To say that Dougal Cawley is somewhat eccentric is a bit of an understatement especially when it comes to his choice of cars. The unconventional head of Longstone Tyres is a keen and respected vintage motor-sport racer and cites a roofless 1928 Ford Model A as his everyday roadie for the ten mile commute to his Doncaster-based company come rain or shine. He dislikes modern motors with a passion and about the newest car he has is a manic Mondeo-engined Ford Cortina MkV. Like we said, eccentric.
But get the flamboyant Dougal on to the subject of classic cars rolling on today's tyres and he comes over all serious. "I am opinionated about classic tyres - for me a classic tyre has to feel right to drive with and be of good build quality so it doesn't fall apart. I hate seeing S1 and S2 E-Types fitted with S3 tyres," says Dougal who reckons modern radials ruin the handling characteristics of the great majority of classics because their suspension systems and geometry settings weren't designed for them. "Don't use a wide low profile tyre - or modern tread patterns) when the original fare was crossply or an 80 per cent profile tyre. Modern tyres numb the handling - you've to keep it light and progressive," warns Dougal.
It's the sort of expert knowledge your local fast-fit won't know...which is why Longstone Tyres has been one of the UK's leading suppliers of vintage and classic tyres for 30 years plus is the country's UK distributor for Michelin classic tyres (Longstone is also very happy to be associated with a cluster of other well known brands such as Dunlop, Avon, Vredestein, Excelsior, Waymaster, Firestone, B.F. Goodrich, too).
From its Doncaster base Dougal - along with Tom, Simon and Craig - can cater for virtually any vintage, veteran and classic car, offering top make brands via world wide mail order plus free fitting at the outfit or at a VSCC meeting to suit the customer. Longstone is currently in discussions with Route Borrani, the famous Italian wire wheel manufacturer to distribute these alloy rimmed lovelies.
Without doubt Dougal is a genuine Michelin fan. "The Michelin XAS was the first asymmetric tyre and for classic cars of the 50's 60's and 70's there is no better tyre. It will improve the handling of our classics because it has a carcass that is designed to compliment classic steering and suspension. They are good tall tyres that keep your steering light. The XWX of the mid sixties had the highest speed rating of the day and was fitted to all the true exotica then available. I bought my wife a Daimler V8 250 saloon and found the steering heavy so instead of fitting a 185R15,1 fitted the Citroen DS 180HR15 XAS a little bit taller and noticeably thinner and it is perfect. It also works very well with a big Austin Healey too in raising it just that little bit, enough to make your exhaust pipe stay on!"
Then he gets all serious again. "The tyre is the bit that connects your car to the road, the car that we spend all our time and money on. There is no point restoring suspension and steering if you then fit inappropriate tyres. There you go -I can rant."
Longstone Vintage Tyres Doncaster Road, Bawtry, Doncaster, South Yorks DN10 6NX 01302 711123 www.longstonetyres.co.uk.
Thanks to Retro Cars for use of certain pictures.