Red Letter Grabbers

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Continental’s special General Tire offering no stranger to the tortures of off-pavement use

 

By Bruce W. Smith

 

Red-letters on the side of tires are only going to be seen on one brand and on one line of tire: the General Grabber SRL (Special Red Letter). The big bold red letters spelling out the name, combined with deep, curving grooves that form a series of odd-shaped diagonal tread blocks, are eye magnets wherever you drive.

But as I’ve found over the past several years these specialty truck tires excel at more than just attracting appreciative looks: Grabber Red Letters are fine on- and off-pavement performers under diesels.

 

Tough Race-Bred Heritage

Grabbers are a kind of a hybrid – a cross between a mud tire with its deep, open grooves and more aggressive tread-block design – and an all-terrain with the tread along the outer edge of the tire spaced closer together.

General Tire designed the Red Letter Grabber to excel in the most severe desert-racing conditions and then took the best elements from their 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.

These tires surprised me on two fronts when we slid a set of 35×12.50R17s under our 2013 Ram 2500HD 4×4 sweepstakes truck: 1) They are quieter than expected from an aggressive tread pattern, increasing interior sound levels at 70mph by only 4dBA over the stock street tires they replaced, and 2) they deliver a smoother ride with better highway grip than the factory tires.

Although their cost ($300 for the 35s) might keep most pickup owners from running them, those who step up will find these tires are built to last around tough jobsites where sharp rock, broken tree limbs and other debris tend to litter any site being developed for roads, oil rigs, 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 heavy construction and forestry use.

Red Letters use ultra-high strength steel belts and a 3-ply casing for carcass strength. In fact, the tires are a Load Range “E” and one tire is strong enough to lift a Trophy-class off-road race truck.

 

FLOATATION AND TRACTION

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 appealing.

These tires provide good floatation and gripping ability because that sweeping groove across the tread allows the corners of the tread blocks to directly interface with off-road terrain while the tires are stable and relatively quiet on paved roads.

The General SRL tires 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 5,000 miles on Red Letter Generals under Ram 2500 4x4s, 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.

Are they a good mud tire? They act like the typical all-terrain tire, which doesn’t like sticky, red-clay conditions. But if the mud is more sand-based, they tend to do ok.

I think their ideal application is anywhere one is driving on sand or rock bases, the desert southwest, or at mining and aggregates sites. There they excel.