cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

How vintage tires evolved from a problem to an industry

If you want a sense of just how much the collector car world has grown in recent decades-and how much better it is for enthusiasts-you could do worse than kick some tires. Securing new vintage-spec tires is, for most anything, a non-issue. Weird and one-off cars with unconventional wheel-sizes, retired race cars, and even concepts.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/automotive-history/how-vintage-tires-evolved-from-a-problem-to-an-indu...
42 REPLIES 42
BiffNotZeem
Intermediate Driver

“When it comes to new reproduction tires, it seems there’s rubber for every wheel, no matter how obscure the size.”

Some links would be helpful. Coker doesn’t offer tires that fit normally aspirated Lotus Esprits. Lack of suitable tires is why I no longer own any.
TheFlash300
Pit Crew

Similar challenge for small sportscars from the 60-70s running 13" rims. Most advocate increasing rim sizes to 14 or 15" to obtain tires that are not trailer spec or hard low rolling resistance tires.
johnwann
New Driver

What size are you looking for? I just bought Pirelli CN36s for my 2002 in 185/60R13.
NordMann
New Driver

Still, today i recieved my non-N-rated Pilot Sport 4’s in 17" for my 964 as N-rated PS2’s weren’t possible to source anywhere. Having them mounted tomorrow
Lcarley
Intermediate Driver

Old tires can be dangerous tires. As tires age,the rubber becomes harder, less pliable and brittle. Eventually cracks develop and the tire becomes significantly weaker. The result can be a sudden blowout while driving. Collector cars typically spend a lot of years year sitting in a garage, barn or shed. It doesn't matter whether the car is driven or not, the tires are going to age no matter what. So that set of tires you put on your classic treasure 10, 15 or 20 years ago are likely no longer road worthy even if the still look like new. In Europe, tires must be replaced after 10 years. We don't have any such safety rules here, but most tire manufacturers recommend replacing tires after 6 to 10 years regardless of condition or mileage.

If you are shopping around for some new or used tires for your ride, don't buy a new or used tire that is six or more years old. Check the date code on the sidewall to determine when the tire was manufactured. It may look great, but old tires are not worth the risk especially if you plan to drive your ride at highway speeds during hot summer weather.

The date of manufacture is indicated by the last group of digits in the DOT manufacture code on the sidewall of the tire. The number is often stamped in a recessed rectangle. The DOT code tells who manufactured the tire, where it was made and when. The last group of digits is the date code that tells when the tire was made.

Before 2000, the date code had three digits. Since 2000, it has had four. The first two digits are the week of the year (01 = the first week of January). The third digit (for tires made before 2000) is the year (1 = 1991). For most tires made after 2000, the third and fourth digits are the year (04 = 2004).

32hotrod
New Driver

I wish this comment would have cited a study or test by some credible entity. I'm always skeptical statement such as these originate from parties with a financial interest in selling more product.
TKewley
New Driver

Six years is a rule of thumb, obviously, but the basic advice is sound. The root issue is moisture rather than age, so if you prefer a more objective measure: a dry rotted tire (i.e. one with any visible cracks) is very likely unsafe.
Tinkerah
Engineer

This is one of those things that probably doesn't need a study. Most of us have observed old rubber that wouldn't survive being mounted; between that and new is just a matter of degree. A graph of the likelihood of failure under a controlled condition against ages of tires stored and used under the same conditions would be interesting but certainly not surprising.
Retrorider
Pit Crew

32 hotrod, me too! I truly believe rubber ages, but I have a 63 Porsche with some Michelins that were installed in 1992 and they work great, not one micro crack on the rubber on any of them. I keep them rotated, up to proper air pressure, and I may regret it but I'm not going to replace them because they look and feel brand new. In fact, prior to 2000 no person or manufacturer that I remember warned us about short rubber life on tires.
Snailish
Engineer

In last week's tire article thread I pointed out the anecdotal observation we have had:

 

-really old tires still holding air, even when on derelict parts cars that don't move for a decade or more.

 

-Much newer tires needing replaced, even if only sitting static for a few years.

 

My conclusion is that something is no longer in the tires and/or new things in tires impact this long term holding air observation.

 

Note: not saying the older tires were better, better performing, or even safe to drive at low speeds 40 years later  --just saying a lot of them seem to hold air.

 

I'd actually be really interested in a mythbusters style study of various age of tires from all different scenarios (out in the sun for decades, in a dark shed, etc.) and giving a modern duty cycle testing. 

 

After all, "holds air" is great for a parts car, but is far from the important thing if you are actually going to be driving at speed.

Inline8OD
Technician

Heat, mileage, UV rays degrade tires. So if you're driving occasionally on local pleasure jaunts, not vintage racing, your 356C kept in a dark, cool garage, you've got lots of company.
GoFaster
Detailer

This is correct. Although I work for Goodyear, I am not making this statement to sell more tires. I am simply agreeing that old tires are very dangerous. It's your choice. You can run on old brittle cracked tires and run the risk of catastrophic failure, or you can be safe and use tires that are less than 10 years old. It is your choice. I could find some aging studies, but common sense tells you that rubber gets old and brittle as time passes.
Tinkerah
Engineer

This tire dating scheme can't ever be publicized enough.
GianniB
Intermediate Driver

You don’t seem to be able to buy those Bridgestone SF-325’s in the US.

Staying with OEM wheels/sizes on some cars does seem to result in less tires to choose from over time as the world is all about bigger and bigger tires.
timb0
Intermediate Driver

So, my sis totaled her 1968 Volvo 144 in 1971. I kept the tires and engine and OD trans, disc brakes etc. I have a 1968 142, and will "present' the' car with the tires from the '69 that are over 50 years old. It shows originality, but I would never drive on them. I keep them covered in a dark cool place and have for the past 52+ years. They "seem" fine, but what might happen at 90kph? Ha.
timb0
Intermediate Driver

typo
OHCOddball
Advanced Driver

Yep. I need to replace the tires on my 69 Firebird. Bought it 23 years ago and it still has the tires on it I bought it with. Nothing special about them (225/75R14 white wall). No idea how old they actually are as they don't have date codes on them as near as I can tell.
JB2
Pit Crew

last I checked no one is making michelin metric TRX in the size needed on my 82 Renault Fuego Turbo. Currently running tires that are at least 15 years old, look fine but wouldn't trust them for extended highway driving. Only option I guess is to find compatible SAE rims and then there are many tire options
Rider79
Technician

Don't know what size your Renault uses; in 2018, Coker did have the TRX size for my 1984 Mustang GT, so I bought them.
DanC
Intermediate Driver

AND THEN...consider the absolute lunacy of the recall (LAST MONTH) of Goodyear tires that weren't made after 2003. There can't be 1% of the originals out there...much less mounted on a functioning RV. We wasted time recalling a tire that has completely dry rotted. Only in America. Thank God the government is looking out for us...next lets go searching for some Firestones still mounted to a rollover Explorer.
pauluptime
Intermediate Driver

Referring to Marathon tires? We put new GYMs on our Airstream in 2009 but they were used only to transport for a few months and the trailer's been used at a fixed location since. The damage inflicted to such a trailer from a blowout and/or delamination is often very extensive/expensive.

Tinkerah
Engineer

I agree it seems silly but really how much time did "we" waste adding another line to a list?

Catdaddy44
New Driver

Conner, I have to ask about recapping tires. Is it the tire tread that degrades in time but not the casing?  I know truck and trailer tires have been recapped forever. A trucker I am acquainted with says his have been recapped 4-5 times. When I  drag raced years back my slicks were recaps and I  ran over 110mph. I also know the airlines don't own the tires on their planes and the tires are recapped. So is it the lack of molds that don't allow recapping or that manufactures don't want to deal with passanger tires? I  have a set of new Goodyear Wing Foot white stripe tires that I have had stored for 40 years in a cool dark environment I am considering installing on my Corvette. 

What are your thoughts?

Tinkerah
Engineer

Interesting question, and I have no first hand knowledge but believe I have a good guess: All the applications you refer to are situations wherein very heavy use could warrant recapping several times before the carcass ages out.
SJ
Technician

The U.S. federal government has determined that retread tires are no more dangerous than any other tire.Some urban or severe-service fleets (such as sanitation fleets) can retread six or seven times on a quality casing,” Stockstill said. Any tire coming out of service should be evaluated for damage and documented.
mhealy1
Advanced Driver

Hmmm…the use of retreads on the steer axle of a semi is still outlawed. Either someone didn’t get the memo or the quote is out of context.
pauluptime
Intermediate Driver

The great difficulty with most repro vintage "performance" tires is finding QUALITY comparable even with today's plebeian passenger tires. If looks are your goal, most repro tires will be out-of-round, loud, rough and questionable-at-speed, but fine for a classic that's driven from trailer to show field.

Tire (and tire manufacturing) technologies have evolved in huge leaps over the past 20 years and for those of us who really drive their cars it's getting harder to source reasonably high performance in 15" sizes. 8 years is a comfortable age limit for my summer-driven '65 Sting Ray, so just last week I replaced 2014 dates General Altimax RT-44s with the same tires (now 3rd gen, and I'm quite happy with them.)  However, to my chagrin the date code on the new set of tires was a late 2019(!).  I'm OK with using passenger tires in a performance application but do we now also have to accept "new" tires already 3 years old?

Inline8OD
Technician

I second 32hotrod, the fourth poster above, as well as Catdaddy44, SJ, and Pauluptime.

We understand much of this alleged safety concern is the tire companies' lawyers talking, encouraging more sales.

Meanwhile, those of us long playing with old, prewar cars have to laugh at the outrageous prices for bias ply tires people in the third world wouldn't buy, so long as festooned with wide whitewalls--not always wide enough at that-- fakey do Firestone, Goodyear, etc. script, "original" tread patterns.

Other companies charge a hefty premium to vulcanize a too narrow "wide whitewall" on bias sized 7.00 x 15 Yokohama LT (light truck) tires for owners of 1941-on Buicks, Cads, Chryslers, Hudson Commodore Eights, Packards. Part of this nonsense abetted by the sort who think they must smother their car with every available factory and dealer option, overlooking that only a trickle of 1947 automobiles, the last month or so of production, regardless brand or price level, were available with whitewalls, so whitewalls on any 1946-47 cars are incorrect. That we see 100 point 1946-47 cars so equipped only underscores vanity trumps historical correctness.

In the day, most educated motorists viewed whitewalls as gauche, tacky. You can see, for example, late '30s Pierce-Arrows or senior Packard club sedans, coupes, convertibles in showrooms with Persian carpets and potted palms shod in black sneakers.

There are dolts who think boasting how much money they blew on their car somehow makes them worth more. Companies selling vintage-look tires love that mentality.

 

  Note the above piece closes by invoking Pebble Beach, as if that janitorial d' nonelegance, tournament of credit lines somehow a final arbiter.  Even Phil Hill, whose Pierce-Arrow won Best of Show in 1955 back when Pebble hewed closer to the real concours of Europe in the '20s and '30s,  whose Santa Monica shop,  Hill & Vaughn, later restored many such contestants, lamented, "I've seen more nice original cars forever ruined for the sake of a few more points at some concours."

 

     There was no Pebble in 2020 because of Covid.  2019 and 2021 Best of Show won by billionaires.    There's much more to this hobby than a playground for the idle rich.   The entire hobby has been second-tiered,  in lock-step obeyance to these characters too long, to everyone's detriment.  

 

    Anyone in business knows there are expenses tooling to produce batches of anything, limited or not.   But the Pebble mentality translates to people thinking the more they've dumped into their car, the more it's worth, and the above companies prey on that insecurity.

 

  When will Hagerty, instead of handing out Pebble Beach "Morning Patrol" duckbill caps, look into the above, remember the other, more vital 99% of this hobby?   We can get money homages from Kiplinger's and the Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition.

 

     Wearing a Yankees cap doesn't put you in the dugout.

1972GTO455HO
New Driver

I have typically used BF Goodrich TA's on my muscle cars, they are a radial tire, have good handling and a good ride, look great, and are reasonably priced. I have thought about the Firestone Wide Oval Radials a few times, however they are at least double the price of a TA so I have not bothered. One of the best looking tires from the muscle car era are the Goodyear Poly Glass raised white letters, I have one new reproduction set mounted on honeycomb wheels for my 71 Trans Am, however they are a bias ply tire, it's like going backwards in handling and ride quality, so I run a set of TA's on another set of Ralleye 11 wheels. If the Goodyears were available in a radial version like the Firestone Wide Ovals are, I would be willing to pay the extra money, I'm surprised that no one makes them, I think they would sell better than the Firestone Wide Oval radials..
MarkReynolds
Pit Crew

"it seems there’s rubber for every wheel"
Ha! How about a 1-inch whitewall in a G, H or L series 14 inch tire? The ones that millions of Ford Galaxies, Plymouth Furies and Chevy Impalas plus a multiude of others used in the 1960's. Radial is fine, as long as it is not one of those 70 series 25" tall tires that make these cars look like it's on furniture casters instead of tires. Yes, Diamondback can make them and they are fine tires (I have a set) but they are eye-wateringly expensive for something that should be common as dirt.
Mark
mhealy1
Advanced Driver

Standard on those cars was a 78 series (aspect ratio) tire. 70 series is a lower profile than the 78s they should have.
GeneLaRoe
Pit Crew

From not so pleasant experience, I learned not to try to get ten years out of an RV tire. It's really hard to pull off tires with enough tread depth to almost lose a penny in. Can't even find Abe's head! They make good tires for farm trailers, however. I will not name the popular brand of RV tires, big ones on the big diesel pushers that caused thousands of dollars damage to many coaches. When they come apart, they don't stop at ripping the fiberglass "fender" area, often the bathroom or/and kitchen above the tires gets the floor, plumbing and hope no one is on the potty! I know, passengers are supozed to be under a seat belt somewhere. Worse yet, some were wreaked when a front blew, often with tragic consequences.
GeneLaRoe
Pit Crew

I have an old shop hand truck that is at least fifty years old. Pneumatic wheel barrow size. They haven't had air in them for years, the valve stems have even gone into hiding.But I can put a lot of weight on it and heave back, and it rolls easy, like a hard rubber caster. Which is what it has become. I am afraid to hit it with a hammer 'cause I still want to use it.
hyperv6
Collector

The industry is finding a larger challenge. They are being faced with more odd sizes and numbers of tires. 

 

There are a number of 80's and now 90's cars where tires are getting difficult to find for them as the sizes have been discontinued by many MFG. 

 

White letter tires are also very limited due to the increased liability of the white rubber. They are not a high speed rated tire as the white rubber will not take the heat. Many companies are not willing to risk the liability.  

Tera155
New Driver

When I purchased my 1966 GT350 in 1998 it came with a set of five Good Year blue dot tires on it. I still have them and four still hold air. They can't be driven on but they are a nice piece of authenticity for the car. As far as driving tires -- I run BF Goodrich TA radials like everyone else.

Rds,
Thad Dupper
Colorado
SAG
Technician

I have a '38 Rolls
fitted with 'truck tires' since the '80s
Ha
SAG
Technician

my Italian's
that require "50 series" end up on
Race/hybreds
Inline8OD
Technician

--

Inline8OD
Technician

SAG, are your Wraith's tires bias or radial? I've got a set of correct bias - s i z e d but radial 7.00/15 Bridgestone R-230  LT (light truck) tires on my '47 Packard Super Clipper with only 1,560 miles on them, always in a cool dark garage, no sun,  but  they are 17 years,  eight months years old.

 

They look, feel like year-old tires and i only go out on an occasional 20-mile runs to get the oil hot.

If a bias tire blows, no damage. But not always so with radials, yet not wild about tossing a set with such limited use, so wonder how you're doing? Not many '38-'39 Wraiths out there.

 

  Our Bay Area traffic the nation's worst after only LA, hence my tires' light use.  You'd think genuine gearheads and environmentalists would unite in urging one or none or  adoption over making more babies,  since polls of the nation's and world's scientists show them in accord that overpopulation by far our biggest problem,  their words, "bigger than climate."   UN and other exhaustive, vetted studies show animals raised for meat and dairy produce more greenhouse gas than all the world's cars, trucks, buses, trains, planes, ships combined, so if we're serious,  cruise nights, meets, shows forego the burgers, shakes, rubber chicken.

barfle
Intermediate Driver

Going through the article and the comments, I wonder what effect storage conditions have on tires, and what optimum storage conditions miight be. I just reshod my VW beetle with Cokers, because it had been sitting for several years and the tires were a mixture of brands and ratings. It was $1,000 or so for five. Not wallet-busting, but not something I want to do regularly.
CaptainDave
New Driver

A number of comments and replies have centered on date codes. There's a lot of pressure to replace tires after 6-8 years. Perhaps some state has, or will, make that a part of its safety inspection. Here's the thing: manufacturers want you to throw them out but do NOT want to be required to ship them fresh. Call a tire store, ask them if they have your size in stock, then ask what the date code is on them. You'll hear cricket noises. If you buy a tire and find it was made two years ago, it has already used up 1/4 to 1/3 of its useful life without you getting any value out of it. So if they're going to require you to replace them at X years after mfg, they need to require them to be sold within, say, 6 months or a year. Alternatively, installation date should be factored in, although if it's truly a matter of age, not mileage, that shouldn't matter. Finally, while this could be easily applied to mass-market tires, the specialty sizes described in this article often stay on the shelf a long time before fitment. What then? It's a puzzler.