We can’t find tires for our police car

February 1, 2012 | By Richard Prince


We’re loyal readers and very much enjoy the magazine, especially the restoration stories and the tech how-to stories. We live in NYC, and hope someday to have a garage of our own and a fleet of great cars. In the meantime, we own one car and she is our pride and joy. It’s a 1996 9C1 Chevy Caprice police package LT1, ex-canine unit out of Virginia.

The car is modified just enough to fix the issues that were discovered during the 1990s when the cars were new and a police favorite. She is for all intents and purposes bone stock, and we love her and intend to keep her forever! We even test drove the new 2011 Caprice police packages, and decided to keep the ’96. She’s bigger, has better sight lines, and she has personality. It’s just a big, fun, tossable car that has great, predictable handling and eats highway miles. She can run all day, and often does.

Here is where we need help—we can no longer buy tires for our car. She came with V-rated AM Generals and we were very happy with them. The last time she needed tires, the only V-rated tire for a 15x7” wheel was the Goodyear RSA. We purchased those and they’ve been fine so far. They are noisier, but nothing outrageous. But there is no longer V-rated rubber for a 15x7” wheel! Or any speedrated rubber for this size wheel. All we can get are truck mud/snow tires. We’ve written the major manufacturers but have gotten nowhere. Please help.

Look, we know that trim and body pieces go out of production—there are no longer enough of the cars on the road to make it economically feasible for the company to keep stamping them out. We’ve got a storage unit full of dash pads, glove boxes, interiors, grilles etc. But tires? That’s like not being able to buy fan belts or brake pads. The 15x7” wheel has been an industry staple for decades! How can there be no V-rated rubber available? But there isn’t.

So, what to do? Perhaps someone knows of a tire source I have yet to locate. Maybe someone knows of a larger 16” or 18” wheel that will fit my stock hubs. I can get the chip reflashed to correct the speedo. And I won’t have to give up grippy tires!

Last resort, maybe someone knows a reputable east coast shop that can safely widen the stock steel wheels to accept a fatter V-rated tire if one exists. We really never expected to run out of tires. We’ve never read that someone restoring a car from the 1940s or 1950s can’t find rubber. But here we are with a 15-year-old car that is out of luck. The whole joy of this car is that you can drive the family to the track, race all day, and drive home. Please help!


You state that you don’t want to “have to give up grippy tires” because you can’t find V-rated tires sized for your original rims. I think that you’re confusing the speed rating with the level of grip and the two things don’t necessarily have much to do with one another.

The speed rating of a tire, expressed with a letter (in the case of the tires that originally came on your Caprice the speed rating was “V”), indicates the safest maximum speed that the tire can operate at while carrying the maximum load for which it was designed.

A V-rated tire will carry its maximum load (expressed as its load index) safely at speeds up to 149 mph.

The level of grip of a tire is a function of numerous variables, but the tire’s speed rating is not one of them. So a tire with a higher speed rating may very well have less grip than an otherwise comparable tire with a lower speed rating.

While you cannot buy new V-rated tires for your Caprice’s original rims you can buy tires with an H speed rating. For example, Michelin Pilot Exalto A/S H-rated tires are available in sizes 205/60R15 and 205/65R15. These are considered safe at speeds up to 130 mph at the tire’s load index. I suspect that you don’t drive your Caprice at speeds greater than 130 mph.

You ask whether someone knows of a larger rim that will fit your stock hubs and there are many of these available. If you go to a larger diameter aftermarket wheel you can then buy appropriately

sized V-rated tires. Your Caprice uses a very common bolt pattern and most of the major wheel manufacturers make rims that will bolt right onto your car. More than anything else, choosing aftermarket wheels will come down to a combination of what you like and how much you’re willing to spend.