Tires For The Zombie Apocalypse
If we’ve learned anything from Hollywood, it’s that hoards of post-apocalyptic zombies will spread like locusts across the countryside at the slightest hint of society spiraling out of control. One day, you’re minding your own business and the next, your grandma’s chewing on your skull. It’s quite obvious that what’s keeping your neighbors from making pâté out of your fleshy bits is a good set of mud tires. When the trail gets slippery from the oozing guts of decomposing zombies, you’ll want mud tires, specifically Interco’s SS-M16s, the latest addition to the Super Swamper family of off-road rubber. Trust us on this one.
First things first: flee the city and head to our Unabomber-style survivor’s shack 320 miles into the wilderness (you have one, right?), and along the way, put the M16s through their paces. The 295/70R17s were fixed at the corners of our escape truck, a mildly lifted 2004 F150, loaded down with enough food and ammunition to outlast the onslaught of the living dead. Compared to others in their size range, the M16s are well rounded and were balanced easily without an abundance of weights (seven ounces on one was the most, but we blame the cheap wheels more than the tire). The max loads of the E-rated tires (3,195 pounds each) is more than the truck can handle no matter what tires are on it, so it’s nearly impossible to overload them.
We found that 65 pounds of air is a nice compromise between traction and drivability; it’s not too soft to feel spongy and not too hard to clatter and bounce over the bumps. Airing down in the sand and over larger boulders, of course, is always a smart option.
At 75 pounds each—with a 10-inch-wide footprint (and a 12-inch cross section)—the M16s sap a noticeable amount of off-the-line torque compared to the previous street tires, but once that much rubber starts rolling, accelerating from a pursuing gaggle of flesh eaters (from 40 to 60 mph) is quick and effortless. The issue reverses if quick stops are needed, as inertia is a cruel mistress in the large tire world. At low speeds, a light chattering of the treads lets you know they’re there if you need them, and at no point does the steering wheel vibrate or shake on smooth roads at any speed. The 10-ply tread and two-ply sidewalls lend to a softer ride than we’d expect from such a corpulent tire, but any changes from the feel of the previous set of tires dissipated after a day or so. Basically, we got used to them and adjusted our driving accordingly.
Cruising at 65 mph (which is over 70 given the increase in tire diameter), there is very little howling normally associated with aggressive tires; in fact, it only measured 81 dB, just five over stock, and most of that is attributed to engine noise and wind around the A-pillars. This persistent humming is a new constant sound in the collective din inside the truck’s cab, and the easy solution is to turn up the radio. However, anything above 80 mph and you’ve got four coyotes screaming at the moon…but if there’s a reason you’re going over 80, you’ve got bigger problems.
When swerving suddenly around flaming vehicles and overrun roadblocks on the desolate highway, the steering is responsive with only the slightest loss of lateral stability. Cornering (or swerving) transforms the “howl” to a menacing growl as more of the shoulder contacts the pavement. It is a sound akin to a meaty exhaust note, which for truck guys is right up there with the sound of a submachine gun…or steak grilling.
Finally, the end of the first 300 miles, and we’re still not undead. That’s good news. Before turning off of the highway for the dash into the hills, some light arithmetic revealed a pleasing 12.6 mpg, only a couple under par.