One of the great aspects about owning a Jeep Wrangler is its ability to transform. There are plenty of vehicles out there that look and perform beautifully right out of the showroom, but the words “stock” and “Wrangler” just don’t seem to mix, especially in the off-road mecca that is Southern California. The call of the desert and unexplored trails are too hard to ignore, and when you have a platform as easy to work on as the JK, it’s practically a no-brainer that the four-wheeler will receive a bevy of modifications as soon as it pulls into a new owner’s garage.
Such was the case for our 2013 Sport Unlimited 4×4, belonging to college student Mary McGregor of Riverside County. Her aspirations for having a worthy 4×4 have been building up since she first drove her Jeep home. Thus far we’ve given it quite the upgrade with the All-Terrain-Lift Kit (PN 2897.980) from Eibach. By adding another 3.5 inches to the ride height for increased clearance while also smoothing out the driving experience, the kit definitely did the trick for enhancing comfort and capability.
However, it’s also made a mockery of the stock wheels and tires – 17-inch aluminum and 225x75R17 Goodyear Wrangler SR-As, respectively – which are made with more of a general-purpose, consumer-grade focus in mind.
Going off-road means mud will need to be plowed, dust will need to be kicked up, and sand will need to be carved, all the while giving the vehicle forward motion and never getting bogged down. For a mission like that, you have to go to the professionals like Mickey Thompson Performance Tires and Wheels, whose launch of the Deegan 38 line has all those boxes ticked with its all-terrain purpose.
We’re going to break down the features of this tire as it performed next to the Off Road Xtreme office, with evaluations of both on and off-road performance and comfort levels. Not to get ahead of ourselves too much, but let’s just say these puppies sure didn’t disappoint when push came to shove. Let’s dive in and examine what all these Deegan 38s have to offer.
Grip, Not Gripe
The company’s history in off-road tire development is the stuff of legend. The man himself, Mickey Thompson, was instrumental in bringing about several changes to the industry during the 1970s and 1980s. There emerged such models as the Baja King, Baja Belted, and Baja Belted HP, each featuring tread running all the way down the sidewall (known as “Sidebiters”).
Today, the company offers 10 distinct models across light truck, SUV, and racing applications. The Deegan 38, made for the light truck and SUV market segment, is among the latest to reach the public, and carries with it the same attitude and can-do aura as that of its namesake: short-course champion Brian Deegan.
Incorporating his famous racing number “38” into the sidewall, the visual aspect of this tire is indeed striking. Raised white lettering that says “Deegan 38” graces one side of the tire, while blackout can be had on the flipside if the customer chooses. Mickey Thompson’s Willy Woo was on hand to answer our questions.
Speaking on the subject of the vision behind the Deegan 38s, Woo said, “When I saw Brian race short course trucks at LOORRS competitions, I was amazed at his skill and his drive to win. Once I learned more about Brian, I found him to … really represent the spirit of the Mickey Thompson brand. Collaborating with him to develop the Deegan 38 tire and line was a logical next step for all of us. It gave us an opportunity to create something together, while also providing our brand with a deeper connection to the younger off-road crowd.”
Compared with its closest relative, the Baja ATZP3, the Deegan 38 is a two-ply sidewall design, where the ATZP3 is a three-ply sidewall design. “The plies are made of high tensile polyester that provide strength without adding weight or ride harshness,” explained Woo.
The ATZP3 is inherently made to be more street-friendly thanks to its larger surface area lugs and tighter tread voids, but the Deegan 38 emphasizes better traction for mud. This is due to its wide outer voids that self-clean, as well as tight inner voids that offer superb contact area. It’s a step below the more serious, three-ply sidewall MTZP3 that was just released, but is geared more toward the weekend warrior crowd who use their 4×4 as both the “fun-mobile” and the daily driver.
And users can rest assured that Mickey Thompson did its homework on the tire. “Much of this tire development took place at our company’s state-of-the-art test facility in Pearsall, Texas,” said Woo. “Proven technology previously used in the development of Mickey Thompson’s professional short-course tires was also used in the development of the Deegan 38.”
Off-roaders know that running tires on lower PSI will evoke better traction on loose surfaces. Woo could not respond to how low of a recommended PSI setting the Deegan 38s could run, except to say that users should adhere to the air pressure required to maintain OE load carrying capacity. He offered that Mickey Thompson’s technical department “can calculate this using the OE specified tire size, cold inflation pressure from the vehicle placard, the new tire size, and the Tire and Rim Association Yearbook guide.”
As for on-road usage and NVH, there was no doubt we would be perking up our ears during on-road evaluation, since mud terrains tend to be quite distracting when met with asphalt. Woo affirmed that the “overall tread geometry, tighter inner voids, large surface area and inner tread elements help to provide better handling on the street with less noise.”
Woo commented that future size offerings are in place to be released within a few months. “We’re planning to add LT265/75R16, LT285/75R16, LT265/70R17, and LT285/70R17 to the line in the spring of 2016, all carrying an ‘E’ load range,” he said. The “E” load range designates a tires that have a 10-ply rating for load carrying capacity, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the tire has 10 plies. In the case of the Deegan 38, it has two high-strength plies that equate to the strength of 10 regular-type plies.
Spin Freely, Spin Often
To pair with a set of meaty, attitude-packed Deegan 38 tires, it was only appropriate that we went with the proper set of wheels to match. Currently available in two styles – the eight-spoke Pro 2, and the nine-spoke Pro 4 – the Deegan 38 wheels are the right touch to complement the dark side of an off-roader’s looks.
The model designations call to mind the top-tier classes that Deegan himself runs in for the LOORRS races. Both the Pro 2 and Pro 4 wheels sport a matte black finish and co-branded center cap. “The Deegan 38 wheels were thoughtfully designed as super functional wheels, and carry a one-year warranty on the finish,” stated Woo.
Functional with stock TPMS sensors and weighing between 20 to 32 pounds (depending on the chosen size), these units come in diameters of 15 to 20 inches. Pro 2s sport a reserved, all-black appearance, while the Pro 4s show off faux beadlock nuts and a recessed center for the hubcap.
Getting Down And Dirty
One thing we could say right away was that the Deegan 38s definitely put those old Goodyear Wranglers to shame. Where the Wranglers touted thin tread blocks, tight grooves, and wet road traction, the Deegan 38s meant business with thick tread blocks, aggressive sidewall, and a tread pattern that would self-clean while also providing traction in a multitude of situations.
Our in-house Bendpak lift got the Jeep up in the air. At our tire install station, we had the new Deegans lined up and ready to go. The Ranger-built machine is an all-in-one device that handled the removal of the Goodyear tires, and then assisted with the mounting of the Deegan tires. We were careful to remove the stock TPMS sensors as they came out of the stock wheels, since they vary in design, size, and location from manufacturer to manufacturer. For the Jeep, the sensor was located at the end of the valve stem and was easily removed.
Once the tire and wheel were mounted and inflated, we used our balancing machine to determine the location and amount of weights needed to balance all four tires. Whoever said off-road tires were impossible to balance never met the Deegan 38s, since these required just a handful of ounces per tire to get them all squared away and ready for installation. We had all four tires and wheels installed and inflated in a matter of about 30 minutes. Now it was time to test these babies out.
Asphalt isn’t the preferred environment for a true Jeep Wrangler, but it’s one we must all cross to get to where the real action is. Considering paved road is where most of their lives will be spent, we’d really like to know how these Deegan 38s behave.
As you might expect, in Southern California, our headquarters is in close proximity to a freeway. We hopped on and drove for about two miles at the speed limit of 70 mph. We did detect a fair bit of noise coming from the Deegans, certainly more than we encountered with the Goodyears. A mid-pitched drone was audible at speeds upward of 55 mph, with 40 psi on all four tires.
Now, we get to the meat and potatoes of our mission. Near our office, some gentle hills run alongside the Interstate 15 and offer cool sights of the stretch of land between Murrieta and Temecula. What sparse rain has happened around here does a good job of creating ruts, and the hard-packed dirt can get decently muddy when that happens. Unfortunately, no such luck was had during the install of the Deegan 38s.
Nevertheless, some of the more technical sections are plenty of fun to go over in a 4×4, so that’s what we did. We knew that traction over dry land wouldn’t be an issue, so we didn’t bother airing down for this test. The old off-road mantra of “as slow as possible, as fast as necessary” definitely played a part of our testing session. Any time we came across something that looked even a little sketchy, we did some spotting. One can never be too careful, especially since people are known to recklessly dump random trash around these parts (including nails, batteries, used oil, and other harmful objects).
Throughout the entire test, we never once felt the tires lose grip with the terrain. Provided we had sure footing on all fours, the tires were more than ready to handle anything thrown their way. At slightly higher speeds along these dirt roads, the Deegans and the Eibach lift combined to give us a very comfortable ride. Driving straight was no issue; we were sure that even if we had decided to get a little squirrely with the Jeep, we would’ve had plenty of traction to recover with ease.
Having four-wheel drive within reach made for some interesting results. Parked at a dead stop at an incline, the sensation of having all four tires grip at the same time and launch forward was definitely evident. Little to no slip was felt as we stepped on the gas. We aired the tires down to about 28 psi to try out some light trailblazing around the hills, and found that to be an equally successful test.
After we emerged from the off-road session, we aired the tires back up, did a once-over, and took a short drive around the block. No damage had been sustained to the tires or wheels, whether it was a scrape, chip, or random sharp object. All we could really conclude was that these Deegan 38s had done the trick, and done it well.
By trade, Brian Deegan is a motivated, tenacious individual who goes until he can’t go any more. With what we saw from the Deegan 38s during our day of off-road romping, we think these are worthy namesakes. The tires are about traction at all costs. What else should we expect from a name like Mickey Thompson and its historied connection with developing some of the toughest rubber out there?
Though mud wasn’t on the menu, asphalt, dirt, rocks, and ruts were. In each situation, the tires did the job to instill driver confidence and keep us in control. When aired down, such dependability was all the more amplified, and we can easily picture the Deegan 38s working well in more arduous trails and situations.
If your 4×4 is in need of new shoes and you’re looking for something middle-of-the-road without compromises, you’d be hard-pressed to find something on par with Deegan 38s. They’re every bit as tough and intimidating as the man himself. Find out more by visiting the Mickey Thompson website, and don’t forget to see the company’s Facebook page to keep up on photos, videos, promotions, and other announcments.
We are going to keep tabs on McGregor and her Jeep to see how things are working out. Stay tuned to Off Road Xtreme in the coming days, weeks, and months to see how things progress for all of our builds. Until next time, have fun and always go prepared.