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Cooper Cobra Tires - Sticky Situation

Do Drag Radials Really Work?

By Mike Petralia

It's ironic how you can make so much power, yet none of it will help you go faster unless it's applied to the ground. The type of tires you run has perhaps the biggest effect on how much of that power gets stuck to the ground. Sure, other things like your suspension, chassis, and even the track conditions all play a big part, but if your tires aren't working, you'll be slippin' and slidin' the whole way down.

Drag radials have been around for quite a while, and they can help you push your traction envelope further using a tire that can be driven semi-regularly on the street. Although no drag tire, radials included, should be counted upon to provide the best traction under all conditions, e.g. rainy days, there are two different brands out there, and determining which set is the best for you has been a tough debate.

We wanted to give the two major contenders, BFG and Nitto (pronounced knee-toe), a run for the money. We installed two sets of identically sized tires, or at least identical in description-more on that later-on a typical, everyday driver just to see how they'd hook.

Test Car
To legitimize this test we chose not to run the tires on a purpose-built race car with trick suspension and lots of power. Instead, we chose a car that gets driven on a weekly basis with totally stock suspension and a mild small-block for power. This way, we'd be testing the tires in a manner to which most of our readers could relate. A big, heavy car like this that's making just enough power to challenge the abilities of regular radials was the perfect choice. To find such a car we went to an old friend. Ernie Nunnes is the owner of C.A.R.S., Inc in near-by Thousand Oaks, California. We first met Ernie when doing the story on Doug Kruse's Vortech-supercharged, carbureted 383 that ran in the November '01 issue. Ernie was the man responsible for selecting the engine's components, and he also assembled the whole thing. We've kept in touch with Ernie and his wife, Dianna, since then, and when we went looking for a car to test the radials, Dianna tossed her keys into the selection pool.

Dianna's orange '72 Chevelle had just recently been re-painted, after a mishap on a rainy winter road, and she was willing to do all the driving, making it that much easier for us to take the pictures. A typical street small-block, with just a few extra power goodies that Ernie had lying around his shop, powers Dianna's Chevelle. The 355 features 11:1 Speed-Pro pistons and World Products S/R Torquer iron heads. An Isky hydraulic 305 Mega Cam moves the valves, and a Holley 750 breathes air into its Victor Jr. manifold. The TH350 trans features a 10-inch B&M converter, and there are a set of 4.10 gears in the stock rearend. The suspension is nothing to write home about, with stock replacement Gabriel shocks and the original coil springs and bushings still in the car.

Track Testing
When we arrived at Irwindale's newly opened eighth-mile Dragway at 3:00 p.m. on a hot July afternoon, track temps were in the upper 130s, and things were typical for a summer day. We planned to stay until the track closed that night so we could get test data ranging from typically poor to somewhat good conditions. Since Dianna was driving and I was taking pictures, Ernie, who is an experienced drag racer that currently runs an 8-second small-block nitrous car and has years of experience in the game, was put in charge of keeping the tires' pressures constant. He and I took and compared notes before and after each pass.

By Mike Petralia
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