Classics Whitewall Tires 101: How They’re Made and Why They’re Cool

17:50  01 august  2017
17:50  01 august  2017 Source:   HOT ROD

Here's Why You Shouldn't Use Winter Tires in the Summer

  Here's Why You Shouldn't Use Winter Tires in the Summer <p>PSA: Seasonally-appropriate tires absolutely make a difference.</p>In a winter tire, the rubber compound is designed to stay soft at lower temperatures to increase grip on slippery surfaces, and it also features deeper treads and more extensive siping. Conversely, all-season and summer tires will stay firmer even at higher temperatures, but they're specifically designed to perform well in warmer, drier conditions.

There is no question that tire and wheel styles have evolved over the years, but we’ re going to take a look at the history of whitewall tires and how it has You could find a pair of tires from a Cadillac for the rear and match them up with a pair of tires from an Austin or some other compact car for the front.

There is no question that tire and wheel styles have evolved over the years, but we' re going to take a look at the history of whitewall tires and how it has You could find a pair of tires from a Cadillac for the rear and match them up with a pair of tires from an Austin or some other compact car for the front.

Trends come and go within our hobby, but there are a few things that stand the test of time. While many hot rodders have changed their opinion about stance, color combinations, and interior fabrics over the years, we've noticed that wide whitewall tires have remained a popular alternative to generic black sidewall tires. There is no question that tire and wheel styles have evolved over the years, but we're going to take a look at the history of whitewall tires and how it has influenced the hot rod community.

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  Watch the Acura NSX Ruin a Perfectly Good Set of Tires <p>Apparently, this Acura runs on Dunkin'.</p>However, as the owner of a slow-as-hell Toyota 86, I'm a staunch believer that cars are driven on tarmac, not paper, and judging from this NSX's behavior on the blacktop, one might have to reevaluate their prejudices towards Honda's latest supercar.

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Before we concentrate solely on hot rods, let's take a look at whitewall history in the automobile manufacturing world. Originally, tires were off-white in color, due to the color of the natural rubber formula. Tire manufacturers then added zinc oxide to the formula, which gave the tires a brighter white appearance. White tires were not a status symbol or aesthetic feature—it was just how the tires were produced. The tires would quickly turn to a beige color as they traversed the dirt roads of yesteryear.

It wasn't until 1910 that BFGoodrich started adding carbon black to its tires, as this ingredient added strength and durability to the rubber. Soon, most new cars rolled out of the factory on black tires, as this updated chemistry resulted in a stronger tire. Since adding carbon black to the rubber was an additional production cost, some tire companies added it only to the tread surface. This resulted in the first tire with a white sidewall quite by accident. The whitewall would later be refined, and it eventually transitioned to a strip of white rubber being added to the tire's all-black carcass during the manufacturing process.

40-history-whitewall-tires-coker.jpg © Hot Rod Network Staff 40-history-whitewall-tires-coker.jpg

Though the whitewall tire was not originally a fashion statement, this look caught on quickly and became an affordable upgrade to most passenger cars. New car buyers could elect to spend a few extra bucks and have their car equipped with wide whitewalls; this appearance package was popular for quite some time.

Demon's Tires Are Too Wide For Assembly Line

  Demon's Tires Are Too Wide For Assembly Line Dodge's Brampton, Ontario plant was designed to accommodate cars with 275mm wide tires. The Demon has 315s.Originally, Dodge's Brampton, Ontario plant, where the Challenger is built, was only designed to accommodate tires no larger than 275mm wide. Until the Demon and the Widebody came into being, 275mm tires were the widest fit to a Challenger, but the new models use 315mm and 305mm width tires, respectively.

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If you have your car serviced and the tires have to be removed for any reason, be sure you are there to supervise how they are handled. Now you’ re probably thinking “But I’ve always used whitewall cleaner.”

As tire and wheel size evolved through the years, the diameter shrank, while the widths grew slightly. And by the end of the '50s, most American cars were rolling on 14x5 wheels, with the option to upgrade to tires with a 2.5-inch whitewall. In 1962, a major transition happened, as wide whitewalls were phased out of most regular car options, being replaced with 1-inch whitewalls. These too, would eventually shrink to 7/8-, 3/4-, 5/8-inch, and so on, until the whitewall all but disappeared.

Certain makes and models kept the whitewall tire alive as an option, but this change in original equipment came at a time when aftermarket tire manufacturers were experimenting with new styles and designs. By 1970, the raised white letter tire took a stronghold in the muscle car community, and the sporty looks naturally fit the bill for modified cars of the era. This was also a transitional time for tire companies, as the switch from bias-ply to radial was happening across the country.

  Whitewall Tires 101: How They’re Made and Why They’re Cool © Hot Rod Network Staff

Hot Rod Tires

If you weren't around for those initial days of hot rodding, we can simplify the hobby by breaking down '40s and '50s hot rods in two very basic categories: race-inspired hot rods and customized show cars. The race-inspired cars typically used blackwall tires, which were often passenger car tires modified for racing or purpose-built race tires. On the other hand, customized show cars had a much more glamorous appearance with slick paint and chrome plating, so wide whitewalls were a natural extension of that high-end styling. These two basic categories have blended and crossed over many times since the inception of the hobby. These days, there is always a battle of blackwall versus whitewall tires when it comes to traditional hot rods, but it started as a matter of preference, and that's where we'll leave it.

Tempted by budget tires? Watch this video first

  Tempted by budget tires? Watch this video first Which is the better value? Tyre Reviews' Jonathan Benson puts them to the test.This time around, he's testing costly name-brand tires against budget tires, comparing a set of Continental Sport Contact 6s against what he calls a "good for the budget" set called a Rotalia RU01 S-Pace. (Rotalia also markets a tire called the Unicorn. We assume it is not imbued with magical powers.

There are very few tires where the whitewall version is significantly more expensive as the OPs tire . There were also a few that had the same price. It's funny when people bitch about offshore crap and how they would willingly pay more if somebody offers the same made in the US

Early hot rods and customs often used a different tire size to accentuate the car's features—smaller tires would effectively lower the car's ride height, while larger tires would fill the wheel openings. It was up to the owner to choose the appropriate tire size for their vehicle, and of course, this created the big 'n' little craze that is still relevant today. You could find a pair of tires from a Cadillac for the rear and match them up with a pair of tires from an Austin or some other compact car for the front. It wasn't quite as simple as thumbing through a catalog to pick out your desired sizes, but it led to some creative combinations.

As tire manufacturers discontinued wide whitewall tires in the '60s, the molds were often sold to foreign manufacturers, or simply placed in storage. Enter Corky Coker, a young man from Tennessee who jumped into his father's tire business with a huge goal in mind. He went after those discontinued molds, hoping that someday he could put them back into production, in an effort to serve the automotive restoration market. What he didn't realize was that his efforts would eventually create an industry all its own and reach customers in the hot rod marketplace.

During the '70s and '80s, Coker Tire originally catered to the bone-stock restoration crowd. The tire market changed drastically when Coker Tire introduced the world's first wide whitewall radial tire in 1994, as it was a turning point for classic cars, hot rods, and customs. This was a tire that offered the old-school sidewall with modern radial construction, and it really put Coker on the map. The tire featured a true whitewall radial construction, which required a revised mold and several additional steps in the tire building process, compared to regular blackwall passenger car tires.

The new tire availability in 1994 encouraged hot rodders and custom builders to use wide whitewall tires, and Coker Tire continued to reach the market with custom sizing and additional brands. Of course, Coker Tire still offers the authentic Firestone, BFGoodrich, and other bias-ply tires, but the radial whitewall tire market helped car enthusiasts get the nostalgic look without the finicky handling characteristics of a bias-ply tire. It was a big breakthrough and part of the reason you see so many hot rods and customs with wide whitewalls to this day.

Coker Tire hit another milestone in 2013 with the introduction of the American Classic "bias look" radial tire. This tire is built to replicate the narrow tread design and piecrust shoulder of vintage bias-ply tires, but offer the ride quality, safety, and tread life of a modern radial. Even with all of the advancements and various brands, the folks at Coker Tire tell us that the original Coker Classic wide whitewall radial is still one of its best-selling tires.

01-history-whitewall-tires-coker © Hot Rod Network Staff 01-history-whitewall-tires-coker

Whitewall Tire Manufacturing

The process that Coker Tire employs is lengthy and expensive, and the development process starts with a series of drawings and a specific mold for each tire size, style, and brand. The mold is typically made of steel or aluminum, and they are very heavy and highly resistant to wear and tear. The tire mold is one of the final processes of the assembly line, but it's what gives the tire its shape and design features.

Manufacturing starts with a little bit of chemistry, as the rubber compound is developed from natural and synthetic rubber, as well as various chemicals and curing agents. This rubber mixture is formed into sheets, which are 40 inches wide and 3/8-inch thick. The sheets are then sent to a calendar, which is a piece of machinery that applies the rubber to polyester fabric to create the ply layers. By squeezing the rubber sheet and a layer of fabric between steel rollers, the tire technicians can determine the final thickness of the material. The sheet then goes to a cutter, which allows the operator to precisely cut it to the desired length, width, and angle before it is rolled into a liner and sent to the tire-building machine.

As the trimmed sheet of rubber moves down the assembly line, its final destination is the tire-building drum, where the first form of assembly can be performed. The number of rubber sheets used determines the tire's load rating, and the majority of passenger car tires feature a four-ply construction. In the early years of tire manufacturing, cotton was used in the ply sheets, but it is now common to use polyester cord material.

Bundles of steel wire are placed in a bead former, which coats each strand of wire with rubber, so it will adhere to the rest of the tire. This creates a bead bundle and the number of wire strands is dependent on the size and load range of the tire. The bead bundles are placed on either end of the tire-building drum, where the ply edges are turned up around the bead bundle and locked into place. After the beads are installed on the tire carcass, a strip of white rubber is cut to the appropriate length and placed on the sidewall area. Once the carcass is complete, this is called a "Green Tire."

The Green Tire is then loaded into a specific mold, which rests inside of a curing press. The mold determines the tire's size, tread pattern, sidewall details, brand names, and DOT information. Each mold features a curing bladder, which is inflated by steam and pushes the hot rubber out into the mold details. During the curing process, the rubber reaches 360 degrees F.

When the curing process is complete, the tire still needs some more work to reach completion. The tire is inflated on a special wheel and allowed to cool, and then sent to its final inspection area. When the tire passes inspection, it continues its path to the cleaning and inspection area. A special attachment, based on the whitewall width, lightly cleans the sidewall of the tire so that the whitewall is clean and white. It is then protected with a blue coating that keeps the whitewall from being damaged in transit, before being wrapped in plastic and sent into the warehouse for shipping.

By this lengthy process, you can easily surmise that Coker Tire's process is labor-intensive and it's not quite as automated as one might think. Handcrafted, genuine whitewall tires might cost a few bucks more than your average tire, but true whitewalls are anything but average tires.

Imitation Whitewalls

Dating back to the early days of hot rodding, the hobby consisted of low-budget, grassroots guys who cut, stitched, and handmade parts to customize their car. Even though wide whitewall tires were available at the time, many hot rodders couldn't afford them, so they resorted to imitation whitewalls.

Originally, you had a couple choices for imitation whitewall tires. You could paint the sidewalls white if you were a high school kid on a paper route budget. If you had a couple more dollars to spend, you could buy a set of portawalls, which are whitewall inserts that rest between the rim and the tire bead. Portawalls give the appearance of a whitewall tire from a distance, but you can typically see that it's not actually part of the tire at close inspection.

Tire customizing has been around for a long time, and it's not something we'd suggest if you plan on driving your car. Modern-day tire customizers are a little more sophisticated, but the companies that offer imitation whitewalls still don't have the tried-and-true construction that stands the test of time. Their method involves taking an existing blackwall tire and adding a whitewall to it by grinding the sidewall down and bonding a strip of white rubber to the tire. This is a very similar process to the old days of re-capping tires, but it involves the sidewall instead of the tread. The major hazards with recapping or any tire modification include unnecessary and extraordinary heat cycles, as well as reduced material thickness. If you have a sidewall puncture, even on your daily driver, the tire is typically deemed unfixable, so the idea of grinding on the sidewall to apply an imitation whitewall isn't exactly confidence inspiring.

Other forms of imitation whitewalls include decals, which is a modern type of portawall. Tire stickers are a common modification for enthusiasts who want the sporty looks of a white letter tire, but these companies are starting to jump on the whitewall bandwagon. While this method may be cheap, it's not permanent and it certainly doesn't look as good as a true whitewall tire.

Today's do-it-yourself imitation whitewall involves grinding the sidewall of a white letter tire. Any white letter tire has a strip of white rubber, just like a whitewall, so grinding the black rubber reveals the layer of white rubber beneath. Taking a grinder to your tire's sidewall is certainly the sketchiest way to get the whitewall look, so take your safety into consideration and avoid this method.

It's easy to see why various types of imitation whitewalls have come and gone. None of the methods are comparable to manufacturing a tire with a whitewall from day one. Sure, there may be a price difference, but when it comes to safety, durability, and good looks, it's hard to argue with the advantages and long-standing heritage of a real whitewall tire.

Tempted by budget tires? Watch this video first .
Which is the better value? Tyre Reviews' Jonathan Benson puts them to the test.This time around, he's testing costly name-brand tires against budget tires, comparing a set of Continental Sport Contact 6s against what he calls a "good for the budget" set called a Rotalia RU01 S-Pace. (Rotalia also markets a tire called the Unicorn. We assume it is not imbued with magical powers.

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