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Desert Dog History and Ads

• CATEGORIES: Advertising & Brochures, Features • TAGS: , This site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated.

UPDATE: After spotting an ad I hadn’t published yet (seen below), I realized that there was Desert Dog history that existed among various posts. So, this combines all that into more of a narrative.

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If you have read eWillys for any length of time, you know I’ve been a fan of Desert Dog tires for years. I still have eight desert dogs, some solid lettering and some outlined, as shown in the pic below:xmas_2011_biscuit19_ditch3_lores

According to Louis Larson, the Desert Dog tire was launched in 1970. He knows this, because in 1970 he became the first person to test out the new style of tires (see the bottom of this CJ-3B Page article). The tires were given to Louis for testing and photographing.

David Maxwell, a former Formula tires salesman, reported that the tires were always made by Armstrong, but marketed through the Formula brand, the president of which was a friend of David’s (see David’s comment and many others on this post). The company made a large number of retreads, so a number of tires also had Firestone on the side, too.

The tires proved popular quickly. Les Schwab was a big fan of them and ran them on his jeep (jeeps?). He also sold both new and retread tires out of his main shop in Prineville (see Les Schwab’s biography here).

For PNW jeepers, the tires were a perfect blend for racing and for jeeping and the varied terrains of the PNW (sand, gravel, rocks, mountain sides, mud, etc … as Joe1148 highlights in his comment here .. though I can attest to it as well). On the downside, their road life was short (some estimate about 10k miles) and they tended to be noisy. The tires’ popularity gained them prominence, and soon they were added to charts showing tire options, such as this January 1972 ad:


By 1973, Desert Dogs were being advertised in Four Wheeler Magazine (ads at the bottom of this post) and sold across the country. This Smith Jeep, Inc. ad from North Franklin, Connecticut, in the July 1973 issue of Four Wheeler Magazine is one example of an East Coast offering:

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Eventually, the Formula brand expand its offering. I don’t know when each of these tires was introduced (I think this ad is from 1975, but have to confirm it), but Formula was soon offering more tires choices:


DESERT DOG X-TRA RADIAL: I think I first saw these treads at a Summer Convention in La Grand Oregon, circa 1972-1973. They never seemed too popular, even back in the 1970s.

Here’s one example of the tread:

DESERT DOG PCV: This variant of the Desert Dog was introduced in 1973. PCV is an initialism for “Pickups, Campers, and Vans”.

1973-09-pg72-desert-dog-pcv-lores copy

This ad suggests that the PCV Desert Dogs were introduced in mid-1973.

DESERT DOG II: There seems to be a rare cousin to the PCV: the Desert Dog II tire. I’ve only seen these tires once in an ad for two tires out of Port Huron, Ohio. I don’t know when they were introduced. To me they look like a pre-branded version of the PCV:


Desert Dog II tires from a 2009 Port Huron, Ohio, craigslist ad.


In the early 1980s, the Formula brand was sold to Armstrong, I believe it was at this time the company left the solid letter Dogs behind in favor of the “outline” style of lettering for the side walls. When I bought a brand new set in 1985, I could only find them in a single gas station in Seattle (perhaps they were for sale elsewhere, but I couldn’t find them); open lettering was the only style I could get at the time and even then Dogs were getting rare.


ARMSTRONG DESERT DOG ATs: There were some All Terrain (AT) Desert Dogs produced by Armstrong that have the same type of out-lined lettering as the other Armstrong Formula desert dogs, but with decidedly different tread (unfortunately, not the best photo):

After Armstrong discontinued the Desert Dog line of tires, the molds seemed to disappear. I thought I had tracked down the molds to Pirelli, but it’s been so long that I can’t remember where they are now.

Curiously, Armstrong is offering a new type of “Desert Dog”, called the Armstrong Desert Dog MT, though the tread piles in comparison with the old ones:


TREAD CONSISTENCY: The consistency of the Desert Dog tread appears to have varied considerably over the years. Some tires appeared to have tighter spaces, wider zig-zags, and longer “Vs” than other tires (even among the 8 dogs I have, the tread varies). I haven’t found any method for identifying why/when the tread varied so widely over the years. Maybe some dealerships customized their molds?


Over the years, some folks have confused these Mini-Terras and Desert Dogs. Mini-Terras, were referred by that name due to their similarity with Goodyear Terra Tires. They were also called other names such as  mini-terrors, trail-blazers (see Fullerton Tire ad near top of this post), among other names, including most recently, recaps called Ugly Dogs.


OTHER ADS: Below are more Desert Dogs Ads. Starting in 1973, with multiple Four Wheeler issues, comes this ad:


This ad appeared In some 1973 issues of Four Wheeler Magazine.

This ad appeared in the February 1974 issue of Four Wheeler:


From the very first issue of the PNW4WDA TriPower Newspaper in September, 1974, Desert dogs played a role. This advertisement was an advertisement for both new and recapped Desert Dogs. Thanks to Mitch and the WWJC Scrapbook for this find!:

The TriPower newspaper was started during the year Jim Carter, of the Wandering Willys, was president of the PNW4WDA. It was his wife Patti Carter who came up with the name (and it was both of them that came up with my name In 1965, but that’s another story). The Four Wheel Drive Center, which paid for this ad, was a well-known Portland offload outlet that had a unique mascot.

From a May 1975 Four Wheeler magazine comes this back cover ad:


This 1978 ad from Four Wheeler Magazine highlights the PCV tires:

This isn’t an ad and I don’t know if this iron-on patch is actually vintage or not, but it didn’t stop me from purchasing if on ebay years ago:

Eventually, the Formula brand was sold to Armstrong and the new owner made some Desert Dogs (as seen in the back left of the ad below). The company also sold other non-Desert Dog Formula tires, as this 1987 ad from Four Wheeler highlights::


28 Comments on “Desert Dog History and Ads

  1. mmdeilers Post author

    I’ve added an additional ad forwarded by Gerald which shows the complete line of formula off road tires.

    Paul: I can remember the first time I saw the Xtra’s at a Summer Convention in Oregon when I was 8 or 9. Maybe I’ve had Desert Dogs on the brain ever since?

  2. Lloyd Parker

    I had a set a formula desert dog tires on my 74 Jeep Renegade, Great mud tire at that time, I think the Next set of tires I had were gumbo mudders.

  3. Marty Tilford

    Great write up. Some day i will have to get a picture with the few desert dogs i have and send you. Im sure i have a few of them from varying years.

  4. Mike

    Back in the day, Desert Dogs must have been popular on the west coast, back here in New Jersey, I can’t remember seeing a set of Desert Dogs. One thing though, the tread design remind me of the Goodyear suburbanite tires the were on New Jeep vehicles in the 1960’s.

  5. carl liesegang

    i like marty stil have several sets of varying years and still run them on my pnw racer

  6. David Eilers

    Carl, my plan is to go fetch an old Parkette racer from MN, get it running, and put my older dogs on it. Then I hope to show up at a few races next year (2022).

  7. louie Larson

    I still have the original 4 Desert Dogs on 8″ wide steel wheels. I also have 4 more new ones
    never mounted. They where “thee tire” back then.
    I will try to post a picture of them.
    Louie Larson (Gopher 4×4)
    Mpls Minn 612 802 1860

  8. David Eilers

    Hi Louie,

    You’ll need to send me the pic to post it. You can email me at

    I’d also be very interested in how you ended up being a tester for them. I’d be happy to call when it’s convenient for you.

    – Dave

  9. David Eilers

    Chris, it depends on the condition, but there is some value for PNW racing. It probably also depends on where you are located. If you can, email me a photo ( and I can give you some feedback on them.


    – Dave

  10. David Eilers


    I bet that is the firm out of WV selling them? I contacted them through eBay several months ago and got no response.

    – Dave

  11. Scott Reeves

    Hi Dave I have had a set of the Formula Desert Dog Radials on my 1972 Jeep Cj5 for the last 20 plus years. I have always loved how they are different from any other tire you see. I just this past week had a belt go in one of the tires and now have to replace all of them. I am really torn on what to replace them with. They were great tires and not too loud on the road. Scott

  12. David Eilers

    Hi Scott,

    Yeah, I don’t know what I’ll replace my dogs with either. I’ve got ten of dogs in various states of condition, but they are pretty old at this point. I’ll probably just use them to race. My street/trail jeep won’t be on the road for a while, so I’m not in hurry to figure out my tire situation at this point. If you find a good tire, don’t be shy about letting me know!

    – Dave

  13. Marty Tilford


    Where are you located? I might be able to find a single tire so you can keep running your set.

    Email Dave and he can give me your contact information.

  14. Gordon Rhodes

    My dad used to run the desert dogs back in the 80’s on our 78 power wagon, here in West Virginia still have 4 or 5 worn out ones around the farm, just like u said some are solid letting and some are outline letters,still have one brand new one with a hole in it, in the out building, sad to see the NEW desert dogs then at least have some kind of V-shaped resemblance to the old ones, my dad always said they was the best tires he ever owned on a 4×4, ps he also said several 4×4 truck pullers used them around here also back in the day

  15. Bingo

    Did they name them ‘Dogs’ b/c they howl? I live on a quiet, rural highway & you can hear a 4×4 coming, @least a mile away.

  16. Hoss Hovorak

    Golly, I wish that they still were made!!!!
    Ain’t no tire made today can compare to them in the mud, except Super Swampers!!!

  17. Yunior

    Nice info, now I know that my remember is true. That name came on wheels on my 80’s Optimus Prime toy, but as I never knew about this trademark, was thinking were fictional. Thanks.

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