The 96 is in need of new tires. The old tires have hardened to the point that they’re scary in the wet, and they weren’t very good in the first place. There are only a few tires available in the sizes I need, which you’d think would make the choice easier, but it doesn’t.
The stock tire size for this car is 155 80 R15, and it is currently fitted with 165 80 R15 tires. 175 tires will rub the springs in front so there’s not much choice available. I could go with a lower profile 165, and there are some nice tires in this size, but even a 165 60 R15 would result in an extremely optimistic speedometer (plus the car is already under-geared with a 4.88 final drive).
In either 165 R15 or 155 R15, there are a number of cheap, crap tires, which I don’t want to touch. Nankangs have lots of bad reviews, Kumho has discontinued tires in that size, leaving Nexen as the only cheap tire that anybody has anything good to say about. But for only a little bit more, one can find Firestone F560 tires (made for Coker, apparently in the Ukraine) and for a bit more than that, Vredestein Sprint Classics.
The Firestones are cheaper than the Vredesteins by a hair, and have a little bit newer tread design, although they still look old, and should be fine - but reviews are mixed. Some people say they’re complete shit, others say they’re better than most other tires in this size. This seems to be the tire of choice for vintage volkswagens though, and yet the VW crowd has not written much in the way of reviews.
The Vredesteins are interesting as they have an older style of tread, and look a lot like the rock hard Continental tire on my spare wheel (which I think probably is genuine 70s vintage - yes it’s getting swapped out too). There are a lot of good reviews of these tires - but also a lot of warnings that they’re no good in the rain. I also don’t know where I can buy them locally, but online they’re available for $90 a tire.
So the choice is between two vintage looking tires (which would be cool) or a cheap, modern tire, the Nexen, which should perform fine in wet and dry, but may have common cheap tire problems. I could afford a set of any of them, although going with either of the cheaper options leaves me with more money to take care of other needs elsewhere on the car (the Vredesteins would effectively max out my car budget for the next two months) I doubt that anybody here has experience running any of these tires, but if you do, I’d like to hear about your experiences.