Tire Test

Red Letter Ride

Continental’s General Grabber makes its way from off-road racing to the jobsite

Red-letters on the side of tires is a rarity on the street, and even more so around the jobsite. So, too, is the tread design found on the Grabber pickup tires, which are the newest addition to the revived General Tire brand Continental Tire is showcasing as their performance arm.

The red letters spelling out Grabber, combined with deep, curving grooves that form a series of odd-shaped diagonal tread blocks, are eye magnets wherever you drive.

But during the past month I’ve found these new pickup tires excel at more than just attracting appreciative looks; these are some of the sweetest truck treads to come along in quite some time for overall on- and off-pavement performance.

Postle’s Tire Barn in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, mounted and balanced a set of 35×12.50R18LT red-letter (SRL) Grabbers on 18×8.5-inch Dick Cepek flat-black, spoke Torque wheels for use on the Big Boss.

The tires mounted-up well, requiring less than four ounces of weight to balance them out, which is considered better than average for beefy tires weighing 65 pounds.

Race-Bred Tread

Mounting the Grabbers provides the perfect opportunity to take a close look at the tire’s interesting tread design. It’s kind of a hybrid – a cross between a mud tire with its deep grooves and more aggressive tread-block design – and an all-terrain with the tread along the shoulders closer together.

But the deep radial grooves between the treads are unlike anything I’ve seen on either mud or all-terrain tires.

“The critical point in designing the Grabber competition tire was we wanted to use technology that allowed the tire to excel in the most severe desert-racing conditions and be transferable to a streetable version,” says Tony Talbert, light-truck tire division manager, General Tire.

“This tire is a direct result of rigorous testing we did with Team General Tire off-road racers “Ballistic” BJ Baldwin and Carl Renezeder,” says Travis Roffler, director of marketing, General Tire.

“We’ve taken the best elements from our wildly successful Grabber Competition-Only tire, and re-engineered it to be a true off-road enthusiasts’ tire that delivers equally strong on-road and off-road performance.”


On the road these tires surprised me on two fronts: 1) They are quieter than expected from an aggressive tread pattern, increasing interior sound levels at 70mph by only 4dBA over the stock all-terrains they replaced, and 2) delivering a smoother, ride with better road grip than the factory tires that came on our 2010 Ram 2500 4Ă—4 Crew Cab diesel.

Contractors and construction workers will also find these tires are built to last around tough jobsites where sharp rock, broken limbs and other debris tend to litter any site being developed for roads, buildings or bridges.

General uses a 3-ply-reinforced body construction and a race-proven chip- and tear-resistant Duragen tread compound to help the Grabber stand up to the rigors of highway and off-road conditions.

General Tire’s Duragen technologies consist of ultra-high strength steel belts and a new 3-ply casing. In fact, the steel belts in one Grabber tire are strong enough to lift a Trophy-class off-road race truck, and the ultra-durable micro-fiber 3-ply casing makes the Grabber the strongest General Tire ever produced.


Durability is just half the appeal of the new tires. Traction in rock, sand and soft dirt is the other aspect I think contractors will find the General appealing. It has good floatation and gripping ability because of the interesting “strake-and-chamfer” tread design.

The strake, or sweeping groove across the tread, allows the chamfering (or opening) of the corners of the tread blocks to directly interface with off-road terrain.

Looking down at the tread, the pattern appears to be one that will be quiet on paved roads, but looking across the tread horizon, you see the traction “pockets” created by this technology. The result is aggressive off-road traction, with a tread design that is stable and, as I noted earlier, quiet on paved roads.


Then there’s those bright red block letters. The lettering on the Grabber is a first for General Tire in the consumer market (they use the red letter tires in desert racing), and for the now, they are only offered in select 31-, 33-, and 35-inch tire sizes.

Fortunately for ProPickup readers the red-letter Grabbers are available in the most popular “E”-rated sizes, so you can sport the coolest treads while pulling the heaviest trailer your pickup or SUV is rated to tow or hauling the heaviest load.

I’ve put more than 3,000 miles on the set under our heavy-duty Ram 2500, driving in heavy rain, on dry pavement and gravel roads, making my way across acres of soft dirt and sand at a big jobsites, and explored the farthest, deepest reaches of rock quarries. The Grabbers never disappointed when the conditions were anything but sloppy.

If mud, especially the heavy red-clay type, is your biggest traction concern, then a dedicated mud tire is the one that’ll pull through the slop first. Otherwise, the Grabber would be my General Tire of choice.