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Triumph TR3 - Radial Tires

I have a question regarding radial tires for my 1959 TR3A. I have a used set of radials on it now, 165-15 and have never driven it on bias ply tires. I am about to invest in a new set of tires.
I know most people just jump in and go to radials as it's perceived as the right thing to do without question. I'm wondering if people who have done the change really see any marked difference in the handling of the car? Then also, the look of the radials is far different from the skinny look of the original bias ply tire. I have a 32 packard and would never think of putting a radial on it, if there is one even available. I notice Coker sells a B.F. Goodrich 590-15 bias ply tire so it seems one is available. Is any one out there using them?
In fact, Coker states in their catalogue that radial tires on bias ply tire rims may damage the rims because the old car doesn't have a "radial tuned suspension". Does anybody really worry about this?

Problems I see:
The radials do not fit in the spare tire compartment.
Car towing dollys seem to have a minimum tread width of 40" and my car with the radials on it is a little narrower. I can get the car on the dolly but the tires are squeezed and pinched a bit. I'm wondering if bias ply tires would solve this problem? Or, is there a dolly out there that works for these smaller cars? Or do I need to modify a dolly?
The radials just don't look original. It seems this is less an issue with this car than with my old Packard.
No, I'm not racing the car so it's just a driver. Any insight into this issue would be welcome.

Howard Petri

Radials and strong coffee,or bias and 6 beers.
Being silly of course,but there is some truth to what I said. I have a brand new set of dunlops with bias in storage. I will only use them for show,any play in your steering will be compounded with bias.Radials were an option on some late TR3's.The thrill of driving at speed on bias plys and hitting a groove in the road in a cut down door TR3 is not to be forgotten...Oh and then there is rain...

I used bias ply tires from new on my 1958 TR3A. When I did my body-off resoration in 1987 to 1990, I bought 5 Michelin 165-15 radials and drove over 40,000 miles with them. I never got more than 20,000 out of the bias tires. Then I bought 165-15 Kelly-Springfield Centred radials and got 23,000 miles out of these. The mode of failure was tread separation - felt I was driving over speed bumps. Now I have about 5,000 on Vredestein 165-15 radials I never had a flat with the radials. I use the 5th Michelin 165-15 as my spare and it goes in the spare wheel well with a bit of rotating as I put it in and pull it out. Some will put on a smaller tire for the spare. Many do not carry a spare tire but take along a can of puncture repair spray. Then they have more luggage space too.

The bias tires that are available are used mainly on trailer cars for shows. At any TRA or VTR concours judged national events, I have never been docked points for having radials and still manage to finish 2nd in my class after 87,000 miles since my restoration.

Don Elliott, Original Owner, TS 27489 LO (VTR 2001)
Don Elliott

If you're going to drive it, use radials. I still carry an old leftover bias ply in the spare cubby. I don't think a 5.90 bias or many 165 radials will fit in the cubby either (at least not if it has air in it). If I remember right, I had a tight fit with a 5.60 (standard on old VW bugs?).

I did get crazy the last time I put a spare in the hole. I put the smaller floor jack in and opened it up a little. Haven't checked for a while, so it probably returned to its former self and will take dynamite to get it out. A deflated spare and a can (2?) of fix-a-flat may be the best insurance.

If you doubt our advice about radials, drive over to Wyatt's and try his bias set for an hour or less. You'll be a believer for sure.

Well thank you gentlemen. It looks like radials it will be. I rather suspected that nobody really drove with bias plys on TR3's anymore.
Interesting that a 5.90 bias won't fit in the spare wheel well. I have an old original bias ply in the spare hole now. It fits and I guess it will do as a spare. I'll check on the size to see what it is that fits in there.
Anybody have any suggestions on the dolly problem? I hate to pinch the tires when I haul it around. I know, just drive it to the event. Thing is, if the car breaks down, I can get it home.

Howard Petri

Howard - I have driven "TRusty" more than 87,000 miles in the last 15 summers. I drove 600 miles to join up with a fellow TR3A owner in Windsor, Ontario (across from Detroit) and we drove together to Portland, Oregon for the VTR National in 2000. That trip was over 7,200 miles. In 2001, I "convoyed" alone to Colorado for VTR in Breckenridge. That trip was over 5,200 miles. I was awarded 2nd in the judged concours at both events, just ahead of recent restorations that were trailered there.

If your TR is maintained correctly and you take care of it, it will take care of you. The best place to work on your TR is not on the edge of the highway at night in the rain, but in your own garage - before you leave home. At the TRA Nationls in Auburn Indiana in 2003, I took 2nd and drove from Montreal and back. In 2004, I drove to Virginia for the TR Races at VIR, then to Springfield, Ohio for the TRA National event where I took 2nd again. I drove home in one day (792 miles) and got home by 8:15 in the evening.

And I don't have a CB or a cell phone. But I have overdrive.

You shouldn't need a dolly.

Don Elliott, Original Owner, TS 27489 LO

Don Elliott

Yes I know, I should just go ahead and drive it. That's why I have it.
I checked my bias ply spare, it's an old Firestone 5.60-15. I guess that's why it fits in there.

Howard Petri

Don I just looked at the pics of your car which is very nice. Hoosier pass huh. I don't think I've been over that one. What highway is it on?
Howard Petri

It's on Route 9, 11 miles south of Breckenridge, Colorado. Breckenridge is on #9, south of the junction with Interstate 70 at Frisco.
Don Elliott

Restored my car back in 95 and put on wide whitewall Bias plys, c/w inner tube for my 60 spoke chrome wheels, which lasted me 8 years and some 17K miles before I began to feel unsafe because of uneven tread wear.
Last year I changed over to radials and what a difference it made especially at speed! .... never changed the original spare (mounted on a regular steel rim cas a wire won't fit in the spare tire compartment) however and when I picked up a nail on a Sunday night goin through Toledo OH last summer on the way back from the VTR convention in IL (where I placed 2nd in concours), I had to resort to the spare which hadn't been driven on in probably 25 years. Blew and shredded that one after about 50 miles and ended up spending the night in Youngstown.

Moral of the story: Radials are super and make a BIG difference.... but don't forget the spare!


P.S. Don never has exciting stuff like that happen to him in his travels, I think original owners get treated differently by their cars than 2nd 3rd 4th and 5th owners :)
barry shefner

BTW, a radial will fit in the rear on a steel rim if you put a jack (preferrably a floor type one)into the tire compartment and cover the top and bottom of the jack with a peice of plywood so that the "jaws" and wheels don't leave any marks and the pressure is more even.
You raise the jack GENTLY and expand the compartment a touch. Whilst it will push the trunk floor up slightly, it is not noticeable. BTW I now have a new radial in the spare tire compartment.
barry shefner

This thread was discussed between 05/01/2006 and 05/02/2006

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