Finding the perfect wheels is a difficult task. You will never find a tire without a draw back. Also the variety of different brands and types are just overwhelming. During my research I came across a few very interesting articles about the advantages of different tire sizes for each application. Really informative is the text from Expeditions West about tall and narrow tires.
A tall, narrow tire is a better choice for all off-highway surface conditions with the exception of soft sand, snow and soft mud that’s depth exceeds 110% of the vehicles minimum ground clearance.
If you have a look at most military vehicle as well as modified overland campers, you will notice they use quite skinny rubber for many reasons outlined in the article. The main goal is to keep the width as close to the stock as possible and just increase the tire diameter to get more ground clearance.
So lets compare a few available tire sizes to the original Delica tire (235/75R15):
235/75R15 = 29 inch diameter and 9.5 inch wide
215/85R16 = 30.2 x 8.5
245/75R16 = 30.5 x 9.7
31×10.5R15 = 31 x 10.5
235/85R16 = 31.7 x 9.3
265/75R16 = 32 x 10.5
The closest available tire to the original is the 235/85R16, which does not increase the width at all, but lifts the whole car by almost 1.5″. Most important it lifts your lowest point – the differential housing. Also because the gearing on a manual 5spd Delica is not very good for highway use, it gives you lower rpms at higher speed.
There are of course disadvantages to it. First this tire is very heavy. Produced for trucks it has the load rating “E”/10plys also it is on a 16 inch rim which add even more. Second you need to lift the Delica at least 3” to be able to fit this tires and even then you probably need to trim your fenderwell quite a bit too. Third you can not just pick this tires up in the next shop. It is a special order from the factory which takes quite a while.
Nevertheless we made our decision for this size and went on finding the right type/brand. We don’t use our car as a daily driver and basically it’s just use it as an recreation vehicle. When we are on a road trip we spend almost half of the time in the nature on logging roads and rougher trails. Therefore we’ll try some mud terrain tires instead of the all terrain we had on our first Delica.
Now, to find the right brand you should also consider the availability in the countries you want to travel to beside the usual stuff like reviews of other users and independent experts, price tag, local availability etc.
For our future plans this three brands came on our short list:
Firestone Destination M/T
Toyo Open Country M/T
BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2
After researching the countries we are planing to go and considering the different prices, I ordered five 235/85R16 Firestone Destination M/T at 4wheelparts.com for quite a competitive price of $1100 (incl. balancing/mounting and 16×7 rock crawler steel rims)
Why steel rims? The majority of alloy rims can crack if you hit something hard. There are a few exceptions, but this rims are not in our budget (~$500 a piece). Also if you damage your steel wheel you can bend it back or weld cracks. Pretty convenient if you don’t have a tire shop around the corner.
Following photo are a comparison to worn down 30×9.50R15 Yokohama Geolandar M/T which were mounted on the Delica as I picked it up.
Update November 2010:
We moved on to a different rim/tire set-up. Check out the new post.