photos by: the author
Taking a Former Street/Strip Warrior to a High-Grip Corner Carver with Toyo Tires
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, there was only one way for the average car enthusiast to legally enjoy a speed rush, and that was drag racing. Drag racing is still the number one automotive sport in the country today, but there’s a growing interest in road racing and autocross.
Fifteen years ago the idea of muscle cars racing around a parking lot filled with cones or on an SCCA closed road course was largely laughable. But with modern technology being developed in braking systems, suspension components and even from the OEs, the time certainly are a’ changing. One other aspect, and a rather important one, is tires. Since our Firebird had rolled off of the assembly-line in 2002, there have been quite a few advances in tire design and compound technology.
Our Trans Am was designed as a sort of GT touring car from the manufacturer, but its usually regarded as the perfect canvas for a drag missile. Project Phoenix was something of a street/strip car several years ago, with a high-stalled automatic transmission and a high lift camshaft shoved straight in the center of the 5.7L LS1. But tastes and ideas have changed since our original vision of the car and now that we want to put Phoenix through just about every possible test we can think of imaginable – and we can’t do that with a one trick pony.
Back in the day, the car was equipped with a set of name brand drag radials and dry weather dry tires up front. They worked great, but have been mounted onto our Corvette GS 17-inch wheels that have been sitting on all four corners for the last ten years or so. Long story short, we haven’t been able to put the T/A through its paces on the dragstrip as we originally had intended oh so long ago, but now that we’re repositioning it as something more well-rounded, the decade old drag radials had to go.
We’ve been hearing endless chatter about the Toyo Proxes R888 for the last year, from every one of our road racing friends in the industry as well as our colleagues in the autocross circuit. While there are plenty of options on the market, and the feedback we received on these tires from everyone we spoke to… we just had to take a closer look.
So we gave our friend at Toyo Tires, Jay Jones, a call to learn more. After telling Jay our plans with the Trans Am, he wholeheartedly recommended the Proxes R888. With their combination of grip, longevity and wet/dry performance, the R888s checked all of the boxes we were looking for. Of course, these tires have little to no snow/ice capabilities, so we suggest that you don’t put them on your year-round daily if you live in the Midwest.
Ironically enough, we’ve recently relocated our base camp from Texas to Ohio, so while we’re waiting for the 2016 racing season to commence, we figured this was a perfect opportunity to update you on Project Phoenix. Besides, if we’re going to hit the autocross circuit with Phoenix in the Spring, we’d rather do it with fresh rubber specifically designed for such a task – not nearly decade old drag radials.
Despite this, we still put some miles on these tires before the season closed out and we were quite pleased with the driving experience that they provide. Even taking everyday turns on public streets, showed an improvement in the mannerisms off the car’s handling.
Phoenix seemed much more sure-footed and ride quality had improved dramatically, thanks to the R888 semi-slick shoulder area, stiff-bead construction and wider tread width. Granted, it didn’t exactly ride like a new Cadillac considering its aftermarket stiff suspension settings and components, but there certainly was a vast improvement whenever we hit the bumps in the pavement.
However, we don’t want you to think we irresponsibly installed race tires on a street car, because that’s not the case here. Tokyo’s enhanced R-compound tread (hence, the “R” in R88) is designed to maximize grip for competitive handling and performance, but manages to integrate V-shaped grooves that help with wet traction – just in case you get stuck competing on a wet track or caught in the rain on the drive home.
Now that we have the basics out of the way, we’ll be following this up with autocross track testing in the coming weeks. Of course there are a few guidelines that we’ll need to follow in order to use and maintain these tires properly overtime. We’ve mapped them all out below, courtesy of Toyo Tires. Stay tuned!
Recommendations on the R888:
The rubber compounds used in these tires have unique properties that, when compared to other tires, can cause them to lose some of their flexibility when used or handled in conditions below 15F (-9C). This loss in flexibility can lead to potential cracking and other damage to the tire. Do not move or operate the car with these tires in conditions below 15F (-9), and always inspect for signs of cracking – never use cracked tires!
Before mounting or dismounting, store these tires for at least 24 hours in a temperature-controlled environment of 68°F (20°C) or warmer, and if you store the car for a prolonged period of time, remove these tires from the vehicle and deflate to half the normal air pressure.
Toyo Tires recommends the following general setup guidelines for the Proxes R888:
- Operating Temperature: 160°F to 220°F
- Hot Inflation Pressures: 32 to 38 (psi)
- Camber: -1° to -3°
- Caster: As much positive as possible
Rick Seitz is the owner and founder of GMEFI Magazine, and has a true love and passion for all vehicles. When he isn’t tuning, testing, or competing with the brand’s current crop of project vehicles, he’s busy tinkering and planning the next modifications for his own cars.