Vintage Tyres

Vintage Car Tyres

This page aims to explain:

  • Different constructions of classic & vintage tyre carcasses
  • Specialist and unusual historic tyre styles
  • Racing vintage and classic tyres in crossply and radial carcasses
  • The benefits of different vintage car tyres.
  • The history of vintage tyres.

Vintage Car Tyres for sale

If you are not sure which of our vintage tyres you need please read the section below. This will give help with tyre and rim types and sizes and also a discussion of the history and various types of vintage tyres and rims that are available. After reading this page, if you are still finding it difficult to work out what is the best tyre for your historic car please do not hesitate to ring or email us.

Also included are some of the different methods of describing the same vintage tyre sizes.

Napier Bentley at Shelsley - Click to enlarge
Vintage Beaded Edge Tyre Fitment - Click to enlarge

Vintage Tyre Types

Beaded Edge Tyres

Beaded Edge Tyre Diagram

Prior to 1924, in the veteran and vintage automobile period, the majority of European manufacturers fitted wheels for use with beaded edge vintage tyres, and some car manufacturers continued to do so after this date. Beaded edge veteran and vintage car tyres have large circumferential ridges of hard rubber (beads) running round the inside circumference of the side wall. These beads fit into the hook (clinch) of the vintage car wheel rim. A minimum tyre pressure of 60psi is needed to push the beads into the clincher of the rim and keep them in place. The most common cause of a beaded edge tyre failure is lack of pressure allowing the tyre to detach itself. Beaded edge tyres can only be used with a beaded edge wheel rim.

Wired-on Vintage Car Tyres

Beaded edge tyres were succeeded by safer wired-on crossply tyres in and around 1924 in Europe and slightly earlier in America. Within the bead a solid wire ensures that the tyre's bead circumference cannot stretch and will always be smaller than the external circumference of the car wheel rim.

Wired-on vintage car tyres can be used with the wheel types discussed below.

Vintage Car Wheels

Split Rim Wheels for Wired-on Vintage Tyres

The split-rim was very popular with vintage American car manufacturers such as Packard, Dodge and Buick and was also used on Rolls Royce Silver Ghosts built in the U.S.A. From prior to World War One until the late 20's this style of rim enabled manufacturers to utilise and gain experience of wired-on vintage tyres before the general acceptance of the well-base rim. The split-rim incorporates a rim which is detachable from a wooden wheel. The rim is cut through, and when removed from the wheel, can be drawn inside itself reducing its circumference and allowing the tyre to be removed and refitted. These rims have various locking mechanisms which prevent the rim collapsing during normal use. Lucas are now making an excellent range of straight sided vintage tyres.

When using Split rim wheels on your historic automobile, you need to fit inner tubes and flaps. If you select your tyre on our Straight Sided Vintage Tyres page, view the product and it should offer you the correct inner tubes and flaps.

Straight-Sided Tyres

Straight Sided Tyres Diagram

Another style of vintage rim that was very popular with the early American car market ,and into the mid twenties some European manufacturers. The straight-sided rim has a detachable flange on one side, when this is removed the tyre can be slipped on to the rim and the flange replaced. This style of rim can still be found on some heavy goods vehicles today.

If your old car has straight sided wheels and tyres, then you need fit inner tubes and flaps. On our straight sided tyres page, if you select a tyre of your size on that product page it will offer you the correct flaps and inner tubes.

Well Base Wheel Diagram

Well-Base Wheels for Wired-on Vintage Tyres

The bead of the tyre must be pushed into the well (See diagram on the right) before the rest of the tyre can be worked over the flange, this allowed for a tyre with wire beads to be mounted and demounted easily from a wheel. The technique for the fitment of these tyres is similar to that of a standard bicycle tyre. This type of rim became commonplace on cars in the mid 1920's, but it was originally conceived for bicycles.

Bibendum Rims

Bibendum Rim Diagram

Michelin, aware of the concerns over tyres detaching themselves, pursued the design of a rim with a well for only half its circumference. However as the well-base wheel proved its integrity and its design was refined the Bibendum rim was discontinued. Tyre dimensions for these Bibendum rims are predominantly given in metric terms rather than the more commonplace imperial measurements used for well-base wheels. So the pre ward millimetric Bibendum tyres cannot be fitted to the more common place imperial well based wheels (and vice versa).

Michelin TRX and TDX rims

Click here to see the available range of TRX, TDX and millimetric classic tyres

The invention of the TRX by Michelin in 1973 was the first instance of tyre and rim being designed to work together as a single unit. The new Michelin TRX rim was designed with a lower, flatter flange than that of conventional rims . The bead of the Michelin TRX tyre was also altered to suit this new rim design and the result is a more gradual curvature of the tyre sidewall giving exceptional directional stability and 'on the limit' handling, whilst also allowing for a comfortable ride. Michelin also designed the TDX rim which again can only be fitted with a purpose built TDX tyre. The TDX rim has two grooves running circumferentially around the bead seats and the tyres have specially extended bead toes which are held in place by the grooves. The purpose of this is to prevent the tyre leaving the rim thus giving the tyre a limited 'run-on' capability allowing control of the car to be maintained in the event of a deflation, and a safe place to be reached for it to be changed. These Michelin TRX tyres and rims were standard fitment on many performance cars of the seventies, eighties and early nineties, such as Ferrari, BMW, Renault Alpine, Alfa Romeo, Peugeot and Renault 5 Turbo.

TDX and TRX Rims

Vintage and classic tyres are of either crossply or radial construction Never mix Crossply and Radial

Crossply Tyre Construction Diagram

Crossply Vintage Tyres

Click here to see the available range of cross ply vintage tyres

The cross-ply vintage tyre is made up of superimposed layers of textile cord running at alternate angles from bead to bead. With this design the sidewalls and tread are not differentiated and this gives the tyre structure great rigidity. With a cross-ply the maximum width and the height of the tyre above the rim are approximately equal. This relationship is known as the aspect ratio and with cross-ply tyres is approximately 100%, giving the cross-ply tyre its unique "tall" appearance.

Radial Classic Tyres

Click here to see the available range of radial Classic tyres
Radial Tyre Construction Diagram

The beauty of the radial design is that it separates the functions of the sidewall and crown of the tyre, allowing greater vertical flexibility whilst ensuring that there is still as much surface in contact with the road as possible. In radial classic tyres the sidewall has a one or two layers of textile cord giving good flexibility, and the tread is made rigid by combining the casing layer with two (or more) layers of steel cord bracing plies. Both these factors give the radial classic tyre excellent road holding capabilities and a longer life span when compared to vintage cross-ply tyres.

It is well worth noting that although radial tyre technology has developed over the years, fitting a proper period radial tyre such as a Pirelli Cinturato or a Michelin XAS will make a classic car handle better than it would fitting modern tyres that are developed to be fitted to a very different chassis design, and work in a different environment.

Classic Tyre and Wheel Measurements

There are a number of relevant dimensions of a tyre or a wheel:

  • Diameter of the tyre
  • Width of the tyre
  • Height of the tyre section
  • Aspect ratio (the relation of the width of the tyre to the height of the tyre section)
  • Diameter of the wheel (rim size)

All measurement systems refer to two or more of these dimensions, but there are several different traditions of expressing tyre and wheel size.

Diameter of the Wheel (Rim Size) Measurements

The pre-war tradition of expressing tyre size gives the diameter of the tyre, followed by the height of the tyre section. For example, 33x5 describes a vintage tyre with a diameter of 33 inches and a section height of 5 inches. To calculate the rim size, double the section height and take it away from the overall diameter of the tyre. A 33x5 tyre fits a rim diameter of 23 inches.

In the majority of post-1924 vintage tyre descriptions, the last number is the rim size. For example, 600x16 and 185R16 both describe tyres for a rim diameter of 16 inches.

Michelin also produced some tyres and rims with a metric measurement, for example vintage cross-ply 14x45 (measured in centimetres) & classic radial 155R400 (measured in millimetres). In both cases the last figure is the rim size.

Beaded Edge Vintage Tyre Measurements

The measurements for beaded edge tyres are given as the diameter of the tyre X the height of the tyre section predominantly in millimetres. For example, 760X90 describes a tyre with a diameter of 760mm and a section height of 90mm (to fit a 580mm rim). Some manufacturers gave the measurements in inches. For example, 31X4 describes a tyre with a diameter of 31 inches and a section height of 4 inches (to fit a 23 inch rim).

Straight-Sided and Split Rim Vintage Tyre Measurements

The measurements for tyres used on straight-sided and split rim wheels are given as the diameter of the tyre X the height of the tyre section in inches. For example, 33X5 describes a tyre with a diameter of 33 inches and a section height of 5 inches (to fit a 23 inch rim).

Crossply Vintage Tyre Measurements

The measurements for crossply tyres are given as the height of the tyre section and the width of the tyre (one measurement refers to both dimensions) x the diameter of the tyre in inches. For example, 5.00x21 describes a tyre with a diameter of 31 inches and a section height and width of 5 inches (to fit a 21 inch rim). Occasionally measurements for crossply tyres were given as the diameter of the tyre X the height of the tyre section in inches (as for beaded edge, straight-sided and split rim tyre measurements).

Commonly today, tyre manufacturers do not have the demand to warrant making all tyre sizes. Crossply tyre measurements such as 5.00/5.25x16 indicate that one tyre has been produced to fulfil original fitments of tyres with 5 and 5 1/4 inch section heights (to fit a 16 inch rim).

Bibendum or Millimetric Crossply Vintage Tyre Measurements

The measurements for crossply tyres may be given in centimetres. For example, 14x45 describes a tyre with a diameter of 73cm and a section height and width of 14cm (to fit a 45cm rim). Crossply tyre measurements such as 12/13/14x45 indicate that one tyre has been produced to fulfil original fitments of tyres with 12, 13 and 14cm section heights (to fit a 45cm rim).

Radial Classic Tyre Measurements

The correct technical notation for radial tyre measurements is: the width of the tyre in millimetres / aspect ratio as a percentage, a letter for speed rating, R (standing for radial), and the rim size in inches. For example, 205/70HR15 describes a tyre with a diameter of 668mm, a width of 205mm, a section height of 143.5mm (to fit a 15 inch rim). The measurements are calculated:

  • Section height = (aspect ratio / 100) * width of tyre
  • Rim size in mm = rim size * 25.4
  • Diameter of tyre = rim size in mm + (2 * section height)

Aspect ratios began to be reduced at the end of the 1960s to improve cornering. Previously no aspect ratio was given on radial tyres; and in these cases an aspect ratio of 80% should be assumed. For example, 185VR16 describes a tyre with a diameter of 602.4mm, a section height of 148mm and a width of 185mm (to fit a 16 inch rim and with a speed rating of V).

Where the rim size is a three figure number, the measurement has been given in millimetres. For example, 280/45VR415 describes a tyre to fit a 415mm rim.

The following table indicates rough correspondence between alternative notations for radial tyre sizes.

Classic Tyres

Older European Size
Aspect Ration of 80
Older American Size
Aspect Ratio of 78
Newer Size
Aspect Ratio of 75
Newer Size
Aspect Ratio of 70
165x13 A78x13 P165/75R13 P175/70R13
175x13 B78x13 P175/75R13 P185/70R13
185x13 D78x13 P185/75R13 P205/70R13
155x14 B78x14 P175/75R14 P185/70R14
175x14 C78x14 P185/75R14 P195/70R14
185x14 E78x14 P195/75R14 P205/70R14
195x14 F78x14 P205/75R14 P215/70R14
205x14 G78x14 P215/75R14 P225/70R14
215x14 H78x14 P225/75R14 P235/70R14
165x15 A78x15 P165/75R15 P175/70R15
175x15 C78x15 P175/75R15 P185/70R15
185x15 E78x15 P195/75R15 P205/70R15
195x15 F78x15 P205/75R15 P215/70R15
205x15 G78x15 P215/75R15 P225/70R15
215x15 H78x15 P225/75R15 P235/70R15
230x15 J78x15 P225/75R15 P235/70R15
235x15 L78x15 P235/75R15 P255/70R15

Tyres Speed Ratings

Speed ratings for radial tyres are given below. New speed ratings are currently being developed to subdivide the Z rating.

J 62 100
K 69 110
L 75 120
M 81 130
N 87 140
P 93 150
Q 99 160
R 106 170
S 112 180
T 118 190
H 130 210
V 149 240
W 168 270
Y 186 300
VR 130 210
ZR 149 240

Classic Tyres Load Index

Radial classic tyres often bear a load index, indicating the maximum safe load for the tyre.

Alternative Notations for Radial Classic Tyre Sizes

Several notations for radial tyre sizes are in common usage. For example, although the technically correct notation for a radial tyre may be 135SR15, the size may be referred to as 135x15, or 135 15, or 135R15. The table below shows alternative notations for all available radial tyre sizes.

145SR10 145x10 145 10 145R10
165/70SR10 165/70x10 165/70 10 165/70R10
125SR12 125x12 125 12 125R12
145SR12 145x12 145 12 145R12
145/70TR12 145/70x12 145/70 12 145/70R12
155/70SR12 155/70x12 155/70 12 155/70R12
145SR13 145x13 145 13 145R13
155TR13 155x13 155 13 155R13
155SR13 155x13 155 13 155R13
155HR13 155x13 155 13 155R13
155SR13 155x13 155 13 155R13
165TR13 165x13 165 13 165R13
165SR13 165x13 165 13 165R13
165HR13 165x13 165 13 165R13
165SR13 165x13 165 13 165R13
640SR13 640x13 640 13 640R13
175SR13 175x13 175 13 175R13
175/70SR13 175/70x13 175/70 13 175/70R13
185HR13 185x13 185 13 185R13
185/70VR13 185/70x13 185/70 13 185/70R13
185/70HR13 185/70x13 185/70 13 185/70R13
205/70VR13 205/70x13 205/70 13 205/70R13
205/60HR13 205/60x13 205/60 13 205/60R13
145SR14 145x14 145 14 145R14
155SR14 155x14 155 14 155R14
165HR14 165x14 165 14 165R14
165SR14 165x14 165 14 165R14
175TR14 175x14 175 14 175R14
185HR14 185x14 185 14 185R14
185/75SR14 185/75x14 185/75 14 185/75R14
185/70SR14 185/70x14 185/70 14 185/70R14
195/75SR14 195/75x14 195/75 14 195/75R14
195/70VR14 195/70x14 195/70 14 195/70R14
205VR14 205x14 205 14 205R14
205/70VR14 205/70x14 205/70 14 205/70R14
205/70HR14 205/70x14 205/70 14 205/70R14
215/70VR14 215/70x14 215/70 14 215/70R14
215/70SR14 215/70x14 215/70 14 215/70R14
225/75SR14 225/75x14 225/75 14 225/75R14
225/70SR14 225/70x14 225/70 14 225/70R14
125SR15 125x15 125 15 125R15
135SR15 135x15 135 15 135R15
145SR15 145x15 145 15 145R15
155HR15 155x15 155 15 155R15
155SR15 155x15 155 15 155R15
165SR15 165x15 165 15 165R15
165HR15 165x15 165 15 165R15
165SR15 165x15 165 15 165R15
175QR15 175x15 175 15 175R15
175R15 175x15 175 15 175R15
175/70HR15 175/70x15 175/70 15 175/70R15
180HR15 180x15 180 15 180R15
185HR15 185x15 185 15 185R15
185SR15 185x15 185 15 185R15
185HR15 185x15 185 15 185R15
185R15 185x15 185 15 185R15
185/70HR15 185/70x15 185/70 15 185/70R15
185/70VR15 185/70x15 185/70 15 185/70R15
185/70HR15 185/70x15 185/70 15 185/70R15
185/70SR15 185/70x15 185/70 15 185/70R15
195/70VR15 195/70x15 195/70 15 195/70R15
205HR15 205x15 205 15 205R15
205/75SR15 205/75x15 205/75 15 205/75R15
ER70HR15 ER70x15 ER70 15 ER70R15
205/70VR15 205/70x15 205/70 15 205/70R15
205/70SR15 205/70x15 205/70 15 205/70R15
215/75SR15 215/75x15 215/75 15 215/75R15
215/70VR15 215/70x15 215/70 15 215/70R15
225/75SR15 225/75x15 225/75 15 225/75R15
225/70VR15 225/70x15 225/70 15 225/70R15
235/75SR15 235/75x15 235/75 15 235/75R15
235/70VR15 235/70x15 235/70 15 235/70R15
235/70HR15 235/70x15 235/70 15 235/70R15
235/70SR15 235/70x15 235/70 15 235/70R15
275/55VR15 275/55x15 275/55 15 275/55R15
175SR16 175x16 175 16 175R16
185HR16 185x16 185 16 185R16
185VR16 185x16 185 16 185R16
185SR16 185x16 185S 16 185R16
125R400 125x400 125 400 125R400
135R400 135x400 135 400 135R400
145R400 145x400 145 400 145R400
155R400 155x400 155 400 155R400
165R400 165x400 165 400 165R400
185R400 185x400 185 400 185R400
160/65R340 160/65x340 160/65 340 160/65R340
190/55HR340 190/55x340 190/55 340 190/55R340
190/55VR340 190/55x340 190/55 340 190/55R340
200/65R340 200/65x340 200/65 340 200/65R340
170/65R365 170/65x365 170/65 365 170/65R365
190/55HR365 190/55x365 190/55 365 190/55R365
200/60HR365 200/60x365 200/60 365 200/60R365
210/65R365 210/65x365 210/65 365 210/65R365
220/55VR365 220/55x365 220/55 365 220/55R365
180/65HR390 180/65x390 180/65 390 180/65R390
190/65HR390 190/65x390 190/65 390 190/65R390
220/45VR390 220/45x390 220/45 390 220/45R390
230/45VR390 230/45x390 230/45 390 230/45R390
220/55VR390 220/55x390 220/55 390 220/55R390
230/55ZR390 230/55x390 230/55 390 230/55R390
240/55VR390 240/55x390 240/55 390 240/55R390
220/65VR390 220/65x390 220/65 390 220/65R390
220/45VR415 220/45x415 220/45 415 220/45R415
240/55VR415 240/55x415 240/55 415 240/55R415
280/45VR415 280/45x415 280/45 415 280/45R415

Vintage Tyres FAQ

What are beaded edge tyres?

Beaded edge tyres are also called clincher tyres and were fitted to the majority of vintage cars up until the mid 1920. The have a raised lump of rubber on the inside circumference of the tyre that locates with the hook in the rim, the tyre is then held on the rim by having at lease 60psi. for more information check out our Beaded edge web page.
For tips on fitting beaded edge tyres check out our Beaded edge tyre fitting films.

Which are the least expensive vintage tyres?

Longstone tyres supply the majority of vintage tyre brands. We supply budget vintage tyres and tyres from the top brands such as Michelin and Pirelli. We would suggest the Wards Riverside 30X3½ as well as being extremely good value clincher tyres are still the vintage tyres we would recommend for the Model T Ford. If you were looking for tyres for your pre-war Austin 7 we would suggest the 350-19 Longstone for pre 1936 and 400/425-17 Longstone for post ’36 cars. Then the Lucas range of vintage tyres are extremely good value including the 650-19 Custom Classic for 1930’s Rolls Royce 20/25 and 475/500-20 Lucas for a 12/50 Alvis.

Which are the best vintage car tyres?

It is impossible to give a general answer as to what are the best tyres for a vintage car, it varies depending on the car. There is such a wide range of manufacturers and styles that are appropriate to the different eras and styles of historic automobiles. Longstone give independent answers and from our experience we will recommend to you what is the best tyre for your vintage or classic car. To take advantage of us please ring or email us. It is best if you can supply the year, make and model of your vintage car. The other option is to go to our vintage car tyres web page and use the search facility and hopefully we can help with recommendations of what was original and what is the best tyre available today.

Cannot find what you are looking for? Any questions?