Classic Cars and Bikes – Getting a Grip on Specialty Tires

Your special car, truck, or motorcycle may need special tires. Here are some tips.

Automotive collectors, like automotive collectibles, come in all sizes, shapes and ages. But whatever your fancy – 1932 Ford highboy, 1936 Cord, 1970 Boss 302 Mustang, 1953 Indian Scout or 1947 Harley Davidson S-125 – you can’t drive or even display your car or motorcycle without handsome, hand-picked tires.

classic tires for classic vehicles
Most state laws say it’s time to replace a tire when only 2/32nd of an inch of tread remains. By then, the tire has long since lost its grip and wet-weather ability. However, because collector-cars are driven only a few thousand miles a year, their tires dry out and harden (due to ozone and UV light) long before they wear out.

They also develop flat spots from long storage without being moved. And when tires develop a brownish or whitish hue or begin to show cracks (“checking”) in their sidewalls – or whenever they’re 10 years old or more – it’s time to replace them.

classic tires for classic cars
To prolong your tires’ life, you should maintain their correct air pressure and keep weight off them during long storage. You should also prevent direct exposure to sunlight and avoid storing your collector car near active electric motors. Electric motors give off ozone – poison to rubber parts.

classic tires for hot rods
If you’re planning on new rubber for an upcoming event, don’t wait until the last minute. Buying tires for your collector car isn’t as simple as driving to the local tire dealer or discount store. They stock sizes and types suitable for modern cars. On the other hand, virtually any dealer can order the tires you request from a collector-car tire specialist, though it might take a week or more.

While most tire dealers and discount stores can order tires to fit your collector car, they might not know the size and type you really need. You’re also better off working through a specialty company or having your new tires sent to a restoration shop familiar with such wheels if you car has a split rim or delicate alloy wheels.

Classic tires for muscle cars
Several companies are characterized as “full service,” meaning they can probably offer tires and advice for anything from a 1903 Oldsmobile to a 1970 Dodge Challenger.

More important, if you’re not sure what tire you need, they can help you make a good choice.

classic tire on classic car
Companies like Coker Tire, Lucas Automotive and Universal Vintage Tire have reference materials that include the original factory tire size, rim manufacturer and correct wheel offset. In some cases, they can even provide tires and tubes for early race cars and motorcycles.

classic tires for classic motrocycles
Thanks to websites and UPS, you don’t need to live near a collector-car tire specialist to gain access to the ideal tire for your antique, classic, hot rod, race car, or motorcycle. These five companies aren’t the only sources for tires, but they are among the best known.

Coker Tire
Lucas Classic Tires
Roger Kraus Racing
SascoSports, Inc.
Universal Vintage Tire Co.

The video below brings back memories for older guys and educates the younger ones about the difference in tires on classic muscle cars a few decades ago.

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