I always wanted to write a book about what I know about this business, and I think you're really going to enjoy this. I'm about to share some information with you that my competitors are going to wish I didn't. You’re not only going to find it very interesting, but this book is actually going to change the way you buy tyres, and that's not just a bunch of hype. You’re about to be a more educated buyer, and like they say — "Knowledge is power." Maybe you're thinking, Who's Bill Chapman, and what makes HIM such an authority? And that's a fair enough question. I've been in the tyre manufacturing business ever since 1965 as a kid working in my family's tyre retreading business (you remember retreads,right)? Well, in 1995, I decided to combine my insatiable love of old cars and my 30 years experience in tyre-building techniques to specialize in producing whitewall tyres that were better than anything on the market. That was the beginning of Diamond Back ClassicRadials. Today, our tyres are second-to-none in quality and looks, and they can be found on everything from the most expensive cars at Pebble Beach to the hottest, hardest-driven hot rods and muscle cars in the country. From whitewalls to redlines, our radials deliver pure performance.And no, they aren't retreads…that business is long gone. These tyres are brand new, hand-made, custom-finished whitewall tyres, and every tyre we sell is built by the major tyre manufacturers — Firestone, Goodyear, Bridgestone, Michelin, Cooper, and the like. So now maybe you're thinking, But those big tyre companies don't make classic whitewalls and redlines…how can that be? I'm going to explain it all to you. I'll tell you exactly how we can offer beautiful classic car tyres to you that are manufactured exclusively by the big name companies.I’m also going to share some inside information with you that very few people know. And now, enjoy the book with my compliments!
Inside the SpecialtyTyre Business
What classic tyre makers don’t want you to know
Car on the cover:
Pete Santini’s modified 2006 Chrysler 300 SEMA showcar,
with 20” Diamond Back Radials
The Name Game:
Things are not always as they appear. Did you ever buy tyres for your classic car from a specialty tyre company, with a "Big Brand Name" on the sidewall? I'm sure you felt good about that. After all, you thoughtyou bought the best. Or wait a minute...did you? Like most folks, you assumed you bought a tyre made by the tyre company whose name is on the sidewall. Well, if it was a whitewall, redline, or similar specialty sidewall tyre with a big manufacturer's name on it, it’s unlikely that they made it! Here's what I’m talking about:The big-name U.S. tyre manufacturers are always taking old molds out of service for various reasons. When they are no longer useful to those big-name companies, they are often sold. These molds are then replaced with new ones that operate better and make a better tyre. So who buys those old molds? Classic tyre companies, among others. The molds are then placed in small factories, many of which are in foreign countries. Now they’re made privately, but with that big brand name still on the side. It’s all legal. But the tires are not made by who you think. I’ll just say this: Radial tires have to be precisely built, and the molds must operate perfectly, so I don't think it's a good idea to re-use molds that no longer meet factory standards. My feeling is if they were so good, why would they be replacing them? The truth is, the major manufacturers won't use outdated equipment.So the original radial tyre molds are taken out of production, and they are sold. They are then used by a small manufacturer to make tyres with the big company's name still on them,which they do under license. Then you end up buying the tyres, and you never know the difference. Naturally, the sellers of these tyres aren't going to tell you they're building the tyres themselves. Why would they? So just don't assume the name on the sidewall tells you who made the tyre. It doesn’t. Always ask. It’s also doubtful that tyres made under license are going to be equal in technology and quality to the ones made in the big-name tyre company's own factory. So do smaller tyre manufacturers have the most modern equipment? I don't claim to knoweverything, but knowing the above (and judging from some of the tyres I see in the market), I would have to say I don’t think so. In fact, I’d even guess that some of the classic radials currently being produced are made in small factories using bias ply technology.Nobody's ever going to admit to it, of course...but the possibility exists. Nobody is really looking over anyone’s shoulder. We can all agree that when the big-name companies build tyres, their processes are not at question. They do spend a ton of money on quality control. And that makes us feel safe. So — which tyres would you rather have under your car? And knowing what you now know, why would you ever settle for a "licensed" tyre when you can have the real thing…and usually for less money?! We’ll come to pricing in a minute. But first, I want to give you some other information you should know.
Radials or bias ply tires for your classic?
Some purists think they want bias ply tyres on their classic car because they look like the original style tyres. Just hold on. Unless you don’t intend to drive the car (except maybe to an occassional show near home), you should be driving on radials. Why? Because they’re much safer. Let’s face it, you’ve got a lot rolling on those tyres. I’m not just talking about your investment, but the safety of you and your family. Radial tyres respond much better in an emergency, and that’s critical with all the cars on the road today. In fact, radials just may save your life. In a quick maneuver, the tyre tread stays in full contact with the road because of the tyre’s construction, giving you maximum control. The radial’s sidewalls can flex, which is what keeps the rubber in contact with the road surface. Bias plies can’t do that, so they inherently handle poorly, and in an emergency, you can easily lose control of the car. Here’s a list of advantages over bias ply tyres.You can decide for yourself if they belong on your car.• Faster response and better control• Easier steering effort• Smoother ride• Less road shock is felt• Less wandering, straighter tracking • Much better puncture resistance• Less rolling resistance, better MPG• Better emergency braking • Better traction on wet roads• Longer tread life As you can see, radial tires are a smart decision. Anything else doesn’t make sense. The use of tubes. Never run tubes. That’s like stepping back 40 years in technology. If you still insist on bias ply tyres, just make sure they’re tubeless. The chance of a tube failing is much greater than a tubeless tyre failure. Why? Tubes create heat and friction, and don’t dissipate heatwell...and a tyre’s worst enemy is heat. Also, over time, tubes “grow” and become too large, and they actually develop creases — and then they split. If a tube is punctured or fails, air loss is immediate, giving you little or no time at all to react. They’re dangerous.Often, a tubeless tyre can be driven for a while with a puncture. My advice is to take all tubes to the swimming pool where they belong. Now, there’s one case where you may have absolutely no choice, and that’s with wirewheels, because the inner spokes protrude into the rim. In most cases, there’s a rubber liner covering the spoke ends. Some manufacturers offer tubeless wire wheels, and my advice is to try to get those. If you have to run tubes, just be sure the spoke ends are covered. Remember that if (and when) your tube is punctured by a spoke end, the loss of air is going to be immediate and without warning. Hang on. What about mixing bias ply tires with radials? My first question is, “Why would you want to?” But yes, you can drive the car down the road, but remember...in the event that you must execute a serious emergency maneuver,you can easily lose control of the car and the results could be disastrous. The two different tyres have vastly different handling characterisics, and a loss of adhesion in either the front or rear could mean loss of control. The difference in the performance characteristics of the two types of tyres is enormous. So this is an unsafe practice.
The basics of Tiremaking.
By now, you're probably wondering how Diamond Back can promise you a genuine, current-style brand name tyre with any width whitewall, redline, blueline, etc. After all, you can’t walk into your local Goodyear dealer and have a set of 17” 40-series redlines mounted on your car. So how can we offer them and where do they come from? I mentioned earlier I've been building tyres since I was kid. While I may not know much about a lot of things, there’s one thing I know more about than most people, and that’s the tyre vulcanizing process. Been around it pretty much all my life. It’s what binds all the parts of a tyre together. Tyres are made in layers. Even the bead where it seals to the rim is a separate part. It's like making a giant sandwich, then the whole thing is heated and compressed for a pre-set period of time, and what pops out of the mold is a "vulcanized" tyre. It permanently bonds a tyre's parts together using heat, pressure, and time. The whole process was discovered by Charles Goodyear. The two whitewall manufacturing methods.There are really two ways to make a whitewall radial tyre. You can do it while you’re actually making the tyre, or you can add the whitewall to a finished tyre as a final step.Remember, white rubber is just ornamental, and has nothing to do with strength or performance. The advantage to adding it after the tyre is made is that you can put a whitewall or color stripe on any tire you want, including 17”, 18” and 20” tires — and with much tighter quality control. The versatility is endless and tyres are all current production. This is how we do it at Diamond Back. We’re simply the “final step”. We buy truckloads of current production tyres from the major tyre makers. So let's say we're going to make you a set of whitewalls out of some brand new 235/75R-15 Firestone Supremes.
Here’s how we do it...Step #1: Preparation We start by mounting the new tyre on a special machine that spins it at high speed. Using our own special attachments, we rough up the sidewall surface so it’s no longer perfectly smooth. The tyre then goes on to where a special bonding agent is applied to the sidewall area that prepares the tire for the vulcanization process. The whitewall material is about 1/8" thick. A special machine accurately applies the white-wall material on the prepared sidewall, working all around the tyre, and then it’s set aside .It may also look like a “redwall” if it’s going to be a redline.
The next stop is into the vulcanization room..............Scuffing the sidewall.....................White rubber being applied bya special machine.Redline rubber applied.
A whole section of our plant is devoted to the vulcanization equipment that makes the whitewall a permanent part of the tyre. Because the vulcanization process is so effective,if you tried to separate the whitewall from the tyre afterward, the tyre itself would become damaged. It's a marriage that lasts forever…a very permanent bond. Our biggest competitors tell folks that Diamond Back's whitewalls are "glued on".They’ve even told people they’re painted on, and even “ground out” — whatever that’supposed to mean (I have to admit, I’ve never been able to figure that one out). They say this to make us look foolish, so you’ll think we glue whitewalls onto tyres using contact cement. It's not a true thing to tell people, but at least now you know that vulcanization isn’t “gluing on”. It’s the process every tire company uses to build tires. Remember, our competitors don’t sell genuine brand names, but rather, the "licensed" tires that they have made with the old molds. The last thing they want is for you to call us! So if you forget everything else, just remember that once the whitewall is vulcanized to the tyre, it's on there forever (just try pulling one off the tyre sometime).
The vulcanizing room never stops.These machines line the walls around the entire room, with tires waiting in the center for the next machine to become available. The vulcanizing operator shown here continually moves all around the room, cycling tires in and out of the machines. Each one is on a timer, with pressure and heat carefully controlled.
Trimming the whitewall.
After vulcanization, the material has to be trimmed to the exact desired width, depending on what you order. Whether it's a 2 ¼" whitewall for a '57 T-Bird or a 3 ½" whitewall for that big 30's classic, it makes no difference. The fronts and rears can be matched in white-wall width even if your tyres are different sizes (as with hot rod big & little combinations).That's the nice part about trimming each whitewall or redline to order. The trimming process is very precise, and all widths are held to close tolerence. Once the trimming is complete, a series of finishing steps in the final process makes them nice and smooth. The sidewall of the tyre may even undergo further enhancement options, if it's what you want. Because we have the tyre spinning at high speed, we can do just about anything to the sidewall while we have it on the machine. Customized sidewalls are another thing we do. Some of the high-end car builders who buy Diamond Backs like tyres that no longer look like “production tyres”, so we smooth the sidewalls... a very custom touch. Another advantage to high speed finishing is that it immediately shows us if there’s any kind of problem with the tyre’s trueness (runout). The operator can spot it right away and he simply rejects the tyre. It seldom happens.
Special sidewall treatments.
Smoothing-out the sidewalls of the tyres gives them a really customized "polished" look.It also makes them look like a true "show tyre". We get a lot of guys who are putting a car together for events like the Detroit Autorama or the L.A. Roadster Show, and standard tyres are not even good enough for some of those cars. All this final work is performed entirely by hand, and our hand-finishing department is responsible for making sure your tires look like a million bucks…not production tyres that just get popped out of a mold.Here’s another thing a lot of folks don’t know. Let's say you have an open-wheel hot rod like a deuce highboy. Maybe you want whitewalls on the inside of the front tyres, too.That's right…whitewalls on both sides of the tyre. If that's what you want, we just turn the tyre around and do the same thing on the other side, then vulcanize it all at once. So tyres with a whitewall on both sides aren't even a problem here. You now have a big name tyre that we like to say has gone through the "final step". It's a tyre customization process, really. We simply take a modern, top-quality tyre and transform it into a classic car tyre by doing what big tire companies won't take the time to do. You end up with the best tyre you ever saw, and we end up with a customer for life. And you're also riding around on a set of true brand-name tyres…actually made by the company whose name is on the sidewall. So now you know how we do it.
A high speed whitewall trimming attachment cuts the exact width specified by the customer.
A hand-finishing operation produces a smooth, shiny finish. Now he’s blowing the rubber dust off the tire.
The redline band is trimmed into whatever style the customer orders. This tire is going on a ‘66 highperformance Mustang. A very hot look.
Redline tires are a specialty at Diamond Back. Here’swhat a redline looks like beforewe hand-finish it.
Why Diamond Back whitewalls don’t turn yellow.
Why whitewalls eventually lose their whiteness and start to look yellow is no mystery. It happens because the chemicals from the black rubber eventually leach into the whitewall rubber. Then, over time, those chemicals will bleed right through to the surface of the softer white rubber, where light and air turn them yellow over their entire surface. But I have an answer to that problem. A few years back, I came up with a way to keep all that from happening. It involves a white rubber formula that I developed myself, and now,that formula is a closely guarded secret (like that famous fried chicken recipe). Today, our whitewall material is actually made up of three layers, not just one.The bottom layer is black rubber for maximum adhesion to the tyre’s sidewall. It’s the exact same rubber formulation they use to make truck retreads — very strong stuff. That’s because “like materials” bond best. In the middle is a special butyl barrier layer. The butyllayer blocks the staining chemicals that will try to come through from the back. Nothing can pass through this layer. The white “face” layer itself is made up of my own white rubber formula. This is why Diamond Back claims its whitewalls are whiter, and that they will also stay whiter. It’s not an empty claim, and I don’t take it lightly — and neither should you. I just wanted you to know how we can make that claim in our marketing and advertsing. I say it because it’s true. I know you want whitewalls that will stay white. It's really a shame to buy a new set of whitewall tyres just because the old ones don’t look white anymore — especially when there's a whole lot of tread left. Sure, I want to sell you a lot of tyres over the years, but not because they got yellow. How about because they hold up so well that you’d never consider anything else? I’d like that better.The price advantage.Adding the whitewall to an already finished tire as a “final step” makes the initial construction of the tyre less complex, and less expensive. We buy tyres from the major tyremakers — literally by the trailer load — and can process them in our plant and get them out the door for less than a company can build them the “other way”. And remember,these are quality brand name tyres. We convert literally hundreds of tyres to whitewalls every single day in our plant with extreme efficency. With so many tyres going out, our cost per tire is lower, so our finished yires are generally less in price than our competition’s. There just isn’t a more cost-effective way to build a whitewall or redline tyre.
When they leave, they look quite a bit different than when they arrived from the major manufacturer.
Tyres come into the receiving area by the trailer load, and are selected as needed.
What ruins whitewall tires.
If you have your car serviced and the tires have to be removed for any reason, be sure you are there to supervise how they are handled. Chemical agents such as oils and grease can affect the white rubber to cause permanent problems. And guess what will cause permanent staining of whitewalls? Stacking tyres with the black side of one tyre against the whitesidewall of another! Remember what I said about how chemicals from black rubber willl each into white rubber? Well, there is no protective barrier on the outside of the whiterubber, so if the tires are stacked one on another, or even leaned against one another, it can happen very fast. It looks like a brown stain — and it’s permanent. All the cleaning agents in the world won’t get rid of it. What it means is that you should never leave your whitewall tyres unattended in a serviceshop. They might get moved and stacked. Also, be sure to tell the service technicians right up front not to touch the whitewall itself with greasy, dirty hands! And speaking of ruining whitewall tyres, right here is the perfect place to mention how NOT to clean your whitewalls. If you want to ruin them over time, one of the best ways is to use cleaners that contain bleach. Yep...whitewall cleaner. Now you’re probably thinking “But I’ve always used whitewall cleaner.” Yes, it gets them clean alright, but what you will notice over time is that the whitewalls start to get dried out and lose that nice“smooth and shiney” surface quality(which also makes them easy to clean). If your whitewalls are dried out already, that’s probably why. Instead of whitewall cleaner, use a soap pad or a scrubby sponge with a cleaning agent like 409, Simple Green, etc. And never use tire coatings on the whitewall. They can cause discoloration, too. A tyre size cross reference chart you’ll find handy.If you have an older classic car, you probably know the car’s original tyre size, but not how to cross reference it to a modern tyre size. Or, maybe you know the diameter of the tyre you want. I’ve prepared a table here for you to use as a quick reference. Notice that as you read across, each line represents the same basic tyre size, all the way from left to right.You might want to make a copy of this chart and tape it to your tool box or inside a cabinet door, where it will be easy to get your hands on whenever you need it.
Diamond Back Classics Tyre Size Conversion Table
Everybody knows speed rated tyres are safer. All radials are speed rated, which is another reason to buy them. Here’s a comprehensive list of speed ratings...another handy reference for you to have when you’re considering the purchase of a set of tyres.
Note: Speed ratings are given only after completion of successful testing at the indicated speed for a period of no less than 24 hours.
Rim width and tire size.
Most cars in the 50’s and 60’s had rims that were only between 5” and 5-1/2” wide. That’s pretty narrow by today’s standards. And by the way, the rim width is measured inside the rim flange with the tyre off, and not to the outer edges of the rim ! It’s never a good idea to put a fat radial on one of these old narrow rims. Yes, it can be done, but your tyre should sit on the rim in a “relaxed” position. Pick a tire that has a tread width measurement witin an inch either way of your rim’s width, and you’ll be safe. If you want fatter tyres, you really should install them on wider rims. The wrong size rim can change the crown radius(shape of the tread), and that will cause the tyre to wear badly.
If you find aspect ratios confusing, you’re not alone, so let’s simplify it with a diagram.Aspect ratio is nothing more than the relationship between the tyre’s sidewall height and the cross section of the tyre. The cross section is the width of the tyre where it bulges out the most — not the tread width. As an example, all tires with a 215 size designation have the same section width of 215 mm, or 8.5 inches — but not necessarily the same treadwidth, sidewall height, or load capacity. So, all 215’s are are not interchangeable. The diagram below shows how four 15-inch, 215-size tires can differ from one another,because of different aspect ratios. Notice how the height of a 215 size tyre changes as we go from a 75 series to a 70 series, 65 series, and 60 series tyre. Easier to understand?
A fourth-generation family business.
Diamond Back Classics has evolved from a tyre retread manufacturer back when I worked for my dad, to becoming what is now a premier whitewall tyre producer for the classic car hobby. I built this company on the ethics and values my dad taught me. Now my childrenwork for their dad, just as I did. I’ve taught them to treat people just like my dad taught me — with respect and courtesy. And there’s one other thing I taught them that’s just as important: Always be better than your competition! We’ll do everything we can to make you feel right at home when you call, and we want you to be glad you called us. I’ve always believed that the most important thing in operating any business is customer satisfaction, so we try to make everybody feel like they’re a part of the family. We thank you for your business.
“It was just another old truck...til I put on Diamond Back Radials.”
“World’s Most Beautiful Tires”