Modern Tires on Classic Car Vs. White Wall Tires Guide

April 15th, 2024 by

Pros and Cons of Modern Tires on Classic Cars

Updated: April 15, 2024

Classic cars are popular for their meticulous craftsmanship and timeless design that evoke a sense of nostalgia for the gone era. They provide the best way to express personal style and preference and enjoy a unique driving experience that you can’t find with modern vehicles.

At some point, every vintage car owner has to choose whether to keep the car’s original tires or upgrade to modern ones. While it may seem easy, installing modern tires on a classic car is more complex than many think. If done improperly, tire changes can lead to costly damage and compromised performance. To help you make informed decisions, the muscle car experts at y list advantages and disadvantages.

What is the difference between classic and modern tires? What about White Wall Tires?

When rubber tires were first invented several decades ago, they were designed as bias-ply tires. The tires featured myriads of cords overlapping diagonally in the interiors to form several layers. The layers, called plies, attach to the beads to enable propulsion force to be transferred. Over time these tires were phased out to give way to modern tires commonly known as radial tires. Although radial tires still use plies, there is a notable tweak in their construction.

Modern tires are made at 80 degrees between beads, with additional steel belts placed between the plies and the outer surface. The radial orientation of the tires allows them to be much broader and bigger than bias-ply tires. The change in design makes the radial tire less stiff to deliver greater grip, enhanced traction, and a smoother ride. However, if not expertly installed, the extra grip may stress the classic car’s suspension and chassis since neither was built to handle intense traction.

What are White Wall Tires?

White wall tires are a classic feature found on many vintage vehicles such as cars, motorcycles, and bicycles. They have a distinctive white stripe along the sidewall, creating a retro and stylish look that remains popular among enthusiasts. While they are not as common on modern vehicles, white wall tires continue to be a choice for those looking to add a touch of nostalgia to their rides.

White Wall Tires vs. Modern Tires:

White wall tires have a unique visual appeal that distinguishes them from contemporary tires. White wall tires have a classic look, while modern tires are more streamlined. Modern tires are designed to prioritize performance and efficiency, with features including improved traction, handling, and durability.

The pros and cons of modern tires on classic cars


Modern tires are safer 

The most crucial advantage of modern tires over classic ones is that they are much safer. As mentioned earlier, the modern radial tire is wider and more flexible, delivering a firmer grip on the road compared to the skinnier classic tires. Modern tires also have advanced tread patterns with slits and grooves that remove water efficiently and quickly. All these features combine to make these tires safer on the road than their classic counterparts.

Smoother Rides

Apart from being a lot safer, modern radial tires also provide a smoother and more comfortable drive. The rigidity and size of classic tires make them inflexible, increasing the likelihood of bounces and jolts along rough paths, such as dirt or gravel. Since modern radial tires are broader and more flexible, they can skim across breaks in road surfaces more smoothly to deliver comfortable rides.

Enhanced durability

Advances in tire manufacturing have led to more durable and longer-lasting tires. Choosing modern tires can be an ideal way to reduce the frequency of tire replacements, saving both time and money. Besides, since modern tires last longer, car owners can drive their muscle cars more often. If you want to make your classic car more of a daily ride, switching to modern tires can be a good idea.

You can opt for historically accurate modern reproduction

Traditionally, one of the main drawbacks of modern tires was that they lacked the authentic classic look of bias-ply tires. However, with modern innovations, you can easily get authentic vintage tire reproductions. Some manufacturers today produce modern radial tires that have been adjusted to replicate the classic look of bias ply and whitewall tires.

The cons

The following are some disadvantages of modern tires on classic cars:

  • Change in vehicle appearance: Classic cars often have a distinct look and aesthetic that can be compromised when using modern tires. The appearance of the vehicle might change if the muscle car tire size or design does not match the original vintage style.
  • Lack of authenticity: Every seasoned purist and collector will tell you that maintaining the authenticity of a classic car is crucial. Using modern tires is a departure from the vehicle’s original specifications and historical accuracy.
  • Retrofitting challenges: Installing modern tires on classic cars might require modifications to the suspension, wheel wells, or other components to accommodate the larger size or different dimensions. This could lead to additional costs and potentially compromise the originality of the car.
  • Cost: High-performance modern tires can be expensive, and the initial investment might be higher than using period-correct tires. Additionally, specialized tires designed for classic cars might also come at a premium.

Lafontaine Can Help If You’re Looking to Buy or Sell a Classic Car Today

Looking for a vintage car that suits your preferences and tastes in Milford, MI? Check our selection in person at LaFontaine Classic Cars, or contact us today to explore our inventory of classic vehicles. Alternatively, you can also sell us your classic vehicle. We can pick up your car from any location in the U.S. Visit us today to find out more!

Image Credit: View Apart / Shutterstock

Posted in Classic Cars