The Wheel Deal

Mount­ing Tires on Wire Wheels

Street Rodder - - Contents - By Gerry Burger Pho­tog­ra­phy by Brian Bren­nan ■ ■

Mount­ing tires on wire wheels

You sim­ply can’t have a cool car with­out wheels. While you are all say­ing in uni­son “Thank you Cap­tain Ob­vi­ous,” I’ll go one step fur­ther: “You can’t have a cool hot rod with­out cool wheels.” Wheels and tires are one of the most im­por­tant choices to be made when build­ing a hot rod. They set the mood, the stance, the very spirit of ev­ery spe­cialty car.

One might ar­gue the wheels and tires should be the first choice and sim­ply build the car around the wheels. From restorod to Pro Street, wheels and tires make the state­ment. The choices are many: steel­ies, chrome re­verse, mag wheel, real mag­ne­sium wheels, wire wheels, front run­ners, Lancers, Som­breros, Moons, Baby Moons, spin­ner caps, spi­der caps, dog dish, glam­our rings, beauty bands, Merc pan­cake caps, kid­ney beans, the list goes on. The trick is choos­ing the right wheel for your car.

The au­to­mo­bile wheel has seen in­ter­est­ing trans­for­ma­tions over the years, from the early wood spoke wheels of the first automobiles to wire wheels, then solid and ar­tillery-style steel wheels, and back to op­tional wire wheels on glam­our cars like Cadil­lac, Chryslers, Packards, and the Buick Sky­lark, to name a few. Wire wheels would largely dis­ap­pear from the scene by the mid ’50s to the early ’60s when once again wire wheels adorned some Thun­der­birds that resur­faced in the ’60s.

While wire wheels aren’t right for ev­ery hot rod or cus­tom, they are also the per­fect wheel for other-style hot rods. If you are go­ing for an early vin­tage hot rod look on a '35 or ear­lier hot rod, a set of painted wires goes a long way to ce­ment­ing the look. Build­ing a ’50s cus­tom? Chrome wires work there and of­ten a vin­tage-styled restorod needs a lit­tle sparkle from a set of chrome Sky­lark wires.

Now, we’re not go­ing to get into the myr­iad of choices of wire wheels, be it 32-, 36-, 40-, or 56-spoke wheels, but we thought it might be in­ter­est­ing to fol­low along as a set of brand-new, chrome-plated Thun­der­bird wire wheels are mounted with new tires. These

Thun­der­bird wire wheels feature 56 stain­less steel spokes con­nect­ing a chrome cen­ter to the chrome outer band with a T-bird spin­ner hub­cap in the cen­ter. As it turns out you can buy both the Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels (chrome or painted) and the cor­rect vin­tage-style tires at Coker Tire. Coker Tire has a wide se­lec­tion of dif­fer­entstyle wire wheels.

If you buy the wheels only, be sure to find a qual­ity tire store fa­mil­iar with mount­ing wire wheels. We know all this be­cause we re­cently toured the Coker

Tire and Hon­est Charley fa­cil­i­ties, and part of our “in­sider” tour by Corky Coker in­cluded the ware­houses and the mount­ing and bal­anc­ing shop. Tours of the Coker Tire and Hon­est Charley fa­cil­i­ties are avail­able daily show­cas­ing a great se­lec­tion of vin­tage cars and mo­tor­cy­cles (al­though the tour does not in­clude ware­house ac­cess). If you are in or around Chat­tanooga, Ten­nessee, be sure to stop by Coker Tire; it is a tour worth tak­ing.

Wire wheels re­quire a lit­tle ex­tra care when mount­ing tires. First, re­gard­less

of the type of tire you pur­chase, wire wheels re­quire the use of an in­ner tube. For clar­i­fi­ca­tion, “tube­less tires” mean the tire bead is de­signed to pro­vide an air­tight seal against the rim. It does not mean you can­not use an in­ner tube. Of course tires pro­duced prior to the tube­less tech­nol­ogy will al­ways re­quire an in­ner tube as will any wire wheel. This may seem ob­vi­ous, but when­ever you are mount­ing new tires on wire wheels re­mem­ber to use new in­ner tubes. In­ner tubes will de­grade over time just like tires, and while the tube

may look good, you should still use new tubes.

The neat part about pur­chas­ing the tires, in­ner tubes, and wheels from Coker Tire is the wheels are de­liv­ered to your door with the tires mounted and bal­anced. Since the Coker team mounts only vin­tage wheels and tires, they are ex­perts with wire wheels, en­sur­ing a per­fectly bal­anced set of wheels and tires ev­ery time. To com­plete the job sim­ply open the box, mount the wheels, and ap­ply your fa­vorite tire dress­ing.

Of course tires only work if you put a wheel in­side it and once again Corky Coker took us for an in­side look at the rows of wheels in the Coker Tire ware­house; the in­ven­tory is im­pres­sive.1

■ If you’re look­ing for brand-new, pe­riod-per­fect tires for your lat­est hot rod, mus­cle car, or vin­tage restora­tion Coker Tire has one on the shelf for your ap­pli­ca­tion. This is just part of the vast in­ven­tory in the Coker ware­house.

■ When most hot rod­ders think of Coker Tire they may be think­ing street tires, but Coker Tire also man­u­fac­tures an ex­ten­sive line of race tires, such as these Phoenix rac­ing slicks.3

■ Also stored in the ware­house are the molds for vin­tage tires. Many of the tires sold through Coker Tires are made from the orig­i­nal molds. Af­ter a man­u­fac­tur­ing run of tires the molds are re­turned to the ware­house.2

■ Tak­ing the Coker tour means old cars and trucks of ev­ery de­scrip­tion. Corky loves them all, from mus­cle cars to wood-wheeled, brass era cars. We found this 1914 Amer­i­canLaFrance truck nap­ping in the ware­house; just one of many fu­ture projects.4

■ This is one of the tire mount­ing sta­tions. State-of-the-art equip­ment like the touch­less mount­ing ma­chine and com­put­er­ized spin­bal­anc­ing en­sure flaw­less mount­ing and pre­cise bal­anc­ing of ev­ery wheel and tire.5

■ First the tire is mounted on this sim­ple ex­am­i­na­tion rack and checked to be cer­tain there are no for­eign ob­jects or sharp ar­eas in­side the tire that could po­ten­tially dam­age the in­ner tube.7

6 ■ Af­ter our tour we made our way to the tire mount­ing and bal­anc­ing ser­vice area to fol­low along with the proper mount­ing and bal­anc­ing of wire wheels. We have a Thun­der­bird wire wheel, a ra­dial tube­less white­wall tire, and a new in­ner tube. To­gether they will make a great vin­tage pack­age.

8 ■ If you are us­ing an in­ner tube in­side any tire it is im­por­tant to re­move any ob­ject that could be abra­sive to the tube. This hard la­bel is ac­tu­ally bonded to the in­side of the tire and could be a prob­lem for an in­ner tube.

■ A small air grinder re­moves the la­bel and smooths the po­ten­tial prob­lem area. Very lit­tle rub­ber is ac­tu­ally re­moved in the process.9

■ The brand-new Thun­der­bird wire wheel is mounted to the tire-mount­ing ma­chine, be­ing care­ful not to dam­age any of the chrome plat­ing in the process.11

■ Here we can see the small area smoothed by the sand­ing disc. Tal­cum pow­der is sprin­kled in­side the tire prior to in­stalling the tube to help pre­vent any po­ten­tial chaffing of the tube.10

■ Now it is time to press the front tire bead over the rim, but first the tire bead is lu­bri­cated so it will eas­ily slip into place.16

■ With the back bead over the rim some air is added to the tube to in­flate it in­side the tire. Just enough air pres­sure to make the tube round is used at this time. This will hold the tube in place on the rim.15

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