Eight years ago, on the advice of some of my club members (Rock Crawlers of Ventura County) who were semi-professional rock-crawling competitors, I installed a set of five Goodyear Wrangler MT/R tires on my 1982 CJ7.
Ted and Mike were both using MT/Rs at the time on their competition rigs—albeit a bit bigger than the 12.50x35x15 tires on my Jeep—and not only were they enthusiastic about the tire’s traction but equally enthused with its strength; they never sliced a sidewall in competition or while playing, and our club regularly visited The Hammers—we even did Sledge at night to increase the challenges.
Climbing the Moab Rim Trail with my Goodyear Wrangler MT/Rs (above), everything worked beautifully if not exactly perfectly, and the tires never slipped.
At the time, my CJ7 was relatively stock with a 4.2L six, 5-speed tranny, and OEM low range, although I had installed ARB lockers and 4.56 gears in the AMC 20 and Dana 30 diffs. The CJ and I visited Moab a couple of times in this configuration, and I even slid it over Rocker Knocker with no trouble.
A few years passed and I wanted more fun, more power, and two more cylinders. For this I gave up two tranny gears by going to a 3-speed TH350, and had the Dana 300 T-case rebuilt with a TerraFlex 4:1 low range. Advance Adapters proved to be a one-stop shop with everything I needed to drop in a Chevy 400 small block V8 in front of the Hydramatic, with a Howell EFI sitting atop its intake manifold. Once everything on the “new” engine and tranny were dialed in, it was back to Moab (last year) to try it out.
Up and down the Rim Trail, one of the things I never worried about was the tires.
Now, we jump a year ahead to April 2009. Why have I gone into this bit of personal history? Because I wanted you to know that I’ve used and enjoyed the Goodyear MT/R tire in all four of the “Four Corner” states, plus California and Nevada, and the spare never touched the ground. I trailed it through these six states with both a six-cylinder and stick and a V8 and auto, and I thought that there was no way the Goodyear slip-stick guys—that’s engineers with slide rules for those of you too young to remember the BC days (before computer!)—could EVER improve on the Wrangler MT/R.
Well, you know what happens when you assume something, and I have to admit that Goodyear completely smashed my assumption and—pun intended—drove it into the ground! It’s hard to believe, but the Wrangler MT/R with Kevlar is one heck of an improvement!
The differences in tread pattern (above) are readily apparent when the tires are compared side by side. Although the new MT/R is multi-directional, it is mount specific in that it has an inside and an outside and must be mounted in that fashion on the wheels.
Unfortunately, 35-inch height is the tallest available for 15-inch wheels. As of this writing, tires up to 42 inches are available in other rim diameters. Also, it was decided that the 12.50x35x15 models would not get the OWL sidewalls. The Kevlar is only in the sidewalls, not the treads, which should really prove to be a boon for desert dwellers, since the tires should prove impervious to cacti spines.
The guys who mounted the tires suggested a 14-pound minimum since my wheels weren’t equipped with beadlocks. At the first obstacle, Walker Evans, a longtime friend and our tour guide for the day, said to forget that and drop it to 8 or 10 psi, which I did. Never lost a bead and the ride improved greatly along with a traction increase.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that there’s virtually no weight whatsoever on the front tires. This was one very steep rock climb! And with the lower pressures, the Goodyear Wrangler MT/R tires performed flawlessly.