Swamper LTBs & Summit Wheels - No QuarterPosted in How To: Wheels Tires on August 1, 2009
Once you move into Interco's Super Swamper line of tires, you're really saying,"I care more about off-road performance than on-road comfort." In fact, you're saying it in bold, neon letters the size of a battleship. The Super Swamper TSL, or three stage lug design is comprised of short, intermediate, and large lugs that bite hard and clean out quickly. They're built on a tough bias-ply carcass that can soak up hard rock hits, rubbing, and any off-road abuse you can dish out. Where the LTB differs from the regular TSL design is in the layout of these TSL lugs, with the LTB featuring more aggressive, wider lug spacing. The outer lugs are offset farther to the outside of the tread and the sidewall lugs extend down onto the sidewall more than the regular TSL. Interco offers the LTB in a lot of cool sizes not found in some of its other lines. We're dreaming of the 16/40-15 for some future projects, but for now we ordered up five 31x11.50-15 Interco Super Swamper LTBs for testing on a mildly built Wrangler.
Since the LTB's stiff bias-ply sidewall construction allows the tires to be run at somewhat lower pressures than regular radial tires without unseating the beads, we didn't need to pop for expensive beadlock wheels to wring the most out of our test tires. In fact, we didn't have to spend much at all for a set of gorgeous, yet tough Summit Racing Series 50/51 wheels in a 15x8 size for our 5-on-4.5 Wrangler lug pattern. The Summit Racing brand wheels offer devastating good looks reminiscent of a classic five-spoke factory Jeep wheel of the '70s in at a very affordable price. The one-piece, clearcoated aluminum wheels are available in most popular sizes and lug patterns and come with closed centercaps. Open centercaps for locking hubs are also available.
How They Work
For starters, using these tires on the street is sort of like using a chainsaw to carve a turkey. It'll get the job done, but there are more civilized ways to accomplish your goal. The Swamper LTBs are a rowdy, off-road tire with big, blocky lugs that squirm on the street and caused our Detroit Locker in the rear axle to go somewhat haywire. The locker engagement was borderline scary on some twisty mountain roads and no rotating of the tires or playing with air pressures could change that fact. They're an off-road animal that ask no forgiveness on the street and that give no quarter off-road.
And speaking of off-road, we tested our LTBs in just about every terrain except for snow and ice. For all of our off-road testing we ran the fronts at 10psi and the rears at 8psi. Although the sidewalls are somewhat stiff and didn't exhibit a noticeable bulge when the vehicle was sitting static, the carcass did bulge and envelope obstacles as the tires rolled over rocks, ruts and other trail incongruities. We probably could've dropped the pressure even more without unseating the bead, but we found no need to because traction was never a problem. In the sand, we were able to keep enough tire speed to chew through long, loose stretches without sinking, but it did require a balancing act with the throttle. Too little tire speed and forward momentum suffered. Too much tire speed and the big lugs tended to dig down and sink. The trick was to get the tires up and moving on top of the sand, then just let the lugs do the work without getting throttle-happy.
Hopping over to the Truckhaven area of Southern California, we had plenty of loose dirt climbs, rock-strewn washes, and firmer terrain to check out. The bombproof sidewalls soaked up hard rock hits with barely a scuff and the finger-like lugs found traction in just about any terrain. Long, loose climbs proved no trouble and when the going got fast we found the rear end was able to kick out in 2WD with a little throttle application. Once the rear broke loose, it was predictable and stable with no sliding or spooking; both an indication that the lateral tire bite is right on the money.
Then it was off to Moab, Utah, for some slickrock and mud work. We found some long, deep, gooey mudholes on one of our favorite trails and hopped in like pigs in slop. Aside from our undercarriage digging in a little because of our low lift and short tire height, we had absolutely zero trouble clawing our way forward through sticky, taffy-like mud. The tires cleaned out readily, throwing gobs of slop all over the place. And once back in town, the clearcoated Summit Racing wheels simply hosed clean with no staining or blemishing of the aluminum surface. As for Moab's famous slickrock climbs and obstacles, we may as well have been driving on flypaper. Although it's pretty common to hear some tire squeal and noise on steep climbs, this wasn't the norm with the Swamper LTBs. The relatively soft lugs just took hold and grabbed like the ground was money, exhibiting very little slip, squeal, or spinning.
TAG Motorsports in Escondido, California, mounted and balanced our wheel and tire package, so other than some flat-spotting when the tires are cold, the on-road ride is actually fairly smooth for a tire as aggressive as the LTB. We attribute this to the relatively small blocks of our 31x11.50-15 test size. However, while the smaller blocks offer slightly less lug slap through the driver seat, the noise level, tread squirm, and size variations make daily driving these tires a chore, Regardless, if you're more concerned with off-road prowess than on-road comfort, we'd be hard-pressed to come up with a better all-around tire. These are hard-core tires for the hard-core wheeler, plain and simple.