Vintage Tyre Safety

Something raised its head again recently that it is worth mentioning as a word of warning. On vintage cars with their open wheels, we can easily see the tread. There is no excuse to let these tyres get through to the canvas. We regularly here stories about how cavalier people where with these cars back in the day. People were driving these pre-war cars more frequently in those days, so the rubber didn’t get so old, the roads were not as fast back then; for the car fitted with the shonky tyre, and the other road users, that are maintaining higher cruising speeds than was possible back in the 1970.

Personally I drive pre war cars regularly. A week doesn’t go by without me driving a pre-war car, and I often drive one to work and back day in day out. I check my oil and water regularly, I pump as much grease as I can through all those grease nipples on a regular basis. And very now and again I think to myself “blimey when did I last check the axle and gear box oil” As a result my pre war cars work alright and I have so much fun in them. But I do also keep an eye on the tread depth and tyre pressure.

Tyre pressure is an important part of vintage tyre safety. If the pressure gets low than the tyre slips round on those vintage wheels and pulls the valve stem out of you tube, then that is that, flat as a pancake. And if you don’t stop quick you will have to ring Longstone Classic Tyres to buy another tyre.

For vintage pre-war tyres in particular we suggest running at higher pressures than was done in the day. You are now driving on tarmac not loose rough surfaces, those original lower pressures needed to give you grip in mud and absorb the rough bumps of dirt roads will make the side wall of your vintage tyres flex more than you really want them to which generates heat which is not good for your tyre. And extra 20% or so will make the car more stable at cruising speeds, and less likely to puncture. We tend to guess a 30psi as a safe tyre pressure for many of the smaller vintage cars with well based tyres, up to 40 - 55psi for something like a large fast heavy Vintage tourer like a Bentley.

Beaded edge Tyre Safety

At Longstone Classic Tyres we say any vintage, Edwardian, brass era or veteran cars fitting beaded edge or clincher tyres need to have a minimal of 60psi. I am aware that the period owners manuals recommended tyre pressures of as low as 45psi, but we would say that wasn’t so safe for modern roads. Beaded edge tyres were fitted up to about 1927, the main change over happened about 1924, but because the steering on a beaded edge tyre is so light, precise and progressive, cars like 3 Litre Bentleys and Sunbeam, stuck with the beaded edge technology.

Beaded edge technology is inherently floored. Back in the day tyre punctures were common place. Races were won and lost on who had the least punctures, or wo could fit a tyre fastest. Currently the Beaded edge clincher tyres we sell from Wards Riverside, Ensign and Excelsior are far better build quality than they were back in the 1920s, but beaded edge tyre still fail.

The reason beaded edge tyres now, is because, along with the inherently flawed design, is that they are now driving on tarmac. The side forces that these tyres now have to cope with with all that extra grip is dramatically more than they did in the 1920s were the roads were loose surface. Although the first British Tarmacadam road was laid in Nottingham in 1902, by the mid 1920s they were still extraordinary and they started to take hold through pout the later 1920s, hence by about 1927 when they were becoming more common place, the beaded edge tyre became more obsolete.

To help beaded edge tyres be used safely on the roads of this century, we suggest a minimum of 60psi even on a car like a Pram Hood Austin 7 or a De Dion Bouton Vis-à-vis, use 60psi, but when you get into the big cars like a Silver Ghost with a heavy body we would encourage you to run 80 – 90psi, and beaded edge safety is improved by regularly checking tyre pressure.

Tubeless Wire Wheels

This short film demonstrates air leakingout of a tubeless wire wheel. Something we do not consider safe.

Classic Tyre Safety

We say all wire wheels need inner tubes. We have seen too many failed tyres due to air leaking out of so called tubeless wire wheels to have any faith in the tubeless wire wheels systems currently used. Just fit an inner tube, and while you are at it make it a Michelin inner tube. We think a critical part of classic tyre safety is a good quality inner tube. We think that the best inner tubes currently are the Michelin ones.

Youngtimer and Modern Classic Car Tyre Safety

What has raised my interest to write this article about vintage and classic tyre safety is our increased interest in the youngtimer and modern classic car world. These more modern classic cars have more enclosed body work, and the tyre tread is more difficult to see the inside edge of the tyre, that due to more modern chassis design often wears the inside edge of the tyre where it is less visible, leading to blow outs and catastrophic tyre failures, which can be very dangerous.

The tyre in this picture is a tyre we recently removed off a car where the owner thought he had plenty of tread. You can see how the outside edge, that is visible when the wheel is fitted to the car, had 4mm of tread depth. The centre of the tyre is bald, and the inside edge has gone, and the this tyre was brought to us as a slow puncture.

Please make sure you take the effort to check the inside edge of your youngtimer modern classic car tyres, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise, and it is worth noting that in wet cold weather like this, the more tread depth the better.

Vintage Tyre Safety Testing

Well all that classic tyre safety is a little dry and not so much fun, so in the name of safety we have made this vintage tyre safety film that I hope is informative and will help you with the tyre safety on your vintage, veteran, classic and modern classic cars.

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