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Michelin Defender LTX MS + Vintage Ranchero's +


Staff member
Elite Explorer
April 3, 2009
Reaction score
City, State
Kailua-Oahu, Hawaii
Year, Model & Trim Level
'05 Sport Trac XLS (RWD)
More than ten years and dry rot beginning to show it was time for new shoes. My Michelin Latitude Tour model was discontinued so I needed to do some research for replacements. When I bought the Latitude Tours in 2010, I was also considering the LTX M/S2 that was very highly regarded with some claims of lasting over 100,000 miles. Comparing both tread patterns I thought the Latitudes would be a better choice for my type of driving with a smoother and quieter ride. Latitude Tour is a P rated (passenger car) tire and the Defender LTX MS is an LT (light truck) tire with stiffer sidewalls. Long story short, and IMO, Defender LTX MS are just as quiet with comparable fuel economy after driving about 1000 miles. Haven't driven on wet roads yet, but wet road handling reviews are mostly stellar. As expected, the Defender rides slightly firmer due to the stiffer sidewalls using the same 35 PSI in all tires. This are the stock 235/70-16 size for my 3:73 XLS. What convinced me to pull the trigger was my Sam's Club Plus price of $655 installed including tax. I'll have alignment checked by a shop I've used once before that specializes in modified suspensions. (Lowered 2.5" front and 3" rear) 235/70-16 size is only available with raised white letters and thought I'd leave them facing out and be extra careful around curbs. Haven't had raised white letters on a vehicle since my 1979 Ranchero (my fourth) with BFG Radial T/A's.




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I like those, but did they really have just 29" tires on those? The first 16" Explorers had 255/70/16's, a 30" tire, and I've often run 245/70's due to a better price. The 30" size is ideal for the speedometer, so you're showing a little faster than actual speeds.

IIRC, later build 2001 thru 2005 Sport Tracs came equipped with 255/70-16 (30") that had 4:10 gearing. 235/70-16 (29") were OE for 3:73 axles. Interesting you mention speedometer accuracy. I have an SCT X3 with speed calibration using the stock setting and showing 2 MPH faster than actual. X3 tuner has tire revs/mile preset settings in 5 MPH increments, but doesn't have 696 RPM for 29" tires. Maybe I'll try the 695 RPM setting and compare accuracy. Like most I prefer the speedometer to read slightly faster than slower if the speed is off.

Yes, I also prefer it a little fast on the speedometer. I tried to find 18" wheels so I could use 30" tires, but I was lucky to find some 17's in a forged wheel I like. I'll try to fix the speedometer after everything else is done, anything to make me slow down is good.

The 255/70-16 tires, 4:10 gears, and the spoked wheels were part of the XLT package, or the equivalent thereof. Both of my trucks were built before the XLS/XLT designations. The '01 was fully loaded and has the 4:10s, 255/70-16s and the spoked wheels. It definitely would have been an XLT if they had existed in '01. My '02 (in my avatar) had no options beyond 4x4, and came with 3:73 gears, 235/70-16 tires and the wheels pictured above.
Haven't had raised white letters on a vehicle since my 1979 Ranchero (my fourth)
I knew there was a reason I should like you besides all the helpful advice you offer! I've owned 3 - a '74 I ordered new, modified the original 302 and then swapped in a modified 460, a '77, and a '79. The '74 is still parked beside the garage, but hasn't run in 16 years and is far too rusted out to do anything with.

Love it. Think the term land yacht is perfect for the Ranchero. Interesting thing is the 1977-79 Ranchero wheelbase is 114 inches vs. 2001-05 Sport Trac at 126 inches. Ranchero length is 217 inches vs. Sport Trac at 206 inches. The real head scratcher is curb weight. Ranchero is listed from 3800 to 4200 pounds. RWD Sport Trac weighs 4300 pounds. My favorite was the 1970 GT with a 429. Was a beast but impossible to keep it from spinning tires and downright scary driving with wide tires on wet roads, even with a posi rear. No traction action. LOL

Never liked the later El Camino/GMC Sprint's boxy body style with the fugly curved rear bed window so they were never considered.

Loved the styling of the seventh gen (1977-79) with stacked LTD II headlights, but the engines were anemic dogs choked with emissions when stock.
My 1979 had the 351M with a "whopping" 162 HP. Definitely comfortable cruisers in a straight line but nothing more.

Found a 1979 Ranchero brochure pdf while searching for curb weights.

You guys need to jump into the grantorinosport.org forum, and see the many old 70's Fords, and a bunch of late 60's Torino's etc. We love pictures and new members, even just for the stories and pictures. Here's the 73 Ranchero GT I got last year, to fix the other 73 GT I've had since 1988(with a 72 Sport front end). That forum has pushed my buttons for building another Cleveland, I miss those.

new 73 Ranchero GT hood.jpg

new 73 Ranchero GT 351-4V engine.jpg

N-I-C-E Don! That's the Detroit steel I miss. BTW, my mother had a green 1972 Gran Torino Sport with a gutless 400.

Was a fool for accepting a challenge against a Hemicuda. Needless to say I was humiliated. Never "raced" that car again.

My first car was a 72 Gran Torino, that was the only new car that my parents ever bought. I saved the interior and swapped it into my other Ranchero. The 302 in that blew about two months after I bought it, and I never got back to building my old 72 351C-2V, I still have it though.

I wish I had digital photos of my '74 GT to share, but I don't. Saddle Bronze metallic with an orange stripe, an L88 hood scoop covering the 3 2 barrel carbs on the 460, and a painting on the tailgate of a cobra on wheels with flames on 1 side and a dead rat on the other with "Second Thoughts" between them.

My '77 GT was red with silver stripes, and the '79 GT was a golden/orange brown with white stripes. Both were stock except for wheels and tires with the 351M.

I spent a lot of time in junkyards in the late 70's, mainly learning about what various cars were like, what odd features they had etc. I didn't have enough money or storage space, so I only bought rare special items, very few. I enjoyed all of what I saw, mostly, it was interesting to see the wildly different options and changes over the years. I loved seeing that the 72-79 years had tons of different Fords that had interchangeable interiors. Now I wish I had been able to save some of the things I saw, consoles, 72 front end parts, rally clusters, bucket seats etc.

In the mid to late '80s there was a 77-79 Ranchero with the front clip from a T-Bird of the same years in central Iowa. Looked pretty good. It was one of those things that everyone would know there was something different about it, but relatively few would know what was different.
I always liked the mid-70s Montego/Cougar front bumper with the slots, and thought about swapping one onto my '74, but wasn't sure the ends wrapped around the front the same.

In the mid to late '80s there was a 77-79 Ranchero with the front clip from a T-Bird of the same years in central Iowa. Looked pretty good. It was one of those things that everyone would know there was something different about it, but relatively few would know what was different.
I always liked the mid-70s Montego/Cougar front bumper with the slots, and thought about swapping one onto my '74, but wasn't sure the ends wrapped around the front the same.
Someone this year has asked about that Cougar front swap of a 75ish car, and another member posted pictures showing each front end. Thay are very close in appearance, and I think it was said the fenders could swap. So the rest as a set should work I believe, those posts weren't long ago. So there hasn't been any movement, it might have been a wish for a future project. I liked how both looked, so it would be a subtle change.

Back in 1972 or '73 I had the chance to buy this truck. Yes, I'm that old. LOL It's a 1969 Ranchero with a Montego front clip. Chuck is the owner of the Corvette shop and was another driver when I was racing F1 outboard tunnel boats. He was also the first Amsoil dealer in this state. $3000 seemed like
a lot of money back then, but it looks better than ever today with a lot more mods. Woulda, shoulda, coulda. LOL

I need to go to Chuck's shop and take some good pics. Scroll down on the left panel of his web page for another pic that shows the front end.





Post above reminded me of boat racing days. Probably the closest call of my life. No safety belts or capsules back then. Somehow escaped with only a fractured left tibia and twelve days in traction. Cause of this "barrel roll" at the apex of the turn was fuel slosh. Half full 50 gallon cylindrical tank WITHOUT baffles combined with prop torque. Returned to racing two months later with a perfectly repaired wood boat. More guts than brains they say?


I miss those yearly TV broadcasts of the unlimited hydroplane racing. All of those were fun to watch.

Agree, unlimited hydros are amazing. Unbelievable amount of water they kick up. IMO, unlimited racing today is not the same without Bernie Little,
the former owner of Miss Budweiser. He passed away in 2003 and owned SEVEN Anheuser-Busch distributorships in Florida. Hawaii had the Pearl Harbor Hydrofest from 1990 to 1999 until public interest waned and they ran out of funding.

1991/92 Pearl Harbor Hydrofest. Winston Eagle vs. Miss Budweiser

One of my former employers was an agent for a national company, I think it was Atlas Van Lines, that sponsored one of the top hydro racers of the time, which would have been mid to late '70s if I'm right about it being Atlas.

I found some photos of my '74 that I was able to take pics of.
The side view was taken in probably 1982 or '83 at the Indy 500 track during the Car Craft Nationals. All entrants were able to take a couple of laps around the track, and the club I belonged to was given the task of "regulating" traffic on the track. We couldn't really do much but watch, and listen to, a rolling car show all day. And of course, take a few laps every once in awhile. Watching 20 or so Daytonas and Superbirds go around the track together was awesome, as was seeing the GTO club do the same.

The tailgate pic was taken in '80 or '81 because it looks like it still had the tunnel ram and 2 4 barrels. I'm guessing at dates because I didn't write it on the back of the photos like I usually did. The 460 was built in '78, the truck was repainted in '79, and the tailgate was done a couple of years later. I had just put the tunnel ram on in the spring of '80 or '81 when a friend showed up with a factory experimental Boss 429 3x2 intake (1 of 3 that we know of), and said he thought he could get one for a 429 CJ (supposedly 1 of 6) if I was interested. I was broke, but this was a once in lifetime deal, so of course I said yes. I ran the tunnel ram for a year, then we put the 3x2 on.

About the tailgate - Second Thoughts came from a Statler Brothers song, and in this case signified 2 things. I had changed, swapped, upgraded, almost everything about the truck, except the color, since I ordered it new in Nov '73. The cobra and dead rat was a warning to any Chevys that they'd be having second thoughts if they wanted to race. The tailgate was designed and painted by a good friend who was a very good body man and artist, but only did it as a hobby - mostly his wife's '55 Chevy, and occasional projects for friends. He wouldn't accept any pay, and when I gave him $25 (by way of his wife IIRC) to cover materials, he called me a SOB. He meant it in a good way! He did the underside of the hood scoop too.




Very nice. Did the intake change make much difference, I'd guess not a lot being two high flowing intakes. My friend still has a tunnel ram 521 that he kept after selling the Maverick drag car it was in. He bought the car for the engine, but his plans for a scratch built car haven't moved much since then. That's his son and his best friend with him.


Maverick 1.JPG

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When the 460 was built in early '78, there wasn't much out there for 429/460s as they really hadn't caught on yet. The boat racers, truck pullers, and mountain motor match racers changed that within another year or 2. The heads were '72 429 4V that were opened up to match the CJ intakes. Cam was a Crower with 310 and 320 duration and .530 lift. It was an excellent choice for this application. We went with an Offenhauser Dual Port and an 800 or 850 Holley spreadbore (think Quadrajet). It was ok. With 472 cubic inches, even ok is pretty good. Ran that for a couple of years before switching to the Offenhauser tunnel ram and 2 600 Holleys, which I ran for a year before switching to the 3x2. The 3x2 had HUGE ports - bigger than the Boss 429 3x2. (I may have the only photo ever taken of the 429 CJ 3x2 and Boss 429 3x2 intakes side by side.) The Dual Port was strong on the bottom end, but seemed to level off above 5 grand or so. The 3x2 was strong on the bottom end (again 472 cubic inches is always going to be strong on the bottom), and had the most left in the higher rpms. I remember my mechanic/engine builder friend and I were both worried about the tunnel ram being driveable even as we put it on. Surprisingly, the tunnel ram was probably the best all around, including driveability and mpg. The Offenhauser tunnel ram had smaller runners and plenum than the Wiend (sp ?), and was the choice of the boat racers that ran in a more streetable rpm range than drag racers. The 2 600 Holleys were a known quantity, and were easier to get dialed in than the 3 2 barrels which came from a 440 Six Pac. It took a long time to get them sorted out.
The original 302 with 2:73 gears got 13 mpg. The 460 with 3:50 gears got 11 1/2 mpg with the Dual Port and 3x2 intakes, and around 12 or a little better with the tunnel ram. MPG could have been better, but it was just to much fun to mash the throttle!