In spite of the drawbacks, most restorers and collectors, even those who enjoy spinning their wheels once in while, insist on authentic tires. And rightly so. “The stronger the restoration, the stronger the restoration market will be,” said Coker Tire president, Corky Coker, a car restorer and noted collector.
Nevertheless, authentic tires no longer have to be a handling handicap. Reproduction tires might look identical to the tires that came originally on your Mustang or Charger, but besides their bias-ply construction, they have very little in common.
The Goodyear Polyglas tires, or Firestone Wide Ovals that you’d buy today are made the same way, in the same molds, but of modern compounds. Unlike the originals, they must exceed DOT standards.
“The customer today benefits from many areas of modern technology,” says Kelsey. “The tire has to be tested to go way beyond what the original tire had to.”
But how do you know which one belongs on your car?
“I get guys in here with pictures of their car in front of the factory and they say, ‘I want this tire.’ The problem is, there’s just as likely another picture of that same kind of car in front of that same factory, taken the next day, with a different set of tires,” says Lucas.
This poses a difficult problem for the restorer. While some manufacturers’ specifications denote exactly what brand of tire the car came equipped with, (for instance, the Skylark GS, Javelin and Chevelle specified Firestone Wide Ovals at various times, and the Mustang specified Goodyear Polyglas) a great majority did not. Even for those that specified exactly, there is no assurance that those same cars did not occasionally roll out of the showroom wearing another brand of tires.
In 1966, the Firestone Wide Oval was introduced and nearly every hi-po musclecar built between ’67 and ’73 arrived in the showroom shoed in Wide Oval rubber. They were original equipment on the GTO, Skylark GS, Corvette, Chevelle, Camaro, Charger, Challenger, Roadrunner, Mustang, Torino, Javelina and AMX.
While it may be true that nearly every car of the era had Wide Ovals on their option list, how can the appearance of so many musclecars with Goodyear Polyglas tires be explained? The answer: Non-exclusive arrangements were made between tire makers and car manufacturers. Although Ford, GM and Chrysler might have tested and favored one tire over another, their availability was paramount. The bottom line for owners, however, was that for the first time performance tires.
As performance-enhancing as they were, the Goodyear Polyglas tires were noted more for their long tread life. Available as OE in January 1968, this tire had 2-plus-2 construction: a two-ply polyester sidewall and two fiberglass circumferential belts. It had a low-aspect ratio, and was Goodyear’s first.