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.
From here on out, our trail will consist of a mix of alluvium, sand, small boulders, and any assortment of debris found in the typical hills outside a major metropolis that is quickly succumbing to a zombie virus. A heavy rain two days prior will no doubt create the sort of slush and mud in which these tires were born to run…this will hopefully hide our tracks from the blood-sniffing undead. It’s an added bonus.
The open channels of the shoulder blocks and the outwardly angled tread pattern that traverses the entire face of the tire effortlessly cleared the mud and sand away from the fender wells. What was most impressive was that they adeptly avoided caking in the center treads, as there are very few channel intersections to block the exit of the debris. Some of the center treads are stepped, like the setbacks of a skyscraper, which helped keep the tires clear, but the unimpeded channels are the real gems. There was some slipping in the mud during quick accelerations or on a steep incline, but if you keep your head in the game and your foot light on the pedal, they are remarkably sturdy and confident in tight spots.
The muddy roads soon gave way to gravel and boulders and it was careful going for the last few miles to the shack. The factory micro-siping on the larger blocks in the center were too few and far between to assist in any serious rock climbing (the fewer the better for a tire that will see pavement), but that’s really not what these tires were intended to do. Since there were very few places for the center treads to find purchase on most smooth (or wet) boulders when attacked head-on, they were relegated to being pushed over them by the rear tires instead (it should be noted here that cornering on rain-soaked smooth concrete leads to under-steering, as well).
However, the real charm to these tires are the aggressively meaty side lugs that really knuckle down into loose gravel, dirt, and mud (it’s too late in the year for snow), all the while providing a cool palette for the subtle hints of the tire’s military theme: chevrons and mid-relief casts of 5.56 mm shells and percussion caps frame the sidewall, quite apt for a tire named after the ubiquitous M16 rifle.
The SS-M16s are available in sizes from 31x10.50R15 to 40x14.50R24 and for wheels of 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 22, and 24 inches. Make no mistake, Interco offers a better mud tire with their original Swampers or a better pavement experience with the all-terrain VorTrac. But if you’re escaping from the virus-riddled clutches of zombies in a post-apocalyptic wasteland with a mixed terrain of mud, dirt, sand, and concrete, except no substitutes. The SS-M16s are a wonderful compromise, a tire that excels in mud but is pavement friendly enough to keep you from looting too many gas stations along the way.
Oh, and did we mention they have bullets on them? We did? It’s a tire that lets people—the living and undead alike—know that you mean business.