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New Wheels & Tires! January 2011

All car guys can agree that bolting on new wheels and tires is probably the best "bang for the buck" modification that you can make to your car. Not only do aftermarket wheels improve the look of the car, but if they're lighter than the stock wheels, can improve the handling and braking feel too. In addition to that, the right tire can offer a substantial performance increase over the factory stuff.

So why have I been running around on the stock 14 inch "daisies" and weenie no-name tires for so long? I've added a bunch of horsepower with a turbo setup, improved the handling with a set of lowering springs and adjustable shocks - seems like good wheels and tires should've been the first thing to do, not the last! Well, when I bought the car back in 2007, it had a set of 17 inch wheels and off-brand performance tires. They looked acceptable (from certain angles) but I had a hunch they weighed a ton. Plus, they just weren't my style.

Too much wheel, not enough tire and way too heavy. Gotta love a Miata that looks like its rollin' on dubs!

One day, I decided to weigh one of the 17 inchers and compare it to the weight of the stock Miata wheels & tires. The difference was astounding! By switching back to the lightweight stock wheels and tires I lost nearly 90 total pounds of unsprung weight! I promptly sold those 17 inch boat anchors and decided to run the stock Miata wheels and skinny 185/60/14 tires until I found something I really liked.

What a tough decision. For those of you who haven't looked into this sort of thing, there are what seems like thousands of wheel options for Miatas. It's great to have so much freedom of choice, but it sure makes it tough to finally decide. Thankfully, once I came across 949Racing's popular 6UL wheel, I knew they were the ones! The best part is the engineering behind the good looks - they are lightweight and built to perform. I ordered up a set in November and found them on my doorstep in early January.

miata 6UL wheels

I chose the 15x8 wheel in the beautiful "Nickel" finish. I must say, they look great in pictures online, but they look amazing in person.

6UL nickel

The great attention to detail given to these wheels is evident the moment you take one out of the box.

949Racing wheel logo

This is easily my all-time favorite wheel design. It was love at first sight.


For tires I went with the Hankook Ventus R-S3 in the 225/45/ZR15 size. This is a pretty agressive tire, but given how badly the car needs more grip, I think it will work out great. It is a popular option for many Miata folks running a 15x8 wheel.

I was a bit nervous about the "140" treadwear rating, until I realized that it's the exact same rating as the tires on my daily driver. Hrmph!

Once the tires arrived, the anticipation was too great and I had to go out and get them mounted up. Now we're cookin! Also, it's interesting how the nickel finish looks quite different depending on the ambient light. I'm liking that!

We're somewhere in the midst of "Snowpocalypse 2011" here, so I'm afraid these shots in the garage are the best I can do until the snow and ice start melting.

Here's a before and after animation for ya: mazda miata 6UL before after

This picture doesn't do it much justice, but my favorite thing about this wheel/tire combo is how well they fill out the wheelwell. This car needed that badly!

One more garage shot for good measure. Such an improvement, no?

UPDATE 1/22/2011 We had a little sun today (still cold as heck) so I went out and snapped a couple quick outdoor photos.

Well that's it for now. I'll be sure to post up my driving impressions and more pictures once I escape the grip of old man winter.

Thanks for reading!