what happened to swedish cars fat tires| the immobilizera winter's taleStyle over SubstancePolycrapolene

Fat Tires

Tires are sized with three numbers, always displayed on the sidewall. Take a common [and sane] size: 195/60/15.
The first number is the width of the tread measured in millimeters. The second is called the aspect ratio. The last number is the diameter of the rim measured in inches.
I have very few good ideas as to why tires have become so much wider with an ever decreasing profile. I suppose it may be quite simple: race cars have them. If race cars can go faster around the track with them, why not everyman’s car? Why would Volvo and Saab put such expensive, impractical tires on their cars?

One theory is that any car with sporting pretentions [and we all like sporting pretentions] has to do well by the car enthusiast magizines and their skidpad tests. And on the skidpad, like the track, these fat, low profile tires do well. If a justifiable criterion for any car were its ability to cope with even a single inch of snow, we would be back on to narrower, fuller profiled tires. Almost the end of story.

Enter a convoluted aesthetic: people seem to like the look of these thin plimsole tires. Check out the custom street crowd, ever the avatars of schlock style themes, and you will notice the wider and thinner the tire, the cooler it is. Giving the people what they want may well be the mantra of the marketing department, but the customers I have are really sick of expensive tires that damage easily because there is less resilience from the sidewall. Since the profile is thin, a normal pothole shot will bend the rim as well. Since the tires are less resilient they give an uncomprisingly hard ride that accentuated any vagueries involved with tire wear and the true roundness of the wheel. This is not quite the end of the story.

While on the subject of rims: What’s wrong with the time honored stamped steel rim? What’s so great about alloy rims? Nothing with the first question and nothing with the second question. I guess the car buying public are like crows who gather anything that is shiny to put in their nests. Alloy rims [initially anyway] are shiny. Dutiful designers put hubcaps on steel rims to make them look like alloy rims.

I can usually pound most curb and pothole dings on a steel rim with some heavy hammer blows. Try this on an alloy rim and it will crack. Alloy rims are more expensive than steel and, oddly enough, heavier than steel. They are not supposed to be: modern alloy rims are decended from mag wheels. Mag means magnesium, which is remarkably light, strong, expensive and used for, you guessed it, racing. Alloy rims on Saabs and Volvos are all style and no substance. Unfortunately one usually doesn’t have a choice in this matter, so you are stuck as a poser whether you want to be or not.
In the eighties, Mercedes Benz used a stamped alloy wheel rim that looked exactly like a steel one. It had the steels resilience and weighed a lot less. The fact that they had that plain Jane steel rim look consigned them to the dustbin of automotive history.