Imperial HomePage -> Repair -> Wheels & Tires -> Wide White Walls
Make sure you check out Coker tires....they are highly recommended by the Imperial club as a GREAT resource for white wall tires.
Tip from Kenyon:
BF Goodrich "Silver Town" tires are fantastic. The last '60 that I had came with them, and they looked authentic as hell. More so than the Goodyear because they have more script, and it is in antique typeface and looks really neat and old. They are about $100 u.s. each.
Tip from Chris on Reading White Wall Sizes:
>remember that on modern tire ratings, the lower the width number, the wider the tire. So a 235/75 is narrower than a 235/70.
Correction on this: On a modern tire, the 235 is the width in millimeters, regardless of the aspect ratio (70, 75, etc.). So a 235/75 and a 235/70 are the SAME width -- only the sidewall height of one is 75% of the 235, and the other is 70% of 235, making the 70-series APPEAR wider only because it is less tall. The widths are the same, but the overall diameter (height) of the tire will differ.
Tip from Neal about Where To Purchase White Wall Tires:
I ordered my radials from Diamondback about 15 months ago for my Imperial. They used some sort of vulcanizing process to chemically bond the whitewall to the tire. They could apply any width, and I indeed increased it from 2-3/4" to 3" right after I ordered them. Coker was more expensive and didn't come in the width I was looking for. I've been pleased with the Diamondbacks, having put about 2,000 miles on the car since May 1999, including a round trip from DC to Cape Cod. The only thing is that the tires don't have any indication on the sidewall what the tire pressure should be. I just fill them to 30 lbs., which apparently is fine.
Tip from Dwight about White Wall Tire Construction:
If you were to cut a tire in half, you would see in the cross-section that the whitewall is a laid-in piece of rubber; the reason you see the white showing through on a scuff is probably because you have gone through the black layer and exposed the white insert...
Reply from Norm:
I always thought the "white" in a whitewall was an area where zinc is introduced to the rubber, which turns it white where the zinc comes in contact with it. Then, a layer of black is overlaid on the white area to define the size of the "whitewall". It seems to me that if you were to inlay a piece of anything in to a tire sidewall, it would have to be engineered not to come apart as a result of frictional tension. This , I imagine, would be expensive. I seem to remember that "Bridgestone" used to ( or maybe still does ) insert a tire sidewall stiffener , but that is the only "insert" I am aware of and it is not for appearance sake. Dwight, are you guessing or do you know for sure? Now you've piqued my curiosity.
Follow-up from Dwight:
I've seen cross sections of several tires, and the whitewall portion extends underneath the blackwall area and has always seemed to form a pattern under it, appearing to be a distinct piece of material. How and when they perform this beats me, but just go grab an old whitewall and use a hacksaw to cut it and take a look; I would assume that none of this relates structurally to the tire, and is probably a process that someone else here could explain more fully - it's beyond me, that's for sure... However, you could gouge out a pretty good chunk of whitewall, and there would still be more whitewall underneath; introducing a catalyst would seem to preclude this...
Question from Dave:
When did wide white wall tires give way to the narrower banded type? Or was there a gradual phase out with some Imperials having fitted what was available.
Wide white walls as we know them were last offered on 1961 models. By 1962 the industry as a whole switched to the narrower 1" or 1 1/2" white stripe tire and we've played with different widths ever since, nearly going wide again in the late '70s with the Goodyear Arriva and Uniroyal Steeler Radials and their nearly 2" white walls. My opinion...cars without white walls look naked.
1962 was the first year of wide-spread use of narrow band white walls. The first car to use them as standard equipment was the 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham - which used special low-profile tires with 1" whitewalls. Perhaps the cachet of this $13K auto caused everyone to want to use these tires.
There is some confusion that occurs when various original photos show 1962 models with wide whitewalls from 1961 and earlier. I suspect these are photos of prototypes and pre-production models. But production models in 1962 had narrow bands as factory equipment. People in 1962 who bought a car with black-walls and upgraded from the local tire dealer most likely installed wide whites. So, in theory, a 1962 car could have originally had wide whites in 1962. Otherwise, it is narrow band from that point onward.
You will get many answers to this question, as the answer is different for different brands and even models of cars. For instance, I learned during my career as a coucours judge that Studebaker changed from a 2 1/2 inch wide whitewall to a 1 1/4 inch wide whitewall in April of 1962. I also learned that Rolls-Royce offered wide whitewall tires in 1964, and as Chris Hawkins has pointed out, Cadillac offered a narrow whitewall in 1957 on their elegant and very expensive El Dorado Brougham - so you'll need to specify what brand and perhaps even model, to get the definitive answer.
Question from Rich:
Has anybody in the club ever use lacquer thinner to remove yellowing from white walls? My father told me that he was watching a TV show on car detailing, and the detailer said that lacquer thinner will remove yellowing. Since it's been so cold here in New Jersey I haven't had a chance to try it myself.
I've found that the best way for me at least to remove yellowing from whitewalls is to use #600 wet dry sandpaper with lots of soapy water. Takes the yellow off, removes tarnishes and leaves a smooth finish. Cleans them right up.
I have used lacquer thinner to remove yellowing from white walls ... it does work ... but a word of caution...be very careful not to get any of the black from the tires on the white cause then your in for some serious scrubbing...I've found that good old fashioned Wesley's Bleach white and a clean nylon scrub brush works great. BAS keep one brush just for white walls on your show cars.
Lacquer thinner will clean the white walls, but try Wesley's White Wall cleaner. You will use less rags and preserve the white walls. Be very careful when using lacquer thinner, it will dry out your hands, and possibly burn them if there sensitive. I have used it every day as painter (automotive) and if it hits your fore arm you will know it. Use lots of CLEAN rags let me know how you make out.
If you have the yellow/brown stain that sometimes comes from sitting, Wesley's with a rag won't usually do it. To clean mine I had to use several applications combined with a wet brillo pad. If the car sits very long, sometimes the stain will still come back.
I just did my four white walls that were somewhat yellow. I used Wesley's with a stiff hair brush and plenty of elbow grease. I had to do them twice. They look like new white walls now and they make my 1953 Imperial sparkle. I used a very still bristled brush with a handle that afforded a good firm grip. I purchased the brush at Auto Zone, cheap. It worked very well with Wesley's.
I've detailed cars for years at our car store, I soak two tires at a time with Wesley's, go back to the first one with a wet brush with Ajax or Comet cleanser on it----scrub the whites & rinse well. I also use this on my Harley's Wide whites. Does great.
When using Wesley's or any other whitewall cleaner, you need to use a whitewall brush made of (usually) brass wire bristles available in most auto supply stores. This will really clean them up and eliminates the black that steel wool pads can leave.
One problem I notice with Wesley's is that you don't want to get any of it on paint. I recently painted the rim, and if you don't get Wesley's off fast it will stain the paint on the rim or even the car.
Question from Jack:
When the present correct white wall bias ply tires wear down I'm going for the new wide (2") whitewall radials that are available. Any feed back on them yet ?
One set is by Goodyear (their generic non-high-performance whitewalls), the other by Firestone (FT70's).
No, but your car has to be tuned for radial tires. I had an old Dodge that I thought the front end was shot. I put wide white walled bias ply tires on and the car handled like it had a new front end.
Question from Ken (1954):
Need to replace tires on my 1954 Imperial Custom 4dr sedan. Does anyone recall the O.E.M. brand of tire as delivered? Also the width of the whitewall? For some reason US Royal sticks in my failing mind. Any suggestions or comments on who to buy from?
Reply from Roger:
Chrysler had a deal with Goodyear pretty much since the beginning in 1924. I've got a video of a 1934 promotion in which "Dead Eye Dan" shoots out the tire of a speeding Airflow. The watching cop says something like, "Hmm. Chrysler safety rims and Goodyear tires." Does the build sheet have the tire spec's, or just the size?
Tip from Leo (1955 - 1956):
The correct whitewall size for the 1955 and 1956 Imperial is 3" wide. And the original tire was a "Good-Year" Tubeless Double-Eagle Nylon 8.20-15 The whitewall is 3" wide.
Question from (1956):
My '56 4d Southampton needs new tires. I have 2-1/4 inch wides on now. What width did the '56s come with when new?
I'm not sure exactly what the factory width was however I just put 3" whites on my Sedan and it looks very good. I went with Goodyear Regatta 2's customized by Diamond Back Classics and was very pleased with the entire process.
The original spare in the trunk of my '56 has a 2&7/8ths inch white wall. The reproduction tires that I have on the ground are a full 3 inches and they look fine.
According to my Coker Tire catalog, '54 thru '56 models came with 21/2" - 211/16" whitewalls. Pre-'54 models came with 3" or greater.
Question from Philippe (1957):
I want buy some wide whitewall radial tires for my '57 Imperial. I need 14" tires and as you know there's no correct size. The nearest size is 225/75 x 14, a little smaller than the 9.50 x14 (27.6 overall diameter versus 29.5 for the 9.50) but my car was fitted with black old Michelin (215 R 14) and the car looks great on this size (not too high at the rear as many '57 I've seen). The question is : Coker or Diamondback ? The last is cheaper but how is the quality? Let me know your experiences with these two brands. If only Michelin would make www radials ...
I bought wide whitewall radials for 15" rims from Diamondback Classics about a year ago for the Aquitania. They used a vulcanization process to chemically create a 3" wide whitewall on the tire, and could make it any width I wanted. The order taker (in South Carolina) was quite pleasant to work with and the tires were received pretty promptly, as I recall. I've driven it about 2000 miles since, with no problems with the tires. Only "complaint" I might have would be that there's no indication on the sidewall what air pressure to use, so I just inflate to about 32 lbs. cold, same as the Cordoba's conventional radials.
I bought wide whitewall radials for my '51 from the people at www.widewhitewalltires.com - service was good, tires were cheaper than Coker and they look and ride great.
A number of folks on the Citroen DS/ID list reported problems with some of the Michelin XAS's they've bought from Coker. Coker's one of a handful of vendors that offers the weird sized tires (185HR15) required by these weird cars. The same tires bought elsewhere seemed fine, however.
I bought a set of wide whites from Coker that had the cracking sidewall problem. Fortunately they were under warranty and they sent a new set. So far the second set is holding up well. Maybe they had a bad batch...
Don't know about anyone else, but I bought Corker, wide whites and have been sorry ever since. They bleed the white PAINT every time I wash them, they show cracking and streaks, with less that 1000 miles on them. Buy something else.
I have bought a number of wide whitewall bias ply tire sets from Coker over the years and have always been perfectly happy with quality and service. The reference may be to radial wide whites which I have never tried, but I have met Corky Coker and toured their Chattanooga facility with one of the Atlanta car clubs. My impression from seeing their facility as well as from past experience is that they are a first rate organization and I am certain they would stand behind any faulty products.
Question from Mike (1958):
I am interested in WIDE WHITE WALLS and what products other members have purchased.
I need some new tyres on my '58, and I'm going to go with the old style bias-ply.
Has anyone had any luck finding 9.50 x 14" or 11.00 x 14" ???
I was hoping to keep the costs low if possible, maybe around $100 each ????
There are a few antique tire dealers such as Coker, but I don't think that you are going to find any reproduction tires for $100.00 each. They generally run around $150.00 each or more plus shipping, mounting, and balancing. By the time that you are done you are probably looking at around $750.00.
I understand that mine is not the most popular opinion here, but I fail to see the benefit to buying bias ply tires except for the purposes of authenticity and for show. Performance wise they are not better. Radial tires were a gigantic improvement in longevity and handling over the old style tires. That is why they were made in the first place. Though our cars were designed with bias ply tires installed, they do run better (although a little harder) with radial tires. Coker makes an excellent wide white wall radial that looks fabulous and handles fabulously as well. The cost is about the same or less than for the matching reproduction bias ply equivalent, and they will run for about twice the number of miles.
Bias ply tires do provide much better smoky burnouts but at those prices and in am Imperial that seems to be kind of silly. Other than that I see no benefit to them.
I guess that makes 2 of us because I totally agree with you. Any Imperials that I've had that started with bias plys didn't stop as well, made a lot of noise & very uncertain feeling going into turns & also seemed to follow every little irregularity in the road. At some speeds, they did ride a little softer, but that wasn't worth all the other trade offs.
Coker sells a 235/75 by 14 with either a 1" or 2.5" whitewall. These approximate the old 9:00/82 by 14. I've been running them on a 66 Chrysler with good results.
Coker quoted me $98 for 3" white wall tires bias belted L78-15 for my 55. This was at the Louisville KYANA swap meet so I am not sure if this was a show special but I don't think so...the special was free shipping.
Question from Clay (1960):
I am trying to find what should be the correct width of a 60 Imperial's whitewall. As close as I can tell its anywhere from 2-1/2 inches up to 3.Specifically I want the width for the B.F. Goodrich Silvertown tire.
Contact a tire dealer, such as Coker, and tell them what car you need tires for. They will be able to steer you in the right direction.
As you may be aware the 1960 Imperial tyre was 820x15. If you specifically want the B.F.Goodrich Silvertown Vintage Tyre then you have a choice of a whitewall width of 1" , 2 1/2" or the 3 5/8 ". I believe that the original whitewall width was around 2 1/2 ". I had a similar problem with my 1960 Whitewalls. I bought the Firestone but went for their 3 1/2" width. If you are after the B.F.Goodrich tyre then I suppose you would buy the 2 1/2". This tyre is a 4 Ply Poly.
3" is too wide for 1960. I have an original spare in each of my '60s and have measured them and posted before. I will have to check it again when I am at the storage and re-post. I seem to remember around 2.5".
The 2 3/8" size is correct.
As Kenyon knows, 2 3/8" whitewall, to the inside rim, is what my factory original spare is.
Question from Michael (1961):
I am contemplating buying wide whitewall tires for my '61 Custom Coupe. Question #1: I am aware of Coker tires but wondered if there was any other company that IML'ers have used that are better? Question #2: What was the ballpark width of whitewall in that year? Is it 3" or 4"?
I believe both Firestone and General make a wider whitewall in a radial, I have had them on my Cadillac for the last 6 years. They look great and handle well.
Follow-up from Kne:
Bogus!! Radials are superior. That's why we don't really have "glass" tires anymore. I have 235/75/15's on my '48 Dodge and they work very well. I would never put a set of bias tires back on the old girl.
I have generally run bias ply wide white wall tires on anything I own that had them when new. I tend to be a purist and want my cars to look correct. I have always dealt with Coker and have never had a problem with them. I have always found them to be very helpful and they have all info on what tires are correct for each car. I've heard all the stories about how poorly bias ply tires perform and am not totally convinced that radials are so much better. Granted radials do perform better, but I do not believe it is as significant as long as the bias ply tires are new. Quite often, when hearing bias ply horror stories, it turns out that the tires were put on the car when it was restored 10 years ago and have hardly been used so they are very hard and nearly square from setting up so long.
Good radials will be a big improvement in high speed ride, safety and handling. By good, I mean Michelins -accept no substitute! Unfortunately, there ARE NO really "good" wide white tires, including the new radial wide whites sold by Coker and others. All the wide white tires I am aware of are basically very cheaply built tires that are made for show only.
Of the wide whites I have bought, the only satisfactory service I have gotten are Firestones, which I bought through Stan Lucas Tire, in Long Beach California. Most likely Coker handles these too.
But they are not radials, and they are not "good" tires, just barely acceptable for a show car.
The old wives tale that older cars do not handle properly with radial tires was never true, it was based on the prohibition about mixing radial with bias ply on the same car (which IS important). I have used radials exclusively on my daily drivers since the early 70's, on cars as old as my 48 Land Cruiser (Studebaker, not TOYOTA!). They handle and ride just fine at normal road speed, with a tad more roughness coming through from rough pavement at speeds below about 40 MPH, when compared to Bias ply tires.
I would guess the original white wall width for a 61 would have been around 2 inches, but others will be sharper on this subject than I. I'd say anything 2" or wider would look right on your car.
If you'd like to be 100% correct and original, you'll want to buy 8.20 x 15 tires with a 2 1/2 wide whitewall. It's a high-bias tire, which means it has tall sidewalls and a rather narrow tread. The whitewall comes to about the center of the sidewall, and the outer sidewall is ribbed. They're available from Coker as BF Goodrich or Firestone.
I put the BF Goodrich tires on my 1959 Crown Southampton and was delighted with the 100% correct appearance, as well as the ride.
Remember that the wide whitewall was becoming less fashionable in this time period, and therefore narrower. 1962 would see the 1" on Imperials. A 4" would be totally inappropriate, and even the 3" will look very wide because of the different bias of the L78-15 tire.
If you choose to put the L78-15 on your car, it will be more of the square-bias tires of the mid sixties (actually pioneered on the 1964 Lincoln). The sidewall will be shorter and the tread wider than the original. This may reduce the ride height by 1" or more compared to original, so it may not be a good idea if your car is already low.
Get the 4" go ahead--the car will look fabulous--I have 4" wide white walls on my 61 in progress car and they look terrific.
My opinion is the 4". I have them on my '65 Coupe and they look great.
I would buy the wide whitewall but (personally) not the 4 inch. This vintage is elegant with the wide whites but the tire sidewall was never all white. I will send you a picture of mine.
Question from Richard (1961):
Joe Machado mentioned that his '61 came with incorrect width whitewalls and that he wants to put on a set of 2 3/4" whitewall radials to get the correct look combined with great handling. Joe, please let the list know how you make out on your quest, 'cause I want some too!
My quibble, though, is with the comment that GM went to narrow whitewalls in 1961. I am burdened four 61 Cadillacs and my research on them makes me pretty sure that Cadillac offered Firestone, BF Goodrich and Uniroyal tires during the 61 model year and that the whitewall widths varied, according to brand, from 2 1/4" to 2 3/4". The only source I've checked, Coker Tires, does not offer radials with a whitewall width in that range, in a 235 or larger size. And since the overall sidewall height of a radial is less than the original equipment 8.20-15 bias tires, the percentage of the sidewall that should be white is probably even less than the 2 1/4" to 2 3/4" absolute measurement. But Coker only offers 3 3/4" radials, which look completely wrong, IMHO. My correspondence with Coker elicited a polite confirmation that they do not make the width I want and have no plans to, unless there is a demand. So, Joe, let's see how much demand we can drum up, so our 1961s don't have to cruise around in goofy looking exaggerated "wide whites" or "Mr. Modern Cheap-Skate" narrow whitewalls.
Cadillac, for one, did shift to the narrow whitewalls for 1962 and, in 1965, at least, used those tiny triple striped whitewalls. For purists, those triple-striped tires are the only way to distinguish a 65 Cadillac limo from a 64. For obligatory Imperial content, what whitewall variations were enjoyed by the Ghia limos?
Reply from Matt:
I just installed new radials on my recently purchased 1965 Imperial at a local Shamrock Tire dealer. I told him that I wanted tires similar to the ones that were on it, as they appeared to be the original "look". They were bias tires but with 148k miles on the car, knew them to be replacements. The tires on it had 1" wide white walls. We scrounged around his mini-warehouse, and there were 4 stacked radials that are 1.6" wide white walls, P235R15. They were the only 4 matched sets he had, so don't know if they could order them for someone. Paid $307.70 for the tires mounted and balanced on the car. They look great on the car, and was excited that 3 miles from home, on my first stop for such tires I found them. If there are any Shamrock Tire stores in your areas, you may want to give them a call.
Question from Mark (1963):
I have been looking for new tires for my '63 four door. I had Yokohama 235 75R15 radial with a 1 3/8'' whitewall for the past three years. An excellent tire, held up well and looked great, of course Yokohama no longer makes a wide white wall tire. I'm actually having trouble finding any manufacturer that have a whitewall of 1 3/8".
Firestone still periodically manufactures a "721" model of tire in size 235/75R15 that comes exclusively in a 1-5/8" whitewall and is extra-load (XL) rated. I've recommended it several times before here and have had a set on my '67 Crown for nearly ten years with good results. I also put a set on my '78 NYB Salon this summer because they are the exact replacement for the Firestone 721 LR78-15 1-5/8" "wider whitewall" that came with the Salon Package and were also offered as a standalone option in 1977 and 1978.
Check your Firestone dealer, and if he says they are not available, make him call the regional warehouse or find another Firestone dealer.
Because I happened to get mine between production runs, I had to call an old friend at Bridgestone Firestone corporate HQ and she found me ten tires buried in a warehouse in Hawaii (the FedEx charges more than made up for the great price, but they should come to about $75/tire retail). That should not be necessary now as I heard they did this year's run and they are once again in stock. Be warned, however, that at the time I was searching, there were 3,300 back orders... hopefully they recognized the popularity of this tire for collector cars of the 60s and made more than that number.
I have heard that a brand called Multi-Mile does a 1 1/3 inch white wall. (about $90 per tire)
I have recently used a source called Tire Net. I purchased Broadway Classic radials in 235/75/15 for my 68 Convertible. I believe I paid about $250 for four. This price included shipping to a local tire store and everything except $10 each for mount and balance. I am very happy with the appearance and ride. I also purchased a set of Dunlap 1" whitewalls for my 73 LeBaron and am extremely pleased with these at around $215 for the set plus mount and balance.
The simplest solution I know is to make a call to your local chain tire retailer for their recommendations, someone like NTW. If the owners manual or drivers door placards on tire sizing are gone then this would be a pretty simple beginning. Doubtless one of the A-body aficionados could help . . . I just can't see you little guys from under the steering wheel.
Question about New Yorker Brougham white walls:
Did the New Yorker come with wide white wall tires?
Yes they did and I have a set on my car.
What Chrysler called "wider whitewalls" were an option on the New Yorker Brougham from the factory in 1977 and 1978. They were Firestone 500s, I believe, with 1-5/8" whitewall (what is shown on Jon's website) and came only in size JR78-15. They are perfectly correct (and stunning) on this era car.
This tire was also part of the rare "Salon Package" offered on 1978 NYB 4-door hardtops, along with aluminum-fascia road wheels, which were a unique wheel treatment to this package. (These were not the road wheels and they are not the deep-dish all-aluminum wheel offered on same-year Cordobas and LeBarons. They are a steel wheel with an finned cast-aluminum insert painted metallic silver-gray and exposed lugs.)
Firestone still (on occasion) manufactures a comparable 235/75 R15 wider-whitewall "FR721" model of tire, with the same 1-5/8'' stripe. I've got them on my '67 and they look great (IMHO) on Imps and big Chryslers from 1962 all the way through the 1970s. It would be a good idea for all of us to write, call or e-mail Firestone to ask them to keep making this tire, since production seems rather sporadic. And I'm gonna need another set real soon!
Question from Dan (1981 -1983):
Here's a new fly in the ointment regarding whitewall widths for '80s Imps.
I checked the 1 5/8ths dimension out, and it seemed like it would be too wide to match the original style.
I then did some detective work. I measured the width of the cornering lamp on my car. Then I looked in the '81 brochure at the side view printed there. Using the cornering lamp and tire I figured that proportionally it works out to a 1 3/16 inch wide whitewall.
I think that would look correct.
The Goodyear tires on my '83 now have a 3/4 inch wide stripe and it is definitely to narrow.
So, anyone know of a tire that has 1 3/16??
Reply from Dick:
We've had this discussion before, and I don't want to stir up the old hornet's nest all over again, but the original size for the 81-83s was 205/75R15. Those who are putting oversize tires on their cars are adding to the sluggish acceleration problem these cars are accused of suffering. My brown car has 205s on it, and my black one has 215s on it (my error), and while the brown car is totally worn out with 300K plus on it, I could definitely feel the difference in off-the-line acceleration. This is just pure physics - a larger tire is like a further lowering of the all ready very low axle ratio.
These cars are very heavy, by the way, so don't cheat on tire quality! They weigh over 5000 lb. fully loaded. They look small, but they are BUILT!
This page last updated September 9, 2004. Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club