Monday, 29 November 2010

Vintage and Classic Tyres - Where are they made?

Chris, our MD, recently visited one of the world’s latest tyre factories. The hi-tech factory you see pictured here produces 15,000 tyres a day of all types, from motorcycle tyres, through crossply car tyres to high performance radials. The processes are computer controlled and the factory is laid out in the most ergonomic way to produce tyres efficiently – which is why it is over half a kilometre long! So where in the world would you find the latest tyre producing technology? In this case, Thailand!

Producing a tyre is a much more complex operation than most people assume; the old myth of pouring liquid rubber into a mould and popping out tyres every few minutes like wellington boots couldn’t be further from the truth. Tyres are assembled normally from about 20 different sub components all precisely positioned and guided by laser beams. Steel, Rayon, Nylon, Kevlar and some 30 different types of rubber can all go into just one tyre. It is amazing to think that all this technology and effort, and components shipped from the four corners of the globe go into the tyres on our classic cars!

When Vintage Tyres started 50 years ago, all the tyres we supplied were British made. Dunlop and Avon for example still produce their entire classic ranges in the original factories here in England and incredibly in many cases still in the original moulds. The difference in the tyres you buy today is that they are able to include all the advances in rubber compounding and technology in their classic designs. Even some Waymaster tyres are still made in the UK.

With the completion of our brand new “high tech” factory, we are confident having many of our Waymaster range produced for us in the Far East. Their lower manufacturing costs combined with rapid development in tyre production techniques have enabled the availability of quality tyres at a cost effective price.

Of Course many major manufacturers still produce classic tyres locally – Avon, Michelin, Dunlop, Pirelli and Vredestein all have factories in Europe. However, it is interesting to know that even in small volume classic ranges, production is common overseas in order to keep costs low; Ensign, Blockley, Excelsior, Waymaster and even Michelin all produce tyres in the far east.

So does it matter where your tyres are made? Well these days we as classic car owners are fortunate to have such a choice open to us. We are lucky that major manufacturer still continue to make small production runs of authentic tyres. The good news is that now it can also be less expensive to have good quality tyres on our cars.

Pictured here is a Riley fitted with Dunlop Triple Studs - the original triple stud tyre, and still made in England!


Friday, 12 November 2010

Rigorous Testing of Waymaster Cord Beaded Edge Tyres

How do you replicate the stresses that will be put on a tyre over thousands of miles of use, and ensure that it performs faultlessly? The answer is rigorous testing.. and at Vintage Tyres we certainly take this seriously!

When we were developing the Waymaster Cord range of beaded edge tyres, we wanted to ensure they were the very best they could be, and as the tyres were designed from the ground up we had the opportunity to use the latest tyre technology to achieve this. Beaded edge tyres were “current” technology over a hundred years ago, and tyres, cars, and roads have moved on hugely since then. Using this design of tyres in current conditions actually puts very different stresses on them than when veteran cars were new. Modern road surfaces mean that although punctures from stones etc may be less likely, it is possible to travel for long distances at much greater speeds than it would have been at the turn of the 20th Century, and also corner more quickly. This means the heat generated by the tyres and lateral pressures applied to them are much greater than they would ever have had to endure under the conditions they were first designed for. It is these problems that the Waymaster range has to deal with- at least as well as any 100 year old tyre design could!

The first step is to get each new tyre size tested to ECE30 standard at RAPRA – the Rubber and Plastics Research Authority. Although it is not a legal requirement that beaded edge tyres meet this standard, it is all part of our aim of making Waymaster Cords the best they can be. This sort of drum testing can only ever test tyres in one plane however – and we want to make sure they perform under all the stresses they will be put under, particularly the lateral forces when cornering under speed. The only way to do this is to actually do it – on a car, on the road, under test conditions.

Our first choice was a 1904 De Dion, which whilst the type of car that would end up fitting the tyres, wasn’t heavy or quick enough to test the tyres to their extreme limits. After this, we made a test wheel and fitted it to our 1935 Morris Commercial, weighed it down with sandbags and sent it out on the testing ground. The old girl fared better, but we still wanted to go further than any beaded edge tyre would ever have to in normal usage. The only answer was to adapt the wheel, and fit it to our modern Nissan pickup!

As you can see from these pictures, we really went as far as we could to test these tyres! Starting at a regular speed and normal pressure for a beaded edge tyre (around 60psi) we repeated the test dropping 5psi each time, until dislodgement occurred - which we found to be between 20 and 25psi; much lower than would ever be used in normal conditions.

We now test every beaded edge tyre like this. Waymaster offer a broad range of beaded edge sizes, using their attractive period tread pattern, and we can personally vouch for the safety and performance of each and every one!

Find out more about Waymaster here "Waymaster Tyres"

Here is a video of the test wheel on the back of the Nissan:
video

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Ensign Tyres – Authentic Classic Motorcycle Tyres

From the beginning, the Ensign range of motorcycle tyres were conceived to offer authentic tread patterns, quality construction and cost effectiveness. Initially offering a range of beaded edge tyres for vintage and veteran bikes using the familiar two-stud pattern, we have since developed tyres for other areas of motorcycling.

Over the last couple of years we have overhauled the beaded edge tyres, improving the finish and up rating performance by increasing the ply content of the tyres. This makes them one of the best built beaded edge tyres on the market, and enables them to be fitted to light cars as well as motorcycles.

Realising the lack of quality classic trials tyres in several popular sizes, the Ensign Trials Universal came into being, and have been hugely popular. In fact, when Royal Enfield updated their popular Trials model with a new unit construction fuel-injected engine they selected Ensign 350-19 trials tyres as the original equipment fitment.

Two of these Trials bikes recently answered the call of duty, when they were enlisted by the Royal Air Force for emergency/escort/logistics duties at the Cosford Airshow, which attracts up to 50,000 visitors. Both machines were used for most of the day over rough ground in difficult conditions. "The RAF personnel were heaping praise on the machines all day, especially when the weather turned nasty in the afternoon and the vintage trials pattern Ensign tyres enabled them to get the large crowds away safely" reports Rob Jones, General Manager at Royal Enfield UK.

This year will see the arrival of the latest addition to the trials tyre range – the Ensign Trials Universal 400-19.

The need for a period style tread pattern for earlier bikes fitted with conventional wired-on tyres has been met with the new Ensign Universal. These offer a classic block pattern suitable for front or rear fitment, but are e-marked and speed tested to S, and enable classic motorcyclists to fit tyres which not only perform excellently, but now look the part as well. Originally available in 300S20 and 300S21, the range will shortly also include 325S19 and 350S19 tyres.

You can find more information on the whole range of Ensign motorcycle tyres here: Ensign Tyre Range

Monday, 1 November 2010

Dunlop SP Sport Aquajet - The Tyre Icon

As we now have back in stock at Vintage Tyres the Dunlop SP Sport Aquajet 185R15; we thought it a good time to look through the archives at some of the history of this illustrious tyre design, and find out how it became perhaps the most renowned radial ever.

During the 1960s, tyre manufacturer began to wake up to the advantages of radial technology, as first demonstrated by Michelin with their X used on the Citroen Traction Avant. A radial tyre is different to the then standard cross-ply by separating out the function of the sidewall and tread of a tyre. In a crossply, the textile plies of the casing run across the carcass diagonally, with each ply crossing the adjacent one at alternate angles. A radial tyre has plies which run around the carcass parallel to each other radiating out from the wheel centre, together with a layer of bracing around the tyre under the tread. This creates a tyre with a more flexible carcass but braced tread area.

Dunlop realised that they could harness this type of tyre design to create tyres which offered real advantages in performance, longevity and handling, and spent over 15 years researching the mechanics of grip in order to create their revolutionary SP Sport. This was a marked leap forward from not only cross ply tyres, but the SP68 and SP41 radials it superseded.

Dunlop focussed on the three main areas of achieving maximum grip. The carcass design should mean that the maximum amount of footprint is on the road. When this is achieved, on dry roads the main factor in grip is the type of rubber compound used. However it is on wet roads, or even damp ones, where the tread pattern really comes into play, and the Dunlop designers created a brand new type of pattern that actually “pumped” water away from the tread surface and out of special ducts on the side of the tread. These were known as aquajets, and that became the name commonly adopted for the new tyre. In this video: "Dunlop Aquajets in Action" you can see the aquajets at work. In fact they are so efficient, it was claimed that at 50mph they could “pump” a gallon of water a second.

As its advantages became clear and reputation grew, Dunlop’s Aquajet became standard fitment on the performance cars of the day, first being employed in different sizes on the Mini Cooper and Jaguar E type. It became the must have upgrade on anything from a Triumph Dolomite Sprint, through Ford Cortina, to Lotus Elan.

These great adverts from the period show how fitting an SP Sport could help you lead the life of an international playboy or spy when driving your Jaguar XJ6.

The Dunlop SP Sport Aquajet is still made from the original moulds, in England. The tyres produced today are better than they have ever been, as they take advantage of the latest compounds and rubber technology which means they perform and last brilliantly, whist retaining their authentic appearance and characteristics.

Now in stock are the 185R15, ER70R15 (205/70R15), 165R13, 145R10 and 165/70R10. This means the ultimate period performance tyre is available for lots of classics such as Jaguar Etypes, Lotus Elans, BMW 2002s, and Mini Coopers; and there are sizes being reintroduced regularly. If you drive an iconic car such as this, it makes sense to fit the iconic tyre.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

New Old Stock Tyres - the dangers!

Whilst we at Vintage Tyres make it our mission to introduce new tyres and reintroduce discontinued ones, research tyre technology, work with manufacturers, attend shows and ship classic and vintage tyres to the four corners of the globe, we also offer a specialist fitting service so that customers who have had difficulty finding someone to fit their tyres can benefit from our years of experience.

One Saturday morning we were visited by a customer with his pretty Lancia convertible, to have some 155R15 tyres fitted. He had purchased some Michelin XZX from a friend, who had assured him that they were “as new”, “stored correctly” and in “perfect condition”. This immediately rang alarm bells with us, as we are the Michelin distributors in the UK and know that they haven’t made XZX in this size for many years.

It raises an important point – often tyres are sold as “brand new” via internet auction sites, autojumbles and small ads which in reality are many years old. As rubber is an organic compound, no matter how you store a tyre the material will continue to develop and change. The British Association of Rubber Manufacturers say you should not use a tyre which is over 10 years old, and if a tyre has been unused for 6 years then it should be discarded – actually using a tyre keeps it supple.

If a tyre is older than this, you cannot predict how it will react under the stresses and heat put upon it when in use on a car or motorcycle. Many of you may remember the case of an MGB owner who had fitted some “New Old Stock” tyres, one of which blew on the motorway, flipping the car and killing the driver. The condition and age of your tyres is one of the most important things involved in road safety, and with such a good choice of quality tyres available at the moment for classic vehicles, it really is not worth taking the risk!

So how old were the tyres in brought in by Mr Smith? Well on inspection there were several obvious clues that any motorist could spot. Firstly, just handling the tyres you can feel how dry and hard the rubber is, especially when compared to a brand new Michelin off the shelf. Secondly, stamped on the tyres was “Made in West Germany”, so it is clear that these were from a time when the Berlin Wall still stood. Thirdly, the date code was clear on the sidewall – “071”. Meaning these were produced in the 7th week of 1981. Or in other words, these “brand new” tyres to fit the pretty Lancia are in fact nearly 30 years old.

Mr Smith made the wise decision to fit new tyres, and choose 155SR15 Vredestein Sprint Classics from the range available. The date codes on these showed they were made in February 2010, so he felt a lot safer! If you need tyres for your classic or vintage vehicle, be wary! The best advice is to go to a specialist tyre dealer. If in doubt, always ask the seller the date code on the tyres you are thinking of buying, and if you can’t decipher it, ask someone who can. Most tyres made in the last ten years should carry a four digit code, where the first two digits denote the week of production and the second two the year. So if you are in any doubt as to their origin and tyres you are looking at do not carry this format, then for safety’s sake – walk away.