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Thread: Tires: Going Retro

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    Tires: Going Retro

    I've used radial tires uneventfully on original Studebaker wheels since Michelins were first mass-marketed (through Sears) for domestic cars fifty years ago. But just because I've never had a wheel failure doesn't prove anything more than my avoidance thus far of bodily lightning strikes.

    That's why I'm about to order up some bias ply tires for my Speedster... something I never expected to do. The wheels are original, prior owner boasted of years of high-speed exploits. The so-called "Speedster wires" (the simulated wire wheel covers and center caps standard on this car and optional on other 1953 through early 1956 models) are so identified with this model that I don't want to swap them out. Unlike ordinary Studebaker wheel covers, these doubtless wouldn't fit the wider Ford wheels of the sort I use with nice 215/75R15 Goodyear radial wide whites on my 56J. Besides, the only 75-series radials close to the diameter of the old 7.10 are the 215/75 size, seriously wide for the old wheels. The bias-look 7.10R15 American Classics look the part but are $$$. Besides, there's the lingering concern of use of radials on the well-used early wheels.

    I'm inclined to chance the continued use of quality Michelins on the Avanti. Wheels are indeed factory but NOS, only recently peeled off the South Bend parts numbers and installed. Car isn't going to see a lot of thrashing in my hands. Using the original set of wheels, the prior owner of the Avanti used radials happily for about forty years. Realize that's only anecdotal, but wondering if the risk might be slightly overblown under some circumstances. Still, it's foolish to ignore informed advice.

    For the '55, I was thinking of the Firestone or the Goodyear "Super Cushion Deluxe" 7.10-15 tires with 2.75" whitewalls. Anybody out there have any specific experience with either tire?

    Gil
    Last edited by riversidevw; 02-11-2017 at 10:22 AM.
    Gil Zimmerman
    Riverside, CA

    1955 Speedster
    1956 Golden Hawk
    1958 Packard Hawk
    1958 President
    1963 Avanti R2

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    Silver Hawk Member bezhawk's Avatar
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    Coker now makes a radial that looks exactly like the bias ply tires of old. Pie Crust edges and all, and narrow too. They give all the benefits of radial tracking without being so wide that they put any added strain on the wheels.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bezhawk View Post
    Coker now makes a radial that looks exactly like the bias ply tires of old. Pie Crust edges and all, and narrow too. They give all the benefits of radial tracking without being so wide that they put any added strain on the wheels.
    Thanks. Believe that's the same American Classic "bias-look" tire that I referred to earlier. Apparently it's a "Coker" tire when they sell it. It's fairly new, I was hoping that somebody might share their experience with it. Some might assert that the added strain on the wheels comes from radial construction, not just the width. But those seem beautiful.

    Gil

    Added Note: I've assumed that Coker is a major distributor and sometimes a "store brand." not a tire manufacturer. Am I wrong? I usually try to research the actual source of my tires, collector car products or otherwise. Store brands can be great, sometimes... not so much.
    Last edited by riversidevw; 02-10-2017 at 11:40 PM.
    Gil Zimmerman
    Riverside, CA

    1955 Speedster
    1956 Golden Hawk
    1958 Packard Hawk
    1958 President
    1963 Avanti R2

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    Quote Originally Posted by riversidevw View Post
    Thanks. Believe that's the same American Classic "bias-look" tire that I referred to earlier. Apparently it's a "Coker" tire when they sell it. It's fairly new, I was hoping that somebody might share their experience with it. Some might assert that the added strain on the wheels comes from radial construction, not just the width. But those seem beautiful.

    Gil

    Added Note: I've assumed that Coker is a major distributor and sometimes a "store brand." not a tire manufacturer. Am I wrong? I usually try to research the actual source of my tires, collector car products or otherwise. Store brands can be great, sometimes... not so much.
    Yes and no. They do actually manufacture some tires, having purchased old molds to do so, and they also have tires manufactured to their specs by other tire manufactures just like store brand tires. The also distribute-so they are a kind of "all level" tire company. I rarely see any complaints about their products regardless of source, good reputation.

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    It's fairly interesting to review and compare the specifications for a lot of our collector tires. The nominal dimensions (cross-sections of 6.70, 7.10 inches or metric sizes like 205 and 215 millimeters) correspond to actual dimensions that are all over the map. To keep it simple, I'm looking at American Classic radials (tires that I've used and like). The "bias ply-look" 7.10 actually has a cross-section of 7.7". Great, that's about 196mm; in the late sixties the long-lost tall-profile 195R15 always seemed about right for our mid-fifties Studebaker wheels. Incidentally, American Classic's "bias-look" 6.70 does indeed have a narrower cross-section than the 7.10 version... but the overall diameters and tread widths of both sizes are identical.

    My Speedster has for several years used 205/75R15 American Classic narrow stripe radials. So the cross-section is 205mm? Nope, it's 211mm. And an old friend and collector of first generation Vettes has urged me to switch to 215/75 wide whites on my 5" rims, just as he did on his fuel-injected '61. I was tempted. But the published cross-section of the tires isn't actually 215mm. It's a chubby 8.9 inches or 226mm.

    We are fortunate to have a much better selection of quality tires for collector cars than I could have envisioned in the eighties. But one shouldn't rely entirely upon the advertised nominal tire sizes.

    Gil
    Last edited by riversidevw; 02-11-2017 at 10:24 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by karterfred88 View Post
    Yes and no. They do actually manufacture some tires, having purchased old molds to do so, and they also have tires manufactured to their specs by other tire manufactures just like store brand tires. The also distribute-so they are a kind of "all level" tire company. I rarely see any complaints about their products regardless of source, good reputation.
    Thanks for clarifying the information on Coker. I purchased a nice set of Firestone bias-ply tires for a Lincoln about 25 years ago, probably without ever realizing that they were supplied by Coker.

    Another reputable but smaller supplier of collector tires is Kelsey Tires in Missouri, the exclusive national distributor for Goodyear's own line of vintage style tires. John Kelsey's parents for many years operated a quality antique car museum at the same location. I recall a summer day in 1955. My older brother invited his twelve year old sibling (me) along for a drive in his brand new '55 Chevy V8. The day started off badly with the Bel Air fuel pump failing along a remote stretch of rural highway. But things got better with a visit to the Kelsey Museum. Later in the evening I spotted my first coral-white-gray '55 Studebaker hardtop. But I was confused by the gold President scripts on the rear fenders. Guess I had also just seen my first Vernon-built Speedster. Kelsey sells directly to retail customers, but I purchased his Goodyears for my 56J through a local dealer for a little less.

    It seems that for a bias-ply tire, the Firestone-branded 7.10-15 with 2.75" white sidewall (SKU 579885) would be about right for my tastes, especially as most of the OEM tires were apparently Firestone. These have the raised black rib along the outer circumference of the white wall. I'm rather looking forward to experiencing the old technology again. As much as I enjoy the radials, many of them have seemed to feel a little vague (without much on-center feel) on these older cars. Will be interesting to test my memory.

    Thanks.

    Gil

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    Been happy with BF Goodrich and Firestone 6.70 x15. The 56 Hawk does not have PS and with 6.70 tires it does not need it. Cannot complain about ride either.

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    President Member t walgamuth's Avatar
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    If I were unsure of the soundness of my wheels perhaps they could be magnafluxed. I think I'd not hesitate to run the more modern tires on my old wheels unless I planned to do some historic track racing.
    Diesel loving, autocrossing, Coupe express loving, Grandpa Architect.

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    UPDATE: Somehow I kept postponing writing that check for those bias-ply Coker Firestones. Then, ten days ago the Speedster brought home an unexpected Best of Show ribbon at a small, collegial local car gathering. A good local tire shop had contributed a $400 gift certificate for the day's event.

    Certificate in hand, I abruptly changed course and ordered those bias-look American Classic 7.10R15 radials with the 2.75" whitewall. Appearance and small details of the tires are great. I had them installed this morning, replacing American Classic's 205/75R15s. I had a chance to compare driving impressions of both tires on the back roads between home and the shop (eight miles each way). It's difficult to explain, but the slightly narrower width (tread and cross section) and more authentic tread pattern just felt "right." And comfort was improved, small impacts almost unnoticed. That's a plus after the HD front and rear Eaton springs I chose a decade ago for this car. The proper diameter of the tires is (to me) a noticeable improvement, gets the nose of the car and the fog lamps higher off the ground. Incidentally, speedometer readings were Star Wars warp-speed crazy when I acquired the car, still optimistic after installing a NOS 3.31 Twin Traction setup. Based upon a couple of nagging roadside radar speed reminders, readings were dead accurate on the drive home.

    Only qualm is that I was an organizer of the car show, I'm the guy who solicited that sponsorship from the tire dealer. Show also boasted a perfect '57 Bel Air convertible, a fine '61 F.I. Corvette, a late model Ford GT mid-engine, a vintage Morgan, and more... all worthy automobiles.

    But I very much like the Speedster's new shoes, and I enjoy driving the car more with them installed. It's a striking and uncommonly seen machine. A man in his seventies driving a late-model Bentley sedan followed me into the tire shop's parking lot this morning to get a look and speak to me. He had never forgotten a "lemon & lime" Speedster owned by a friend in his youth, one with the aftermarket removable hardtop setup. Might even be the same one occasionally driven by a student at my high school in SoCal. Bentley driver hadn't seen a Speedster since.

    My wife still thinks the gift certificate mostly paid for everything this morning.
    Last edited by riversidevw; 05-16-2017 at 08:57 PM.
    Gil Zimmerman
    Riverside, CA

    1955 Speedster
    1956 Golden Hawk
    1958 Packard Hawk
    1958 President
    1963 Avanti R2

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    Commander Member Joe Tondu's Avatar
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    I have Coker Classics on my '50 Champion. I don't think they are radials though. Bias ply.
    Driving these in the snow is a death wish. This is what my field trials have concluded.
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    President Member 62champ's Avatar
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    A good friend rode 600+miles on a set of bias-ply BF Goodrich tires on my W4 Lark to and from the International Meet - he noted that it rode amazing smooth - then again, the operator's guide states that front tire pressure is to be set at 24 lbs and rear at 20 . I love the bias ply tires for two reasons: They make me pay attention to what I am doing because they do not perform to modern standards, and they look great... I am debating now about going back to the original size/black wall bias plys. Good luck.


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    62Champ;
    What tires are on your Lark?

    I am at the point I need to replace the tires again AFTER I rebuild my front suspension and I want to do the wide whitewalls on it. I am open to bias play as well as radials. I currently have Uniroyal Tiger Paw 205's and they are a little small in diameter for my speedo liking. (About 5% fast) I also want to get it back up a bit.

    I do, however, drive my car a lot and fast (70-90 is not uncommon.)

    My other consideration is the Coker Classics.
    Dis-Use on a Car is Worse Than Mis-Use...
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    President Member 62champ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BILT4ME View Post
    62Champ;
    What tires are on your Lark?
    They are currently 6.70 X 15 - original tires for a 60SW4 would have been either 5.90 or 6.00s.

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    Apparently the "bias-look" American Classic whitewall radials in the 6.70 and 7.10R15 sizes are only offered with 2.75" width of the white sidewall. There are several black sidewall versions in many sizes, at least on the Lucas website. These are all referred to as Coker American Classic on Coker and Summit websites, fairly confusing as there is also Coker's own different line of Coker Classic radials. The 2.75" whitewall is perfect for mid-fifties, perhaps slightly wide for '58 and later authenticity. They would look good on the black '58 President (has 15" wheels since new), but I've blown my budget for now.

    Really nice looking 7.10 tires, though.
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    Last edited by riversidevw; 05-19-2017 at 06:18 PM.
    Gil Zimmerman
    Riverside, CA

    1955 Speedster
    1956 Golden Hawk
    1958 Packard Hawk
    1958 President
    1963 Avanti R2

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    I'm fairly sure I posted this when I purchased my first set of American Classic radials about nine years ago, but staff at Lucas Tire informed me that they were manufactured by the McCreary Tire Company (established 1915) in Pennsylvania. Company now better known as Specialty Tires, whose products include aircraft and racing tires (a line called American Racer). They do no direct sales, all marketing is through distributors like Lucas, Coker and others. My new set were ordered through a local tire dealer (Bud's Tires), so I don't know which distributor he used.

    Here's an outlet that posts decent illustrations of the various "bias-look" radials, black and whitewall:

    http://www.widewhitetires.com/americ...ial-tires.html

    Gil
    Last edited by riversidevw; 05-20-2017 at 05:02 PM. Reason: Added information
    Gil Zimmerman
    Riverside, CA

    1955 Speedster
    1956 Golden Hawk
    1958 Packard Hawk
    1958 President
    1963 Avanti R2

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    Quote Originally Posted by 62champ View Post
    They are currently 6.70 X 15 - original tires for a 60SW4 would have been either 5.90 or 6.00s.
    Are they a Coker tire or ??? Surely you're not driving on 50 year old tires........

    I guess I'm asking for specifics. Brand, size, type, manufacturer.........maybe even price paid so I know if I'm getting a decent deal.
    Dis-Use on a Car is Worse Than Mis-Use...
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    More information (from a far better source than I) on the American Classic bias-look radial series: I contacted John Kelsey, who oversees and solely distributes the entire Goodyear collector car line of tires. John is as knowledgeable as they come, also an extremely nice guy with whom I attended a small midwest high school an eternity ago.

    Like the rest of the American Classic line, these bias-look radial tires are indeed products of Specialty Tires of America, successor to McCreary. S.T.A. has adapted for modern radial construction the molds from a long-ago line of bias tires produced by Armstrong at their old plant in Des Moines and supplied back then to Sears. The selection of these bias-look tires (sizes, prices and BSW/WSW offerings) vary somewhat depending upon the distributor. These are doubtless the tires described by bezhawk, not actually made by Coker but distributed by Coker and the others.

    Sometime in the 80s, Armstrong Tire was acquired and absorbed by Pirelli. Remember the old "Grip the Road" slogan? Reputable old company, and these modern technology radial updates from Specialty Tires are quite unique.
    Last edited by riversidevw; 05-22-2017 at 07:55 PM.
    Gil Zimmerman
    Riverside, CA

    1955 Speedster
    1956 Golden Hawk
    1958 Packard Hawk
    1958 President
    1963 Avanti R2

  18. #18
    President Member 62champ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BILT4ME View Post
    Are they a Coker tire or ??? Surely you're not driving on 50 year old tires........

    I guess I'm asking for specifics. Brand, size, type, manufacturer.........maybe even price paid so I know if I'm getting a decent deal.
    They are far from original, but they were put on the car in 2004. They are still in great shape with little indications of aging.

    They were bought from a classic car tire dealer out of the dallas/ft worth area. BF Goodrich is the brand name on the tire.

  19. #19
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    Perhaps stuff for a new thread, but wondering if there are product lines of collector tires with a track record of worse than average issues of quality and reliability. I may regret mentioning it, as the rare problem is retold forever, while thousands of happy customers are usually complacent and quiet.

    Back in the late sixties and into the early eighties, wide whites were mostly variants of then-current 78-series production, no better or worse than the rest. For older vintage machines, there were the replica tires from people like Tom Lester. I understand that Tom was a good guy, but some batches were better than others. I recall a '32 Packard roadster equipped with pretty Lester tires leading a caravan of Packards International members up north, rolling along at about 55 to 60. Just behind, my wife and I witnessed three tire blowouts in rapid succession. By then, the roadster had used up the dual side mounts and finished on a flatbed. A good friend and favorite 56J vendor experienced for many months severe steering wheel shake at speeds over 50 in his '55 President, despite rebalancing tires and professional scrutiny of the front end. Final verdict was a manufacturing defect in one of the new Coker BFG-branded radials. Assuming it might have happened in any tire, modern or replica, from any source. Another friend has long had similar Cokers on an early Corvette, quite happy.

    Guess we can never take things for granted.
    Last edited by riversidevw; 05-24-2017 at 11:28 PM.
    Gil Zimmerman
    Riverside, CA

    1955 Speedster
    1956 Golden Hawk
    1958 Packard Hawk
    1958 President
    1963 Avanti R2

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by riversidevw View Post
    Perhaps stuff for a new thread, but wondering if there are product lines of collector tires with a track record of worse than average issues of quality and reliability. I may regret mentioning it, as the rare problem is retold forever, while thousands of happy customers are usually complacent and quiet.

    Back in the late sixties and into the early eighties, wide whites were mostly variants of then-current 78-series production, no better or worse than the rest. For older vintage machines, there were the replica tires from people like Tom Lester. I understand that Tom was a good guy, but some batches were better than others. I recall a '32 Packard roadster equipped with pretty Lester tires leading a caravan of Packards International members up north, rolling along at about 55 to 60. Just behind, my wife and I witnessed three tire blowouts in rapid succession. By then, the roadster had used up the dual side mounts and finished on a flatbed. A good friend and favorite 56J vendor experienced for many months severe steering wheel shake at speeds over 50 in his '55 President, despite rebalancing tires and professional scrutiny of the front end. Final verdict was a manufacturing defect in one of the new Coker BFG-branded radials. Assuming it might have happened in any tire, modern or replica, from any source. Another friend has long had similar Cokers on an early Corvette, quite happy.

    Guess we can never take things for granted.
    Interesting subject, worthy of debate. I also remember when Lesters were THE premium tire for collector cars. I put a set of 7.50 x 14 Lesters on a 62 Chevy and had several of them fail within a few years and almost no miles. By contrast, the 6.00 x 16 Cokers on my Stude truck are now 40 years old and still holding air. They will finally be replaced when the restoration of the truck is complete.

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