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Thread: New Performance Tires for Old Performance Cars?

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    New Performance Tires for Old Performance Cars?

    If you own a classic muscle car made back in the '60s or '70s, you've probably become aware of an ironic problem: It is virtually impossible to find new performance tires for these old performance cars.
    The BF Goodrich Radial T/A is about as good as it gets - and though it's a good-looking tire, with handsome raised white lettering, like back in the day - the Radial T/A is not a performance tire. It's a standard all-season radial with an "S" (112 mph) speed rating and tread designed for normal street driving.
    And that's about all there is.
    Unless you change the wheels.

    If you want a sticky-compound performance tire with an H (130 mph or better) speed rating.
    Because no one makes them for the 14 and 15 inch wheels that classic-er muscle cars came equipped with from the factory.
    Wheels this small are only found today - if you can find them at all - on small (and low-performance) cars.
    A Prius has 15-inch wheels.
    A Corolla is available with 17-inch wheels.
    Modern performance cars like the new Mustang and Camaro and Corvette come with 18 and 19 inch wheels, at the smallest.
    The long and short of it is that if you want to shoe your old performance car with modern performance tires, you will need to upgrade to larger wheels. Both diameter and width.
    A 16x8 wheel at the least.
    But that will change other things, including suspension geometry and ride height.
    You may need to get new coil/leaf springs to restore the correct ride height and relationship of the body to the wheels/tires, etc.
    Tire scrub is another possible problem.
    The wheelwells of the '60s and '70s weren't meant to accommodate the wheels and tires of the 2020s. You may find you can't turn the front wheels to their maximum arc without bumping into something and both front and rear tires might get a shave every time you hit a bump.
    Brake fit/performance is another possible issue - unless you also upgrade the brakes.
    Before you contemplate such a swap, consult an expert and make it a package deal - or you could end up with a car that handles (and brakes) worse than it did with the factory 15x7 wheels and a set of 225/70-15 Radial T/As.
    It may never look right.
    As with '60s and '70s-era suspension geometry, the relationship of the car's body lines and proportions to the size of the wheels and tires was based on the stance of 14 and 15 inch wheels - which were considered large wheels back in the day.
    Also the relationship of the tire sidewall's height relative to the wheel and both to the wheelwell.
    You can usually get away with a 16x8 wheel without hugely altering the look of a classic car but 17s and larger with ultra-thin sidewalls are obviously not from the '60s or '70s.
    It's not just a weird look.
    It's the same look.
    Modern large diameter wheels look alike.
    They do not look brand-specific and that is something you will lose if you lose your classic car's original wheels, which were as integral to the package as steering wheels - and brand-specific engines - once were.
    Can you think of any modern wheel that is part of the car in the way that something like Pontiac's '70s-era Honeycomb wheel is?
    Most muscle cars came with factory wheels that defined the package and contributed greatly to making the car what it was.
    What is a Shelby GT500 without its factory Magnum 500 wheels?
    These wheels are small by modern standards, but they have big style - and history.
    You throw them both into the dumpster when you take them off the car in favor of a set of look-alike generic rims that every modern performance car is riding on.
    But that brings us back to the dilemma of finding performance tires - for the factory wheels - that are worthy of the capabilities of a classic muscle car.
    Coker and other suppliers manufacture OE-type tires for numerous classic cars, including classic muscle cars. But while these are made to a higher standard than the originals, they aren't performance upgrades. They are reproductions of what was made 40 or 50 years ago.
    Which is a shame given that modern performance tire technology applied to a 15-inch tire would greatly increase the performance capabilities of classic performance cars - without mauling their classic appearance.

    If you'd like to be able to buy a new performance tire to fit your classic performance car's factory wheels, drop the tire companies a line and let 'em know. The two most likely prospects are BF Goodrich and Goodyear, both of which used to make performance tires for old American performance cars (when they were new performance cars) but don't make them anymore.
    Maybe they will again, if enough of us ask them to.
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  2. #2
    Administrator Ken's Avatar
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    Over here in the UK there are many 15 inch rim tires
    with an 'H' rating. Michelin, Goodyear, Yokohama, Dunlop,
    Bridgestone, Sailun, Vredestein, et al, all stock examples,
    'V' (149 mph) rated tires are also available for 15 inch rims.
    Some manufacturers also supply 'H' rated tyres for 14 inch
    rims.

    Ken.
    Last edited by Ken; 09-28-2020 at 02:16 PM.
    Die dulci fruimini!
    Ken.
    Wolds Bikers, Lincolnshire, England.

  3. #3
    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken View Post
    Over here in the UK there are many 15 inch rim tires
    with an 'H' rating. Michelin, Goodyear, Yokohama, Dunlop,
    Bridgestone, Sailun, Vredestein, et al, all stock examples,
    'V' (149 mph) rated tires are also available for 15 inch rims.
    Some manufacturers also supply 'H' rated tyres for 14 inch
    rims.

    Ken.
    I wonder if there are any 15 inch tires with a Z rating like I used to run on my motorcycles.
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  4. #4
    Administrator Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grouch View Post
    I wonder if there are any 15 inch tires with a Z rating like I used to run on my motorcycles.
    I don't know of any 15" M/C tires but 16" and 17" are available with
    ratings up to ZR rating - 150+ mph. Most ratings also depend on
    tire loading. There is a new tire rating coding - I'm not sure when
    it came into effect - as below;

    Speed Rating Max. Design Speed (MPH)
    J 62
    K 68
    L 75
    M 81
    P 93
    Q 99
    R 106
    S 112
    T 118
    U 124
    H 130
    V 149
    W 168
    Y 186



    Car tires are rated up to 'Y' - 186 mph and '(Y)' - which
    is for sustained speeds of 186+ mph. Michelin do several
    15 inch tires with a 'V' (149 mph) rating - equivalent to
    the old motorcycle 'Z; rating so I guess most other
    manufacturers do as well.

    Khen.
    Last edited by Ken; 09-30-2020 at 09:25 AM.
    Die dulci fruimini!
    Ken.
    Wolds Bikers, Lincolnshire, England.

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