Our world is full of irony and contradiction. Many of us desire more performance from our trucks, so we hop up the motor to produce more horsepower, but then we go and install heavier wheels and tires, which chew up all that extra power by adding rotational mass to the drivetrain. We also like to add a ton of heavy audio equipment inside the cab, which adds even more weight. Others add big brakes and large-diameter sway bars in an effort to make their truck handle better than stock, but then negate all of those improvements by swapping out the coil springs for airbags, which make controlling the suspension action a tough proposition. The fact is that it's tough to properly combine performance with style, where a pickup is concerned, and in many cases, style usually wins over performance. One look at the showgrounds of events across the country will drive home that idea.
There is no greater blatant exaggeration of form kicking function's ass than the trend of installing large-diameter wheels and low-profile tires on a crew cab dualie pickup. This is irony at its best. The long history of the dualie is steeped in trade, hard work, and the toils of railroad construction crews and farmers of this nation. These trucks were designed with work in mind and comfort as an afterthought. From the factory, these trucks sit nose down, a trait that signals the awesome payload capacity of the rear leaf spring suspension and massive cargo area. The rear axle with dual rear wheels is designed to spread the load between four tires instead of two. Put simply, this is a truck with a 10,000-pound GVWR, 4,588-pound payload capacity, and a maximum trailer capacity of 9,000 pounds, depending on what engine and transmission is in place. It's a trailer-towing, load-hauling, Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon 2 ripping the house off the foundation, badass pickup. So, what in the world would make so many truck owners ditch the best thing these trucks have going for them in terms of carrying or pulling a heavy load? The tires? The answer is style, man.
Style changes the rules of engagement for modifying your pickup. It makes you perform irrational modifications to your truck all in the name of cool. We're cool with it, too. We've watched this trend gain momentum over the last few show seasons and it's grown so much that practically every crew cab dualie we photograph these days is rollin' 19-inch or larger attire. Honestly, it's about time the aftermarket gave 1-ton truck owners something cool to roll on, besides the antiquated 16s we've gotten used to seeing. We do understand the reason why not many wheel manufacturers bother building large-diameter wheels for dualies. It's a really small niche market, and, honestly, the right size tires aren't available for lowered trucks. There comes a price for all this coolness and bling-bling for dualie owners. While rollin' large does indeed look cool, we wonder if it's safe? Ten thousand pounds is a lot of weight to carry on some rubberbands and 35 pounds of air pressure. But, according to Brent Walker, owner of Brentz Wheels in Dallas, Texas, we shouldn't be too concerned. His company manufactures a complete line of forged, one-piece, 8-lug, direct bolt-on wheels for dualies in varying sizes from 17 to 22 inches that are more than capable of carrying the load. He also pointed out that he routinely sells wheel and low-profile tire packages to customers who tow car trailers behind their lowered dualies without incident. While we are sure his wheels are up to the task of supporting a 1-ton truck's weight, we aren't so sure the tires will pass muster, so we ordered a set of 19x6.75-inch wheels to see for ourselves. Brent responded with a beautiful set of Thunder forged wheels and a few recommendations for choosing the right tire for our lowered dualie.
Finding tires that would fit on our own truck wasn't easy. Our first inclination was to install 19.5-inch-diameter wheels onto our dualie because that is one of the few rim sizes on the market that fit into properly load-rated tires. But, the drawback to a properly load-rated 19.5-inch tire is that there isn't a low-profile one available in a diameter less than 32 inches. Since our truck was lowered 5 inches up front using spindles and lowering springs (actually it's sagged to nearly 7 inches of drop over the years), and 7 inches in the rear, we could only fit a 28-inch-diameter tire within the wheelwells before contact became a problem. At the time, we'd been rolling an old-school set of 16-inch KMCs and 225/270R16 car tires. This is the reason we chose 19-inch-diameter wheels. Tire companies simply offer more low-profile tires for them. Brent helped us determine that we could fit a 245/45ZR19 tire, which is 26.6 inches in diameter when installed onto his wheels, beneath our truck. That sounded fine and dandy, but we couldn't find any tire in that size that was rated to carry more than 1,653 pounds each. Our truck weighs just shy of 10,000 pounds unloaded, so if you do the math, these tires barely support the weight of the truck, without any additional cargo or a trailer attached to it. It seemed like a recipe for disaster to install these tires and wheels onto our steed, but if so many other dualie owners were doing the same, then we ought to find out how dangerous it is and report back to our readers. We settled on a set of Pirelli P Zero Rosso tires, which offer one of the highest load ratings in this size and excellent traction.
To ensure that we'd have adequate clearance between the front fenders and new tires, we rolled over to Trader's in Santa Fe Springs, California, to see if the company's owner, Simon, would let us borrow his lift for a few hours. Once the truck was up on the rack, we replaced the 8-year-old 2-inch drop springs up front with a fresh set of 1-inch Eibach coils and also threw in a new pair of Koni shocks. Hard miles had sacked out the old coils so that our 5/7 drop was more like a 7/7 drop. The new parts gave us a nice 4/7 drop and plenty of tire clearance.
Next, we ventured to Salinas Tire and Wheel in Whittier, California, for an alignment and to have our new rolling stock mounted, balanced, and installed onto the truck. Before we mated tire to rim though, we took a few moments to install a trick air pressure monitoring device from INTELLIvalve. The system allows you to view not only the air pressure in each wheel containing a sensor but also the temperature of the air as well. Excessive heat and low air pressure is what kills low-profile tires, so this system will really aid in keeping tabs on both.
Rollin' big isn't cheap, but there is one ghetto way to save quite a few bucks when making the leap from 16s to 19s with your dualie. You can buy just four new wheels instead of six. Because the inner rear wheel is not visible once the outer wheel is bolted up, you can skimp here and retain the stock steel inside wheel and tire as long as the outer tire diameter is close to the same. Our inside tire is a 225/70R16, which measures out at 27.1 inches in diameter as installed on the 16x6-inch rim.
Our new Pirelli P Zero Rosso tires measured 26.6 inches in diameter after they were mounted onto the 19x6.75-inch Brentz Wheels Thunder rims. The difference in diameter is noticeable if you look close enough. When asked whether it would be a problem to have the inside wheel with the larger sidewall carrying a major portion of the rear weight, Brent said he actually prefers to set up a truck this way and that it makes the more expensive outer tires last longer.
One anomaly we noticed about our dualie is that the passenger side of the truckwas going to have clearance issues should we ever decide to lower the truck further. The fiberglass dualie fender would most certainly need trimming or the rear end would have to be narrowed, in order for the wider tire to tuck. But, the driver side was a different story. It offered an additional 1/2 inch of clearance and would tuck just fine. We asked Brent about our truck's crooked nature and he offered some surprising information:
"Chevy had two different suppliers manufacturing its dualie fenders and some are narrower than others. Chevy also had three different rearend choices, each with different total widths. Chevy even had a wide-track option on the later-year trucks that made it even more of a pain in the rear. Some trucks can tuck the tires with no problem, even when 'bagged and body-dropped. Dualie's equipped with the small-block 350 V-8 engines work the best with wider wheels, while diesels are the worse, because they had the wider rearend. Also, on the Chevy trucks, all the rearends are shifted to the passenger side 3/4 of an inch by design. Every truck is different. I haven't had two trucks ever be the same. Heck, a few months ago I had two '99 Chevy dualies here at my shop and the first one tucked perfect and was 'bagged, while the other truck wouldn't tuck the tires at all."
As you can see, the big 19s look awesome and really bring our old-school-looking '96 Chevy to a modern level. Even with the dated phantom billet front grille, our truck now looks sleek, sexy, and ready to cruise. We hit the road to see just how safe it was to rock a set of car tires under this beast, putting 3,000 miles of rush-hour commuting over pothole-filled California freeway interchanges and surface streets.
We also hitched up a drag boat and trailer, which weighs approximately 3,000 pounds and has a tongue weight of 250 pounds. We filled the bed up with a 55-gallon drum of race fuel and 300 pounds of tools. It's by no means the type of heavy-duty load that a work truck will incur, but we assume anyone buying a wheel and tire combination such as this one is doing so for show purposes only and isn't really using their truck for work. Again, the irony of owning a work truck and not using it to its full potential comes into play. We hit the highway in our dualie with boat in tow, proceeding straight through the Arizona desert, where we observed air temperatures of 116 degrees. When we stopped to check the tires, we measured the temperature of the asphalt highway and it was a whopping 120 degrees Fahrenheit! What's more, the air within the tires, according to the INTELLIvalve system, was also smokin' hot at 200 degrees Fahrenheit after 4 hours of runnin' hard through the wasteland. These were the harshest conditions we could impose upon the truck, without loading down the cargo area with additional weight.
After 3,000 miles, our truck hasn't suffered a blowout yet, even though we were sure the heat and weight of the truck, trailer, and load would damage the low-profile tires. The ride quality of the truck has degraded only slightly with the skinny new tires versus the fatter ones. You can feel road imperfections through the steering more now than ever, and it takes more effort to keep the truck tracking straight on the road, but the truck stops, corners, and tows just as well as it did with the 16s in place. We dig the look of the big wheels and tires and plan to keep running them. Our next test will involve a car hauler, so keep your eyes peeled for an update on our next towing test. For now, we have to say that running this combination of rolling stock seems right at home on our dualie, even if every tire manufacturer on the planet says differently.