My Cougar XR7 was originally equipped with 14 inch wheels and XR7 hubcaps. The tire size was E78 x 14 and if I'm not mistaken, the original tires were thin stripe double whitewalls. The comparison would be 195 x 75, if even available today. It's a higher profile and narrower tire than found on most cars of recent vintage. The 1970 XR7 is pictured in the showroom brochure with the double whitewall and I still have one as a spare.
Long ago, we switched from bias belt to radial and went to 70 series tires with a wider footprint. The hotter tire option in 1970 was the F70 x 14. The comparison would be 215 x 70 and that's the size of whitewall I put on the Cougar about 14 years ago. The combination of a whitewall tire and the XR7 hubcap says luxury, not muscle.
14 years is a long life for a tire, even though there are not a lot of miles on them. The hunt has begun for a new set. My thinking has been whitewalls to keep it looking stock. That way the original hubcaps would still be featured. What a bad case of sticker shock! The only whitewalls I can find are special order, at more than twice the cost of anything else on the market.
So a decision has to be made. Stock or modified?
I'm not that much of a purist. The Cougar is not a pristine show car, I drive it and I've always loved the look of mag wheels. If I go that route, I can garage the original rims and hubcaps, even keep the old whitewalls. And, a raised white letter tire such as the B. F. Goodrich Radial T/A is readily available.
As for wheels, several questions must first be answered.
- Like the whitewall, 14 inch rims are virtually non-existent. Most suppliers start at 15 inch and go up from there. I don’t want them too big. The look I’m going for is still classic muscle car, not Hot Wheels style mega rims with ultra-skinny tires.
- American Racing makes a number of classic mag wheels in 15 inch or larger. They are expensive and take six or more weeks for delivery. Nothing is on the shelf. All orders are custom.
- West Coast Classic Cougar stocks a number of Cougar/Mustang reproduction wheels, including the Magnum 500. They do offer the 14 inch. But, if I go with the 15 inch, it’ll be easier to find tires in the long run, at least that’s what I am told. Depending on delivery charges, a set of Magnum 500's plus the new rubber would likely cost around the same as the special order whitewalls.
Cruisin' season soon
I put the Cougar on the road for six months a year, beginning May 1st or 15th depending on the weather. The start date is fast approaching. I need to get rolling.