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1953 SKYLARK TIRE SIZE ?


Fred Zwicker
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I am restoring a 1953 Buick Skylark with the original 15"x6.5" spoke wheels.  I will be needing a new set of 5 new tires, and in the Owner's Manual it calls for 800-15 bias tires (with tubes in 1953).  

However, somewhere I read that the original tires were a little higher profile in 1953 as compared with today, so I am thinking of buying the 820-15 tires.

 

Choices:

a) Coker Classics Bias Tire with a 3" whitewall.  800-15 size.  (Lowest Cost) - Other tires listed below are slightly higher in cost, but not enough to worry about.

 

b) Firestone Bias Tire with a 3-1/2" whitewall.  (Has Firestone embossed into the whitewall - very nice tires). 820-15 size.

 

c) BF Goodrich Bias Tire with a 2-1/2" whitewall or a 3-5/8" white wall.   820-15 size.

 

d) US Royal Bias Tire with a 3-1/2" whitewall.  820-15 size.

 

If I were to have the car judged at a Buick event, would it be a mistake to  buy the 820-15 Whitewalls, even though based on today's 820-15 size tire being closer to the 800-15 back in 1953?   Would I be charged for this?

 

Looking for some advice, but I really do like the 820-15 Firestone Tire with the Firestone name embossed into the tire.

 

Thanks for any advice,

Fred

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If you go into www.buickclub.org , in one of the drop down menus along the top toolbar, I believe that one will have a drop down menu that includes "Judging Manual"?  In that document, is should list the point deduction for "incorrect size tires".

 

As the tire sizes, back then, stated the section width dimension in "inches", the 8.20x15 size would be a tag wider, but also possibly a tad taller than the 8.00x15 size.  Not that it'd be a big difference, but a difference anyway.

 

The task would be to make the car enough better in the execution of the restoration processes that the mandatory deduction for "incorrect tire size" would not keep it from getting a high-level award.  Possibly keeping it in the "Gold" level, even with the "incorrect tire size" on the car.

 

Just some thoughts,

NTX5467

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Thank you for the quick reply.  In checking Coker's charts, here are the dimensions of their tires, but I do not know the exact dimensions of the 800-15 bias tires back in 1953, as they were probably a little different (not much but close)  Our company (TipTools) is next door to Cokers at Spring Carlisle, so I want to place an order this week for pickup at Carlisle in 3 weeks to save on the freight cost.

 

a) 800-15   Coker Classic Bias Tire:  Tread Width (TW) 4.70, Section Width (SW) 8.30  Diameter (DIA) 29.08 Capacity 1800 @ 32 PSI  Whitewall: 2-1/2" & 3"  Price $231  Not available in 820-15.

 

b) 820-15   Firestone Bias Tire:  TW 5.00      SW 8.35     DIA 29.56   Capacity 1920 @ 32 PSI.   Whitewall 3-1/2" & 4-1/4"  Price $274  Not available in 800-15.  * Firestone lettering in whitewall.

 

c) 820-15   BF Goodrich Bias Tire:  TW 5.40    SW 8.50    DIA 29.59   Capacity 1920 @ 32 PSI   Whitewall 2-1/2" & 3-5/8"  Price $274  Not available in 800-15.

 

d) 820-15   US Royal Bias Tire:   TW  5.40    SW 8.50    DIA 29.59   Capacity  1920 @ 32 PSI.  Whitewall  2-1/4" & 2-3/4" & 3-1/2"   Price: $274.  Not available in 800-15.

 

Whitewall Width: ??   I have been unable to locate any Whitewall Width Dimension in any Buick Owner's Manuals or any other printed information, but it seems to be around 3"  to 3-1/2" from scaling other 1953 Skylark pictures on the Internet.  As I understand it, Buick and other manufacturers used several brands on the cars and the customer did not have a choice that I know of. Since different manufacturers had different treads, they may have also had different whitewall widths.  As for judging, according to the Buick Judging Manual, the car must have bias tires with inner tubes, not tubeless, but no mention of whitewall width.

 

The reason for all of this is that somewhere  in my research, I once read that the tires made today are not exactly the same Diameter as the same size tire back in 1953.  The older tires were supposedly slightly higher (Diameter), but I cannot locate this information anywhere. Accordingly if they were slightly higher in 1953, the 820-15 size described above might be more accurate in Diameter vs. the 800-15 tire manufactured today.  The size differential of any of the above tires is minimal, but a judge might not look at it that way.

 

I want to compliment Coker Tire for publishing such detailed information on their tires, along with a  clear Index ("Find Tires Fast") in the rear of their current catalog that was in the April issue of Hemmings.

 

Fred

 

 

 

 

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On one hand, (right or wrong) Skylarks get closer scrutiny in BCA judging than nearly any other car.

On the other hand, those Coker Classic tires are horrible tires.  While they are durable and look decent, the ride is very rough...more like a 6-ply truck tire!  And the quality control is terrible:  I had to go through 7 tires to get 4 matching white wall widths (varied by nearly and inch when mounted).

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The factory service literature typically did not worry about white wall width, just the tire size for particular vehicles (and recommended inflation pressures).  About the only guide would be some period print photography ads, or similar.

 

If you're going to chase points, then get the tire size that's supposed to be on the car, according to factory specs.  What was "standard" or what might have been "factory-available optional" equipment.

 

As for "ride qualities" . . . if you've put fresh bushings in the front suspension pivot points, have good king pin bushings, tight steering linkage parts, then it should do well on the road, I suspect.  As the impact absorption and "slop" in the various mechanisms would be minimized.  Just a thought.

 

I would suspect that the 8.20x15s, being about .5" greater in diameter, would make the car be about .25" higher off of the ground, as a result.  Just a speculation that the orig 8.00x15 size was later replaced by the 8.20x15 size?

 

I believe there is a specific '53-era Skylark Club?  Perhaps they might have more guidance on the tire sizes?

 

The one place the OEM tire specs might be would be the A.M.A. Specifications which all manufacturers filed with the Automobile Manufacturers Association back then.  In the '70s spec sheets I've seen, there is a line for "Tire Sizes" and "Revolutions/mile" for the standard tire size.  But I'm not sure where you might find those filings online?    Perhaps the Buick Gallery in Flint, MI?  It used to be located near the parent Sloan Museum, as I recall.

 

Just some thoughts,

NTX5467

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Thanks for such detailed information.  I will see if I can locate the AMA Specs, but it won't be easy online.  The previous post about Coker Classics has me more than concerned.  I seldom ever show a car, as we have a 50-car collection in Canfield, Ohio for display purposes. See www.tipcars.us   On very rare occasions I will have a car judged, so whenever possible I try to stay as close to original as possible.  We now have the engine out and the fenders, hood, and deck lid have all been stripped to bare metal and in primer. The matching number low mileage engine and transmission have been removed for a refreshing and other than the fire wall, the rest of the car is now to bare metal, but a lot of hand sanding and grinding in the door jambs and the small inner corners is still required. Surprisingly there were no rust outs, other than one hole in the front of the right rear fender housing and a small patch on the same area on the opposite side. I am a new member of the '53-'54 Skylark Club, but i don't believe they have a forum as yet.

 

Fred

Eng Out1.jpg

Firewall1.jpg

Ready for Paint.jpg

Stripping Paint.jpg

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