For some classic car enthusiasts, getting the right look is essential. However, while the car itself remain a true classic, tyres have long since changed and improved.
As such, it’s a different market today, compared to what you use to have (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing). So, what are the best tyres for your classic car?
Understanding Tyre Sizes
First of all, you should note that the current, universal tyre size system used today hasn’t always been the case. Previously, different companies would have their own systems, so finding the right tyres for your classic car might be a little more challenging than you originally thought.
Typically, if your car was built during the late 1970s onward, it will use the standardised system we are all familiar with today – you can use an online tyre size calculator to explore any further options.
On the other hand, if your vehicle supports a size that isn’t common today, you have two options. You can use a conversion guide to find the right size in the current system or, if there no options that directly match up, you can find specialist tyre makers that support these ranges.
Whatever you do, you should not use tyres that are older than 6 years old – this is why it is suggested you finding modern specialist tyres, rathern than genuine, vintage options. This is because the rubber compound degrades overtime, losing its original qualities. A used vintage tyre is also likely worn down and offers little in the way of safety.
Radial Or Cross-Ply?
Today’s tyres are typical radial in design, although this wasn’t always the case. Your vintage vehicle may well have been built with cross-ply tyres in mind.
While this would be more authentic, the benefits of radial tyres still make them a better option. Thanks to a softer tyre wall, radial products are more flexible. Cross-ply tyres, on the other hand, don’t cope as well when changing direction and often can’t handle the higher speeds that we drive at today – many of the earlier products simply don’t have a speed index to meet legal road requirements.
Finding a radial tyre is easy, as they often have an “R” in their markings to help distinguish them as such. That said, if you decide to switch to radial options, you should consider increasing the tyre pressure by around 0.3 bar, as a little more air is needed to accommodate the fluid nature of the radial design.
The Whitewall Look
As mentioned earlier, some people like to recreate the original, authentic aesthetic for their vehicle., If the car is a true classic, or possibly even vintage, then it was likely originally equipped with whitewall tyres.
In fact, the very first tyres were often completely white, due to the use of natural rubber and zinc oxide, both of which had a natural white hue to them. This only changed when carbon black was introduced to strengthen the tyres. For a while, however, this was only used on the treads, leaving zinc oxide in the sidewalls. This is where the distinctive ‘whitewall’ look comes from.
If you have your heart set on whitewall tyres, there are some modern versions available. However, you should enquire about how they are produced as not all products use pure zinc oxide. Some, in an effort to ensure strong driving parameters, simply provide a white outer layer on top of a traditional, black tyre. This can easily scrape away with use, ruining the look.
Similarly, the white pigment is easier to fade or alter with chemicals. Specialised products are available, which will prevent this from happening, ensuring your tyres maintain a vibrant, attractive white shine.
Giles Kirkland is a professional mechanic for Oponeo with a passion for older vehicles. When he’s not working, he enjoys dreaming about all the old vehicles he would like to be able to own.