Saturday, June 7, 2008

Tech Tip: Radial Tires

Many Thunderbird owners, myself included, love to drive our cars. Our cars, however, just don't seem to drive as well as our regular "day to day" cars. This is due to the fact that most of our Thunderbirds are equipped with bias ply tires. These tires have a tendency to "hold" or "find" the grooves in the road. As a result, lane changes can become a complicated and often unpredictable procedure. Radial tires, however, which have become standard issue in the auto industry of today, reduce or eliminate the handling problems associated with bias ply tires. These same radial tires have also proven to be safer and more durable than standard bias ply tires. So the question has always been, "why not put radial tires on my Thunderbird?"

The only simple explanation for the continued use of the bias ply tire is that the bias ply tire was the original type tire on our cars. If you are a purest, this is probably reason enough to continue using bias ply tires. Many people also stress that the Thunderbird's suspension was designed to be used with bias ply tires. This fact is true, but there have been no significant adverse effects associated with the use of radial tires on a car such as the Thunderbird which is only driven occasionally. You may have accelerated wear to original suspension components, but these same components most likely should be replaced due to age and existing wear. The existing suspension can accept radial tires and the improvements in handling and steering are, and I quote Mr. Ken Smizinski, "PHENOMENAL!!!". A Thunderbird equipped with radial tires can drive and handle like a new car. At speeds of sixty-five, the car will drive straight as an arrow. Lane changes become as uneventful as receiving this month's issue of "Chevy Magazine." In addition, you will have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your Thunderbird is riding on the latest, safest, and best performing tires made today.

If you have decided that your car is in need of a new set of radial tires, the following information is for you. The 1955 and 1956 Thunderbird requires a radial tire size of P205/75R15. The 1957 Thunderbird radial tire size is P205/75R14. The largest "standard" radial white wall tire made is 1.3 inches wide. Firestone has such a tire. Get a low mileage radial tire if you don't drive your Thunderbird every day. As a result, the extra money you might spend on an extended mileage radial tire would only be wasted. Your tires will dry rot before you even get close to their mileage life expectancy. You can get a good quality radial tire for approximately $45.00 to $75.00 each.

If you want those "wide" white walls, there are specialty tire manufacturers who have just begun to make "wide" white wall radial tires. Antique Auto Accessories makes such a tire. Their number is 1-800-742-6777. The white wall is between 2 1/4" to 2 1/2" in width. This tire, however, is a remanufactured used radial tire. In other words, it is a retread tire. The tire, however, is made here in Chicago and you can pick them up. You can thus avoid any shipping charges. The price per tire is around $110.00. Coker Tire will begin production of new wide white wall radial tires sometime this summer. They will be available through any local Coker Tire distributor such as Sears, Just Tires, etc. Their phone number is 1-800-251-6336. The estimated cost per tire is $150 to $160.

source: CTCC Tech-Tip Manual 1993-1997

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