One of the most common questions we get asked is, "what tires should I buy for my Allard?" Unfortunately you're going to have to answer that question yourself, but we’ll try to give you some guidance. There are two main options when it comes to selecting a set of tires for your Allard...bias-ply (aka cross-ply) tires or radial tires. Once you've selected which type of tire you want, then there are a variety of brands and tread types you can select from. This article attempts to summarize the differences between the two types of tires, outline the various tires available, and share recommendations that we've received from various Allard owners over the years. Through this information, we hope to help you make an informed decision when it comes time to buy your next set of tires.
Before delving into the exciting world of tire types, sizes, and ratings; we recommend that you check the age of your tires. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) recommends that you should not drive on tires more than 10 years old, less if they are stored in a hot and dry environment. The DOT has mandated that all tires have the date they were manufactured stamped into the sidewall. For tires made after 2000, the date will be the last four digits of the 11-digit code stamped on your tires. The first two digits are the week of the year and the last two represent the year; for example “3208” means the tires were made in the 32nd week of 2008. For tires older than 2000, the date will be the last three digits of the 10-digit code. The first two digits are again the week of the year and the last digit represents the year (yes a ‘5’ could be 1995, 1985, or even 1985. If you have tires with a 3-digit date code, you should buy new tires NOW. If you buy new tires and they are more than 2 years old, you should ask for a replacement set or a generous discount. If possible, ask the tire shop what the age of your new tires is before you buy them.
When starting your search for tires, you need to know what size you need. The standard tire size for most Allards is based on a 16" diameter wheel with a rim width of 4.5”. For bias-ply tires, the size is listed as either 600-16 or 600H16, where 600 (or 6”) is the tire cross section width, ‘16’ is the rim diameter, and ‘H’ is the speed rating. Radial tire sizes can get a bit more confusing; they are often called out as 185R-16, where ‘185’ means width in mm, ‘R’ means Radial, and ‘16’ is the rim diameter. Sometimes, you will see the tire size listed 165/80R16, where the ‘80’ is the aspect ratio meaning that the tire height is 80% of the tire width (165 x 80% = 132mm). When not listed, it is assumed the aspect ratio is 100% (tire width = tire height).
Speed ratings are the maximum speed that the tire is rated for. Common speed ratings for Allard tires include P = 93 mph, S = 112 mph, H = 130 mph, V = 149, and W = 168. Unless you are Jim Tiller, you really don’t need anything rated higher than an H, but it won’t hurt. A higher speed rating doesn’t mean that a tire is better or worse, it just means that it has been tested to safely withstand that particular maximum speed. Some tires don’t include a speed rating, which means their manufacturer hasn’t tested them for maximum speed (likely not DOT rated). These tires may be fine for the street but should not be raced.
You should also pay attention to whether or not your tires are DOT rated. Many bias-ply tires do not have a DOT rating. This doesn’t mean that the tire is unsafe; it just means that they were not required to pass the DOT’s stringent road tests that modern radials are subjected to. The tires listed in this article have been on the market for a while and have been proven safe. However if you were involved in an accident that’s tire related, you shouldn’t be surprised if your insurance company looks into what tires are on your car. Please note that the tire info on our table is based on what we could glean from various web sites, which don’t always note if a tire is DOT rated.
Bias-Ply vs. Radial Tires:
Bias-ply tires were invented back in 1898 by the Goodyear tire company. The tire is given strength by layers of plies (belts) that are embedded into the rubber. The plies are laid at an alternating diagonal pattern on the bias of the bead cord, creating a crisscross pattern. In bias-ply tires, the tread and sidewalls share the same plies or casing, which mean the sidewalls are relatively thick when compared to radial tires. The strong sidewalls of bias-ply tires require less air pressure than radials.
- Lower cost than radial
- Cushioned, smoother ride than radials
- All sidewall flexing is transmitted to the tread
- “Lighter” steering feel than radials
- Progressive break-away during cornering
- Higher friction compared to radials (resulting in higher fuel consumption)
- Faster wear compared to radials
- More sensitive to overheating
- Will flat-spot after sitting for a while (goes away after a mile or two)
- Prone to wandering
Radial tires were pioneered by Michelin with their X tires in 1948. In radial tires, the ply cords radiate at a 90° angle from the bead cord, while the tread casing is strengthened by belts of steel fabric that run around the circumference of the tire. Generally radial tires require higher air pressure because the sidewalls are comparatively thinner than with bias-ply tires.
- Improved traction due to flat stable crown & larger footprint
- Lower friction due to better distribution of pressure in footprint (resulting in lower fuel consumption)
- Longer tread life
- Comfort & handling on the road
- Less wandering, straighter tracking
- Higher cost than bias-ply
- Faster break-away during cornering
- “Heavier” steering feel
- Firm ride
We were surprised to find that the DOT has weighed in on the topic of bias-ply vs radial tires…”Radial tires provide better tread contact with the pavement since their sidewalls are more flexible in the lateral direction than bias ply tires. Accordingly, radial tires can generate about twice the lateral force as bias ply tires. However, drivers get feedback from their tires and drive vehicles with different types of tires in different ways around corners. [Bias-ply] tires provide more feedback to the driver by feel and noise that the vehicle might not negotiate a curve, and the driver can sometimes slow down and correct the situation before going off the road. While radial tires generate more lateral forces, they do not provide progressive feedback to the driver and tend to lose traction without as much warning. In essence, drivers have learned how to go around entrance and exit ramps, and other curves, on highways at a higher rate of speed with radial tires. However, if the road is wet and their tire pressure is low, then they might have problems taking that curve at the same speed.” http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/rules/rulings/TirePresFinal/FEA/TPMS4.html
So what’s our recommendation? As you’ve read, there’s no clear cut winner when it comes to comparing bias-ply vs. radial tires. It all comes down to what you want to do with your car. If you are going to vintage race, you’ll likely be required to use bias-ply tires. If you are going to drive the car a lot on the road, then radials are likely the best choice. Finally, if you are going to do car shows and originality is your aim, then you should probably have a set of bias-plies on your Allard.
I have had good experience with Bolckleys. I have gotten far more mileage out of them than the over-priced Dunlops. And, the Dunlops are not legal for road use everywhere because their side walls are so thin. The Blockleys have stiffer side walls, and they are far better than Dunlops in the rain.
I too, run the Blockleys but 6.00X 16 all around. They look great, don't 'track' on road irregularities but do suffer from flat spotting if left for any period of time.I thought I had something falling off the car the first time I ran them! This problem goes away after a mile or so. They also whine on some road surfaces.
Blockleys feel much more 'planted' and far less nervous than the Dunlops when used on the road. I also forgot to say that I run slightly wider wheels on the rear with a tad more offset too, in order to use the 6.50 versions without them bulging too much or rubbing the inside of the arch.
I have never used radials on the J2X but have had reports that they can make the steering heavier, certainly on cross-ply tyres the steering on the car is delightful when under-way.
The flat spotting seems to get less with use and wear but they can be slightly alarming for the first mile or two especially when nearly new and if the car has sat for a week or so.
If you drive in a 'spirited' manner I can report that the Blockleys hang on well and then break loose gradually for a lovely drift. (I found this out on the track of course.... Cough, cough)
The Blockleys look great and have a lot more tread than the Dunlops. Dunlop tires are, frankly, a rip off. They have a monopoly for racing, granted by the FIA, so they get away with outrageous prices. Dunlops are actually cheaper in the USA than in the UK for this reason – more competition in the USA, as with most everything.
I have run Blockleys for racing but was not happy with them – more crown than with the Dunlops. But, the Blockleys would be a better road tire. Also, I suggest you look into the period looking tires made by Coker Tire Company. They look good in photos and are far less expensive than Dunlops and even Blockleys. I do not have experience with their performance.
Take a look at the Excelsior Stahl Sport Radial at Coker Tire - radial but bias ply look. I bought a set for my K3 but have not yet tried them (it is still being restored).
I fitted Michelin Pilote radials on my J2 rep FPN 300. They grip like hell and don't seem to wear out. They have the old Englebert racing tread pattern so look right as well.
The Avon Turbosteels are ideal if you want to go racing, they're very popular with the classic racing fraternity as they have a fairly soft compound that gets quite sticky when driven hard. They only come in 16" diameter but you probably have standard 16" wheels anyway. I have 15" wheels on my car but if I had 16s I would definitely use them. I'm using Avon Turbospeeds on my K2 which are OK but not great for competition.
I have found cross-plies to "white-line" on the road. Even with front axle toe-in carefully set, the car will wander more without a doubt. Radials are, I think, better for road use. I bought a set of Vredesteins (they were cheapest! [in the UK]) and found the car to be much nicer on the road in general, but mainly because it felt less nervous at the front. They will also last longer. If you can afford them, Vintage Tyre Supplies reckons the Michelins are the best. You can still get the Avon Turbosteel in 16 inch...a bloody good tyre.
The Dunlop cross-plies look more authentic though. If you are circuit racing, I think the cross-plies are very good, though we tend have no choice for racing in the UK, as they are effectively the control tyre.
I've had Dunlop RS5’s on the L for ages now. Not too heavy on the steering, nice progressive characteristics if you push on.
Try not to be swayed by those who shout RADIAL at you! I've run the car on both types and the car feels so much more ‘right’ on the crossplies that it was designed for.
In the UK we have to use these [Dunlop] for racing, and they are good grippy tyres, but on the road they follow white lines in a big way and cause the car to wander a fair bit. If I was just doing road miles I would go for a radial in similar size. They are not cheap (certainly in Europe anyway )!
Chattanooga, TN & City of Industry, CA, USA
Britain West Motorsport
Brantford, Ontario, Canada
Lucas Classic Tires
Long Beach, CA, USA
Frisby Performance Tire
South Beloit, IL, USA
Alton, VA, USA
Roger Kraus Racing Enterprises
Castro Valley, CA, USA
Blockley Tyre (UK)
Tel: 01386 701717
Universal Vintage Tire
Hershey, PA, USA
Longstone Classic tyres
Doncaster, South Yorkshire, UK
Tel: 0044 1302 714072