Tires for our Buses (T2 or T3)
All Volkswagen Transporters from 1971 to 1992 use basically the same tires and rims. So the following information applies to all T2 buses (with disc brakes) and T3 buses. In the US these models are affectionately known as Bay-window buses and Vanagons (bricks).
Most buses were sold with the standard steel rims. The size of these rims is 5.5J x 14 with a bolt pattern of 5 x 112. This tells us the following:
Can we fit other sizes?
Yes, it is possible to fit different size tires. Of course these tires can only differ
so much. As a rule the circumference should be within 2% (plus or minus) of the standard.
Of course the tire should fit within your wheel wells and should have the proper
load-index (at least C with D preferred). This type of tire is called a "Light
Truck" tire. You will also find that some people use the term 8-ply. That is the
number of plies used for building the tire. A 6-ply tire can be used but most people
prefer an 8-ply because these tires have stiffer side-walls and give a more stable ride.
LT tires are more expensive than your standard passenger car tire. On the other hand your
tires do not need be suitable for high speed running (75 mph is not considered high speed
although you may think so in your bus).
When using the standard 5.5J steel rims (they will look superb if you have them sand-blasted and powder coated!) we can use tires up to a width of 215 mm. For the moment we will disregard wider rims. They may give you clearance problems. The following standard sizes are acceptable: 195/75 R14 en 205/70R14. The circumference of these tires is slightly smaller which means that your speedo will indicate the speed as higher than it actually is. Below is an indication of the difference:
Remember that these numbers are nominal values. Tolerances in manufacturing, tire pressure and wear will influence these numbers. For instance, thread-wear can decrease the circumference by up to 5 cm. But you can see that the nominal values conform to the 2% rule and are as such acceptable for use on our buses.
Here are some examples of these tires:
Note: Recently Michelin released their Agilis series of Light Tuck tires. These are very well suited to our buses (high Load Index and nice big threads) and are available in all of the above mentioned sizes. I am now running the Agilis 81, 195/75 R14 on my Vanagon and am very pleased with them.Expect to pay between 60 and 80 dollars for a 185 R 14 tire. Wider tires are more expensive (can run up to about $150 per tire).
You would expect that alloy rims weigh less than steel ones. Very often that's not the case. The only reason to mount alloy rims on our buses is for looks. As far as I know VW did never ship T2s (Bay Window buses) with alloy rims. However they were an available option for all T3s (Vanagons). These rims have a size of 6.0J x 14 with an offset of 30 mm. The tires on these rims were 205/70 R 14. If you can lay your hands on a set of these rims for your Vanagon you should do so without hesitation. They are quite rare and used to be very expensive. The picture shows my '81 on these rims. Actually that's not correct as this type of rim was not introduced until 1985.
If you'd like alloy rims for your Bay-window bus you could use the Fuchs rims as used on some Porsches. These are 'period-correct' for a seventies vehicle. However Fuchs rims cannot be mounted without adapters.
Standard steel rim T2 / T3
251 601 025 091 Scheibenrad 'ALU',
I'd like to credit Brian Verbeek for many of the technical details.