Where To Find Affordable Tires For Your Classic
It is the classic, vintage vehicle owner's lament. "Where can I get tires for my 19XX whatevermobile?" "What size tires fit my antique Ford Fictitious?" "Why is X tire size so hard to find?"
I too, have asked those questions. Most of the time, I get directed to Coker Tires. They are a wonderful company that still produces an array of odd tire sizes and styles to fit any vintage ride. From early motorcycles to vintage race cars, they have a tire that suits the need.
Coker is all well and good for the owner that wants to finish off their concourse restoration or get that correct period look. They have high quality tires and with that does come the high quality price. Some priced so high, one would hate to even get out on the road. But what of those that have a driver quality car? What of those that get their rides out in the thick of it as often as possible? What of those managing a classic collection on an educator's salary?
I may have a solution. Let us start by looking at some of the issues when it comes to getting tires for a classic ride.
Many older vehicles have odd tire sizes. Most, on the small and skinny end of the spectrum. Most any tire under 15 inches is starting to become few and far between. With advancements in breaking, rotors, wheels, and tire have grown over the last decade or so. 2018 data from the U.S. Tire Manufactures Association shows that the most common tire sizes are 17 inches or larger.
Notice how there is one, lone 15 inch tire on the charts? That is the largest rim diameter in my fleet of vintage cars. With fewer vehicles on the road needing small tires, manufacturers are shrinking their options for smaller wheels.
It was incredibly difficult trying to source 13 inch tires for Whitney's Midget from the standard tire retailers. When we did find tires in the correct size, most were for trailer service only. If we found tires for passenger cars in 13 inches, the price for a set was outside the budget.
Now that wheels are larger and wider, the tight and trim wheels that were once common on American roads have become a specialty size. With specialty sizes come specialty prices. This is not great for tires that will be put on vintage economy cars that actually get used throughout the year.
In my expedition for petite, affordable tires, I heard that wheels under 15 inches are quite common among economy cars in Japan, China, and Southeast Asia. Searching for those tires lead me to a wonderful retailer called Tires-Easy.
I have not be paid or anything to hawk this particular retailer. When I find a reliable source for the affordable and hard to find, I like to share the knowledge.
Tires-Easy is like Tire Rack for low cost radials. They have tire specifications listed, customer reviews, tech tips, and test videos to give customers all the information needed about their tire of choice. They source tires from all the name brands and even tires from most of the brands that manufacture tires for the Asian market.
I have been able to find the correct size tire for each of my vehicles, at an affordable price, that also meet all DOT standards. Most of the time, I can get a set of new tires for less than the cost of buying a used set.
When we finally found the correct size tire for Whitney's Midget, we were pleasantly surprised that a full set was under $150 USD and free shipping to our stoop. They have two seasons of autocross and spirited driving on them and they are holding up very well.
I recently purchased this set of NEXEN performance tires for my Beetle for less that $200 USD.
We have yet to turn a wheel in anger on this set, however back road cornering tests have been promising.
I even bought a set of snow and ice tires for my daily beater. Those have made my 1994 Ford escort unstoppable in winter. I will admit, I have been lazy and have not switched them out for the warmer months. However, after 5 years in all seasons, I am still nowhere near the wear bars on the tire tread.
For me, all of this is proof enough that cheap is not always junk.
I buy with confidence from Tires-Easy. I have yet to come up empty handed when looking for the right size tire that meets my performance needs while being kind to my billfold. The tires we have purchased so far have had tread life that has lasted well into the 5-8 year range for the recommended tire replacement.
So if any reader has an antique automobile in need of some fresh rubber, give Tires-Easy a look.