even though the size was labeled the same on each tire. Another option is the 255/50R16, which we've recently seen on the back of a '69 Mach 1. They are big, however, so some fender rolling will probably be required compared to running 245/50s.

Source: www.mustangandfords.com
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