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Classic Era Tires, need help


TexRiv_63

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It looks like I will need to replace the tires and tubes on my 32 Cadillac in the near future. The ancient Lesters I have are about 30 years old, flat spotted and hard as a rock and since this car can actually go faster than 35mph the handwriting is on the wall. They are 750-17 whitewalls and preliminary research shows a cost well over $1000 for four tires, so I would like to ask for the benefit of others experience before emptying my wallet. This size is offered by Lester, Firestone, Bedford, Denman, and BF Goodrich with 4 ply to 8 ply construction and load ratings all the way up to 2400 lbs. My car weighs 5200 lbs. What have you all used and what are your comments? Please respond here with anything positive or neutral, if you have anything on the negative side send me a personal message or e-mail me at derjr2@tx.rr.com. Thanks for your help!

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Don, if your tyres are in that state it may be interesting to try a treatment used by a friend who had a bakery business, who used glycerine for some purpose in that. He has early T Fords, and was restoring a 1912; and when he wanted to stand the project on wheels, the good-looking used tyres he had were too dry and hard to fit. So he patiently dressed them with glycerine, which apparently soaked into the rubber and re-plasticised it. He and another friend later exchanged brass T Fords, and I have not noticed anything remarkable about the tyres. Apparently it soaks in well at warm ambient temperatures. It may be worth experimenting on one of your hard tyres before you discard them totally.

I am setting up to do tran-esterification of used cooking oil of which I have about 500 gallons collected, to use biodiesel in my diesel ute. Of course, glycerine base from the split triglycerides is a by-product that does have uses; and when I get going I intend to try it on the 70-year old 600x23 8 ply tyres that I used to run the Mercer on. Now they just separate various cars from the ground, apart from the Roamer-Duesenberg which gives joy-rides to visitors on the property.

Ivan Saxton

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I had 7.00 x 20 Lesters on my 7 passenger Studebaker. It weighed almost 4800 lbs., so it must be similar to your situation. I loved those tires. They held the road well and gave the car a nice soft ride. I would call Eric Maxwell at Universal and get the scoop from him. I buy all my tires from Universal and have always been more than satisfied.

Frank

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I would go to some car show & look at tires on other lareg cars from the 1930's & see what you like. Sometimes the same size from different companies is not the same. Eventhough your car had a certain size originally, you may have to go a size bigger for the car to look right today.

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Guest bkazmer

be careful with the replasticizing idea - I don't think gycerin will have the stability of the original oils used. Also, if the rubber is oxidized, plasticizer will not reverse that. I think your old ones are side mount fillers.

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Guest Trunk Rack

In THEORY, we have a choice between "radials" and (original type construction) "bias" built tires. You will find as you go thru the "threads" in here, ten thousand opinions on "which is better".

Here's the FACTS based on my own experience ( I have been a big old car buff probably at least a week longer than most of these guys......!). I have been operating, as my nearly "daily driver", since the mid 1950's, one of the (if not THE) heaviest and fastest cars of the REAL classic era).

There is NO consistancy, even within brands. I have found bias ply tires that give excellent handling, similar to what our cars could provide when new. I have found some "repro" bias tires that gave such horrible handling that I actually took my suspension apart several times LOOKING for that broken or worn out parts, only to find everything was o.k.). Same holds true for radials.

I have found both classes of tires from COKER and DIAMOND to be superior. I personally have never had trouble with either, but I have heard they take good care of their customers.

My own preference these days is for a radial tire. You can get in your size a radial that will have the exact dimensions and tread to look authentic. And if you carry at least 35-40 lbs tire pressure, you will have BOTH a nice soft ride typical of what your car had when new, and superb effortless steering.

A radial white all in your size, from either COKER or DIAMOND wont be cheap. However, assuming your car is stored indoors and at reasonable temps. when not in use, I would imagine the useable life would be many many years.

These days, the big advantage to radials is the uniformly high quality in terms of both balance and "round". While SOME bias repro tires are o.k...many suffer from terrible "round" problems, which no amount of balancing can take out.

Additionally, most modern bias tires have a problem that has always been typical of that kind of construction. Running hot. Put a heavy car on bias tires on a hot day and go fast, and you are ASKING for the tire to come apart.

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Thanks for all the replies. I will be keeping the best two of my current tires for the spares but I definitely want to go new for the four on the ground.

Frank, I understand the Lester brand is owned by Universal now. The only problem with the Lesters is that they do not look original, whitewall is too wide and the tread design is more modern. I see Firestone and BFG tires that appear very original, are they actually made by those companies or by someone else under license?

Trunk Rack, your recommendation of radials is something I did not think of. I assume you are running them on your Packard 12? My car has the original wire wheels but there has been a lot of discussion about the older wheels not being designed for the sideload stress of radials - are your wheels original? I'll check out Diamond, which brand from Coker do you use?

There seems to be quite a variance of opinion on Coker. As far as the age of the tires I'm going to learn about the date codes and actually read them for this purchase!

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As far as the age of the tires I'm going to learn about the date codes and actually read them for this purchase!

Pretty easy for tires manufactured since 2000: The last four digits is the week (2 digits) and year (2 digits) the tire was made.

For tires manufactured earlier the year is only one digit so you have a three digit date code. And then you will have to infer from other information if the tire was make in the 1990s, the 1980s, or ??.

I've lost my link, but if you do an Internet search you can come up with the list of codes for tire manufacturing plants which is part of the alphabet stuff at the beginning of the code and see where your tires were actually manufactured.

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Guest Trunk Rack
. . . . .

Trunk Rack, your recommendation of radials is something I did not think of. I assume you are running them on your Packard 12? My car has the original wire wheels but there has been a lot of discussion about the older wheels not being designed for the sideload stress of radials - are your wheels original? !

= = = = = = = = = =

The reason you didn't think of putting radials on your big heavy Cadillac from the 1930's, could be because many "experts" have assured you the wheels would fall off...the rods would roderate, and the transmission would transmiserate.

When listening to the "experts" consider the source....! I believe there must be a special engineering school for these "experts" where they study a special text based on laws of physics that were not available to me.

Back here on Planet Earth, our laws of physics regarding tire pressure, and how hard a tire's side-wall presses against a tire rim, are pretty constant. 35 lbs tire pressure is 35 lbs tire pressure, whether your tire is a radial, a bias tire, a bias "belted", or a ballon.

Back here on Planet Earth, the more flexible a tire side-wall is, the better able it is to avoid CONCENTRATION OF FORCE, and thus be EASIER on your rims. It is therefore a little silly to try and tell people that the more flexible side-walls of a radial are harder on rims than the old bias-construction side-walls.

Yes, rims fail. Typically on cheapo cars built to a price. I am not a classic-era Cadillac expert - therefore, NOT familiar with the rims on your wire wheels. I suspect your RIM design is a standard "drop-center" type. Hopefully, it is not the older "split ring" type, which I wouldn't use on my riding mower!

I know in Packard's case, they started using the now-world-wide industry standard "drop center" rim design in the 1920's - exactly when I do not know. Quality wire wheels are just as strong, if not stronger, than the typical steel wheel such as is on my old car ( a few years newer than yours - by the late 30's, wire wheels were pretty much gone).

Packard didn't make its wheels - they were purchased to a Packard design from MOTOR RIM & WHEEL. Packard design engineers went to engineering schools down here on Planet Earth, so they "specked out" different weight wheels for different weight cars - just as an example, a 1938 Packard Super Eight has VERY tough well-engineered wheels, but since they go on a significantly lighter less powerful car, they arent (and have no reason to be) as heavy as the wheels on a Packard V-12.

I would be surprised if the wheels on your Cadillac are inferior. Makes me mad to find out how good Cadillacs were in your era!

As a Packard worshipper, I find it offensive when examining classic-era Cadillacs, to find they were designed, engineered, and built to a quality standard (for any given price range) at least as good as a Packard of the same year and price range.!

My suspicion is your wheels, as in the case of my Packard, are over-built, so you can disregard the fears of the back-yard "experts". Think about it....what kind of roads were our classic-era luxury cars designed for !

Again, the wheel-rim failures I am aware of occured on CHEAPO cars that were of necessity built to a price standard, not a quality standard.

If there have been any rim failures on a QUALITY car from the 1930's, I am not aware of it. To suggest these rim failures are the result of using radial tires is nonsence.

Again - THINK of the kind of brutal road conditions your car was designed to handle. The ability to tear across really terrible roads at fairly high speeds was something luxury car buyers EXPECTED. There are some old proving ground films floating around that will show you how tough your car is!

The white-wall radials on my own old car are about 10 years old - trying to remember where I bought em. Must have the invoice around here somewhere.

The paper label on the tire wrapper I saved - says DAYTON TIMBERLINE 7.50R16LT 8 ply rating Load Range D, Polyster cord body, steel belts.

ONE of my side-mount "spares" is an original (meaning 1938) Goodyear 8:25 x 16 (which is what Packard 'speced out' for the '37 - '39 V-12.) Of interest is these Daytons are physically the SAME OUTER DIAMETER and tread width as the original pre-war nominally larger tire.

Your tire size is avail. from several of the current repro. folks, in an authentic white-wall width, both in bias & in a radial.

I STRONGLY recommend you dispose of the old Lesters - dont even rely on them for back-up. Go spend the money for radial white-walls.

At some point in time in the past, Lester got its act together, and their tires are no longer an invitation to failure. I dont know when that was that they corrected their earlier production issues. I know many people with recent manufacture Lesters who are happy with them. When Lester first introduced their repro bias 8:25 x 16, they were SO far "out of round" I went thru nearly a dozen before I finally got a set that wouldn't shake my car to pieces. Then the failures began. Tread separations, Carcass blow-outs. In fairness, in those years I drove my old car a bit faster & harder than many of my friends in the Classic Car Club Of America thought appropriate....! (what are you telling me...you arent supposed to "drift' a three ton twelve cylinder Packard...? )

Again, the primary advantages of radials over repro. bias tires include MUCH easier steering and better handling, MUCH smoother riding (they will be nice and round "right out of the box) and MUCH cooler running. HEAT is the enemy of tires.

However, if your car hasn't been re-geared or equipped with an over-drive, you probably arent going to be driving at sustained speeds much over 50 mph. In that case, bias construction (in a GOOD tire) would work out well for you if you want to avoid the "give-a-way bottom bulge out" of the radial.

Edited by Trunk Rack (see edit history)
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Ply33, my Lesters have the three digit date code with "7" for the year. At best that means 1997 but could be 87 or 77. Based on the very little history I have for the car I'm betting on 77. Time to Re-Tire!

Trunkrack, good point about the overdesign of the wheels. I know the visible part of the hub shows 1/8" thick steel, they are 8-lug pattern, and they weigh a ton when you have to change them! They are drop-center rims, 32 was the first year Cadillac used them. I'll check out Dayton tires, I looked through the Coker catalog but did not see any radials in 750-17. If I did go with Bias ply, what do you consider a "good" brand?

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Guest Trunk Rack
. . . . . Time to Re-Tire!

= = = = = =

PLEASE dont think I am picking exclusively on Lester. As I noted above, I have found NO CONSISTANCY in repro tires.

First of all, my understanding is that ALL the current repro. mfgs. & dealers are out to please their customers. These days, if you have a problem, I suspect you'd get good support from any of the current repro. folks.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

If I did go with Bias ply, what do you consider a "good" brand?

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

I personally would NOT want "bias" type construction on ANY of my current vehicles.

But I have to qualify that, too - about 25 years ago, bought a set of 38 x 7's ( 750:24) for my mid 1930's American La France V-12. (that was an 800 cu. in. over-head cam monster! Drove across the continent at really silly speeds in the summer,) including blasting across the Mojave Desert in August )! Those bias tires worked out well (after "rounding" with a "tire knife". As received they had the usual problem so often incurred in bias construction - so far "out of round" it felt like they were going to shake the fire engine to pieces!

I recently saw a advertisement for just introduced 750:17 radial white-walls that just came out. Suggest you TELEPHONE Coker (1-866-708-1271 ) to get the latest info. They deal in AMERICAN CLASSIC COLLECTOR RADIALS - I think that is the brand I saw. Not sure. Diamond also now has a reputation for good product support.

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For most antique and Classic era tires in any particular size, regardless of the name on the tire, be it Coker, Universal or whatever they are made in the same factory, in the same molds (with differend identifying inserts) by the same workers. If in doubt I invite you to prove me wrong.

One factory in York, PA produces and packages over 250 brands of corn chips, from the least expensive generic brands to the most expensive premium brands, no difference whatsoever yet folks will swear that the expensive ones have better taste, are fresher, or whatever.

Similar situation with lawn tractors. Virtually every lawn tractor built in the US (not all but most), whether sold by Lowes, Sears, Home Depot , Tractor Supply, lower end John Deere, or numerous other retailers are produced in the MTF factory in Elyria, Ohio (across the street from Sharp Brothers Upholstery) and have identical chassis, engines, etc, just dressed in different "clothing".

The point being, just because the name on the tire is different don't assume that the tire is actually any different.

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...Those bias tires worked out well (after "rounding" with a "tire knife". As received they had the usual problem so often incurred in bias construction - so far "out of round" it felt like they were going to shake the fire engine to pieces!...

Please do tell how one might go about rounding a tire with a "tire knife". And what is a "tire knife"? I've never heard of one. (No radial tires available in the size needed for my car. And I've checked, my rims are straight, round and balanced but when I last put new tires on the balance went way off so I know its the tires that needed help not the wheels).

For most antique and Classic era tires in any particular size, regardless of the name on the tire, be it Coker, Universal or whatever they are made in the same factory, in the same molds (with differend identifying inserts) by the same workers. If in doubt I invite you to prove me wrong.

The last two sets of tires for my old car had different brands and different tread style. But the tire code on the sidewall showed the same factory (Code DY, the Denman Tire Company in Leavittsburg, Ohio).

Edited by ply33 (see edit history)
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Guest Trunk Rack

It would have been difficult, up to about 30 years or so ago, to find a competent, well-equipped tire shop that did NOT have a tire "truing" machine, typically called a"tire knife". Even today, DISCOUNT TIRE here in Prescott, Arizona, is typical of large volume tire shops that know if they want repeat business, the tires durn well better be BOTH balanced AND round before they go out the door. The fact is that due to the nature of their construction, bias tires are not necessarily round.

Tire "knives" center on the wheel once the tire is mounted and inflated. Actually, some makes use a grinding wheel, others use an actual cutting blade. The machines are often capable of "siping" tire tread, which I strongly recommend. The "siping" slits can make a bias tire steer ALMOST as nicely as a good radial, and give ALMOST as much handling.

After the tire and wheel is "trued up" as a unit, and "siped", then any standard wheel balancer should turn out a product that gives smooth service at any speed.

In the old days, we would reject a tire more than 3/32 out of round (meaning we'd have to cut that much tread off to get it round).

These days, my understanding is that responsible radial tire manufacturers have careful enough inspection, that out-of-round radials rarely get out to the retail markets.

Bear in mind that many collector cars these days are not kept by their owners for use as autombiles. They are kept as some kind of custume jewelry, whereby they only have to manage to drag their carcass out and back into a trailer, and maybe across a few hundred yards of lawn. So it can be argued that for most people having collector cars today, my discussion is simply a waste of their time. Therefore, bias tires can give adequate service for what most collector car owners require.

Edited by Trunk Rack (see edit history)
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Curti,

You can still buy double sided white Bedford tires in certain sizes. Those are owned and controled by Kelsey Tire in MO. who also makes the Goodyear Collector Series tires. They also still make a 600X16 double white in Firestone and the Ford script. If there are any others, I'm not aware of them. The last use of double sided whites was 1941, although I've been told a few certain early 1942 models had them, but that I've never seen proof or seen factory photos of.

Restorer32,

Actually, there are two major plants here in the states making the antique bias tires. Deman Tire in Ohio and Specialty Tire of America in Indiana, PA. Then there are also plants in Veitnam and India making certain brands and series antique tires. I'm not exactly sure how you meant it by saying they are all made out of the same mold, but that would be a trick I never heard of.

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Hi

I have had excellent service out of both Firestone and B.F. Goodrich in bias tires in this size without any trouble at all. I have also run radials and report no issues either, all though radials are not aways superior on all cars. I have found it can vary. There is a controversy about that issue and for the sake of staying positive won't touch it here. At least one company out there has been putting out a lot of misinformation about bias tires and that is a shame. That said my only other advice is to avoid at any costs tires with straight rib treads, they follow highway grooves like a dunken bloodhound. Both the Firestone and Goodrich have the old zig zag type tread and that does not follow irregularities like the straight rib tires.

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Does any manufacturer make 30's classic era tires with white walls on both sides? It is my understanding that the tire manufactures switched to one sided white walls in 1939.

Actually, 1939 Plymouths could be ordered with double sided whitewalls.

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keiser31 Yes I believe Coker sells a double white wall in a bias tire and Diamondback will make you double white wall radials at a cost.

What I meant to say is that they were producing stock double whitewalls through 1939 at least. Here is a new 1939 DeSoto with a set.

post-37352-143138098485_thumb.jpg

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A lot of the very first tires were white rubber so a better question would probably be "When was the first BLACKWALL tire?" I believe it would have been around 1912 or so when carbon black was used to strengthen the tires.

Edited by keiser31 (see edit history)
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I understand that Keiser31. The reason I pose the question is that certin judging of cars of the mid30's deducts points for single whitewalls because the tire companys manufactured white walls with white on both sides. The judges have a point. Some folks say the judges are wrong; you can't buy tires with white walls on both sides. Now we know that is incorrect.

Save the teens, when were the first single white wall tires put on new cars of the 30's?

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Just an update on this, I called Coker Tire. They do not offer any radial wide whites in the 750-17 size so it looks like I will be going the bias route. I am leaning toward Firestone as that is listed as a true 8-ply tire. A question for Bob Lichty - you said you have used Firestones with good results, was it the 8-ply version and did it give a good ride quality?

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