So I have this Talbot Yellow 1976 Porsche 912E that I drive a lot. It doesn't get mentioned much here, because it hasn't needed much work, it isn't much of a project car, and I just keep driving it. I have owned this car for just a tick over 2 years, and I take it on long road trips all over the country, racking up over 30,000 miles of in that time. For most of those miles, I'd been using a low profile modern compound tire on a set of 15x6 and 15x7 Fuchs, but it just didn't look right on an over-40 car. The wheel gap was far too large, and the comfort was a bit lacking. Time for something new, then.
I'd been looking for a vintage-looking wheel for ages. The staggered Fuchs wheels were a bit too beefy for the delicate narrowbody mid-year fenders of my 912, and with a taller sidewall tire, the rears would rub incessantly on the sheetmetal. Fitment is important, but there is also something to be said for having the right look. The wheels and tires make the look of the car, I always say. This 912E needs a throwback tire that is narrower than it is tall to really look right. Being able to feel the tires fold over a bit and set into the turn makes the drive a little more enjoyable, too, as you have to work a little harder at the wheel to really get it moving. With a lower profile tire, the 912E is very planted and neutral. Driving a Porsche should be a little more exciting than that, maybe.
I've always liked the look of a narrow minilite-style wheel on an old Porsche, and tracked down a new set of VTO Performance "Classic 8" wheels with the right look. They're an inexpensive Chinese-made wheel that come in the right size and offset for the car. Metalurgy has come a long way in the last decade, let alone the last forty years. A new set of replica wheels is likely made to a higher quality than Minilite or Panasport made them in the 1960s, so I feel safer with this set than I would with originals. I'm not really planning to take this car on track, and the taller sidewalls mean the wheel won't be subjected to much serious stress anyhow.
I chose to go with the 15X6 square fitment with a +35mm offset for all four wheels. It's a bit wider than the factory wheels, giving a little nicer finish to all of the wheel openings without being too wide. They're fine for street driving. And for the $733 per set price tag, you can't beat them.
So then came the decision of what tire to put on these wheels. For one thing, I wanted a tire that looked right, with a classic look and a decent compound. After reading a few vintage car tire reviews to make sure I knew what I was talking about, I called over to the experts at Tire Rack. I frequently get tires from them because my house is only a few miles from their Western warehouse, and they were more than happy to oblige in donating a set to FlatSixes for the purposes of this review. They have some pretty great options for vintage cars, and they're working to expand that offering further.
In the war of price and quality, Vredestein's Sprint Classic is a dark horse. The Dutch tire company has been around for ages, but they don't have the cache of a Michelin or a Firestone when it comes to vintage car offerings. The Sprint Classic has been around for a few years now, and I know quite a few vintage Porsche guys, especially longhood 911 and 912 owners, who swear by them. Visually they look right for an old car of the 60s and 70s. In the interest of driving dynamics, the Sprint Classic has a shallow tread depth and wide blocky treads, contributing to good cornering and braking grip. In fairness, I have not yet driven on these tires in the rain, but some have indicated the experience to be a bit hairy.
In addition to having the right look, by cranking up the sidewall aspect ratio on my new tires, I was able to build a little more comfort into the car's suspension. A taller tire will absorb abrupt bumps, like a pothole, transmitting less of that shock to the wheel and suspension. And with a taller overall diameter, I'm running at a lower RPM on the highway, which is always a good thing. The difference is only a few percentage points, but it's noticeable and appreciated.
In October of last year, I took delivery of these wheels and tires, then installed them before a long drive to give them a proper test. The first stop was to 912 Rendezvous in Solvang, CA. The next stop was a quick visit to Los Angeles for a rip up and down the Angeles Crest Highway with some friends. Then on to SEMA in Las Vegas for a week before returning home to Reno, NV. My car, with an extremely loud exhaust, makes it quite difficult to evaluate these tires for road noise. That being said, the fell through the steering wheel was quite nice, providing decent communication to what the road was doing up to my fingertips.
As mentioned before, the taller tires made for more sidewall flex and less overall grip than the modern sporty tire I'd been using up to now. Though, that is exactly what this car was meant to do. I still have plenty of grip to carry speed through the corners, but I just have to be a bit more methodical and deliberate with my inputs. In all, I really enjoy this tire, and for the reasonable cost of entry, it does a great job.
At $733 for the VTO wheels, another $620 is what the Vredesteins would cost, plus a bill for the mounting and balancing, and I'm still well under $1500 for a complete visual transformation of this car. Wheels and tires, when done right, are always worth the cost. A car on the wrong set of wheels and tires is a car that doesn't look right at all, wouldn't you agree?