Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Associate Editor
3/18/14 9:23 a.m.

Enthusiasts pore over nearly every inch of their cars. You make sure the paint is shiny, the engine runs perfectly, and the interior is spotless. If something isn’t right, you know it. Your cars are your babies, and you’ll do everything conceivable to keep them in tiptop shape.

But many owners still overlook the four most important parts of their cars: the tires. Relegated to an afterthought of classic car ownership, tires are a car’s only link to the road, and they are just as important on a weekend toy as they are on a daily commuter. Tires are to cars what foundations are to buildings; without good ones, things could go horribly wrong. How many skyscrapers are built on cracked, substandard foundations? Few, or at least few that are still around today.

The situation gets worse when modern roads–and the modern cars that frequent them–are brought into the equation. Classic cars need to be able to safely stop and turn as quickly as their modern counterparts, but they lack the brakes and suspension to make that possible. Classics also need to soak up the bumps and potholes that come with an aging infrastructure, in spite of their delicate nature.

Good rubber can hide these weaknesses, making a classic car safer, more reliable and more enjoyable. So it’s odd that the only factors most people consider when it comes to tires are cost and appearance. New tires look funny and cost a lot of money, so many enthusiasts just leave old tires on their old cars.

For the classic car enthusiasts who do care about performance, real data points are few and far between. There’s a wealth of information about the fastest racing rubber, but that doesn’t help Spitfire owners who spend most of their time on public roads. This raises a question: What is the best tire for the average classic car enthusiast?

There’s really only one way to make an informed decision: Round up a bunch of tires, then try out all of them–all on the same car. Obviously, the average enthusiast can’t swing this, but Classic Motorsports can.

We called Coker Tire, which has carved out a niche for itself by making vintage-looking tires that perform like their more modern counterparts. They offer antique, brand-name tires that have been remade with modern rubber. Coker offered to send us three of their top-selling brands, sized for our test car.

It wouldn’t be fair to test classic car tires without a classic car. We picked a 1956 MGA for our test mule because it represents what’s in the average Classic Motorsports reader’s garage fairly well. Our example hadn’t had any major modifications since it left the factory, and it even rode on wire wheels. We borrowed it from Wire Wheel Classic Sports Cars, a reputable classic car dealer that has always gone out of their way to help us out.

Our goal? Find the best tire of the bunch. Oh, and we should also mention that these tires are at three very different price points. Do you really get what you pay for? Or will the underdog be victorious? We headed to the Florida International Rally & Motorsport Park, a 430-acre motorsports facility in Central Florida, to find out.

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