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I bought Lady, my '98 TJ, in the spring of '99. With the factory 28" tires soon removed, I went to 30" tires (on factory rims) and then pushed up to 32" tires on some new aluminum wheels. A bit after that, I moved up to 35" MT/Rs and have ran those for well over 6 years.
For over 8 years, that first set of aluminum wheels served me well.....and a friend asked me about a month ago if he could buy them as soon as they were off of the TJ. (yes, he is fully aware of the rock rash they proudly display) For several years, I've wanted a set of bead lock wheels. To date, I've not managed to totally loose a bead but I've gone down to 3 PSI from burping air (that was on Hell's Gate in Moab) which was spooky.
By this past December (2006), I had finally saved enough $$ to have a set of bead lock wheels. I opted to have them built by a local sand rail fabricator, Danny Foddrill. He has a very good reputation in the sand dune community and if the wheels he builds can take the pounding dished out by the dune jumping sand buggies, I felt confident I could crawl through the trails and come out OK.
I had gotten a set of Procomp Extreme Alloy 1069 series wheels from Troy at Toys by Troy which were then delivered to Danny for the conversion. The Procomp 1069 series is a MT Classic II style wheel. Since I wasn't planning on upgrading my axles (resulting in a different bolt pattern), I got the 5 on 4.5" bolt pattern with 3.75" backspacing. This would fit my Warn hub conversion and the Alloy USA axles in my D44 rear axle. The backspacing was within a quarter inch of my old wheels so I knew I would be good there.
Danny had a set of Champion "C3 FM" lock rings hanging on the wall. The "FM" stands for flush mount, as you can see here. You'll still get some alloy metal transfer from the rings into the holes as the rings grind on the rocks but the chances of peeling a bolt head off are pretty much negated.
Champion makes a good product and have been in the business since 1985. The lock rings are CNC machined from 6061 T-6 aluminum plate. The lock ring surface that contacts the tire are knurled to prevent tire rotation on the wheel (which keeps the wheels/tires in balance). I like the extra "bling" of the C3 outer ring and decided to go with them. A replacement set of 5 outer rings are just $100 per ring (ouch!). Amortize that over a few years of use and it doesn't amount to that much.....at least that is what I kept telling myself as I was deciding on the rings.
One of Danny's techs did the machining and TIG welding and had my new bead locks finished in about a week. There was no hurry as I hadn't selected tires yet. I wasn't going to put old tires on new bead locks.....that just wouldn't be right! After picking up the new wheels, I had to see how it looked on the front axle. YEAH! Not only did they fit, they looked great too!
OK, about a quarter of the job was done....I had the wheels, now what tires to get?
Troy had recently returned from the 2006 Parker Desert Splash event (Nov. 2006) in Parker, AZ where he had ran Shari's TJ with a new set of 35" Maxxis Trepadors tires. I was pleased to hear that he didn't take out a sidewall as he seems to have a knack for doing that, regardless of tire size. The trails offered at Desert Splash range from mild to wild. Given that the TJ came home with plenty of fresh undercarriage grinding, it was easy to see that Troy didn't take the easy trails nor the easy lines. He was impressed with the new Trepadors.....and given the fact that they were brand new, with no break in time, the sidewalls flexed well and the tires held their intended line. I've ran new MT/Rs often enough to realize that you don't get optimal performance on a fresh set of tires. Competition guys will not run a new set of tires for the prize money until they are broken in....they simply don't hook up good enough otherwise.
Maxxis lists the M-8060 Trepador Radial as a specialty off-road tire. The 35"x12.5"x15" tire is rated load range "D" ( in comparison to Goodyear's MT/R load range "C") and uses 6 ply, double steel belted radial construction. The 35" version is siped and is available for 15", 16", and 17" wheel diameters. The sidewalls are 3 ply and the tire, un-mounted, hits the scales at 68.2 lbs. The tread blocks are 22/32" tall which provides just under 3/4" of tread.
Here is a pic of an un-mounted 35" Trepador next to a 37" Trepador competition tire on Brad Kilgore's buggy. Kind of like a big brother, little brother snapshot. Yes, both are directional tires.
A closer shot here shows the siping on the 35" tire. The shoulder/sidewall lugs are not as aggressive on my 35" tire however it has more than the MT/R it replaced.
More Bead Locks