The 14" Tyre Experiment

***NB Read This Page BEFORE committing to this conversion***

As noted before in the 'Issues and Fixes' section of the website, for overland travel anyway, the overall LD T244 gearing is on the low side and the ride, especially if you travel relatively light, is most definitely 'unforgiving'. A further issue is traction. Though the trucks in standard trim aren't a disaster on soft ground, the rather skinny standard 12" tyres - even when aired down - do not offer much contact patch. Some of these trucks are up around the 10.5 tonne mark in full travelling trim and 10.5 tonnes bearing down on four small contact points on soft ground means only one thing... And so, it seemed logical to me from a very early stage to combat these (and other) shortcomings by fitting taller and fatter tyres. There are many larger tyre-size options but research suggested that 14R20 tyres would not only offer the most potential improvement, but also that this size is fairly easily obtained anywhere in the world. Now, simply fitting larger tyres sounds easy: it isn't. The biggest hurdle to overcome is wheel width. The standard T244 wheels have a nominal width of 8" but according to data obtained form just about all of the major tyre manufacturers, the bare minimum recommended rim width to carry 14" tyres is 9" - with most actually recommending at least 10". Whereas 14" tyres will physically mount to the standard T244 rim, both road safety and longevity of the tyres' sidewalls might be compromised and in the event of an accident (or random check) it is highly likely that the authorities (and insurance companies) would take a very dim view of such a home-brewed lash-up.

Enter the Polish military. The wheels from older Polish military STAR trucks, seemingly by pure chance, have the same hub aperture and wheel stud number / positioning as standard T244 wheels. They are also 9" wide and have the major benefit of being two-piece split rims; this makes changing tubes and tyres on-the-road both much easier and much safer than with the T244 three-piece locking-collet affair. In spite of this promising start, hurdles remained. Sourcing and importing these wheels is not so straightforward. Helpfully, a well regarded German T244 owner - who, incidentally, was the chap that made UK LD owners aware of the compatibility - twice stepped in to assist (thanks Tom). Even so, on arrival in the UK, both shipments (comprising a total of 27 wheels) saw some wheels damaged, some missing / broken split-rim-retaining studs and some missing / incorrect split-rim-retaining nuts. A good deal of repair work was required on the supposedly 'refurbished' wheels and indeed two were damaged to such an extent they were unsalvageable and simple acted as a spares source before being scrapped.

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