Dec 3, 2013 update to the Pontiac Catalina Safari project car

Fresh Tires for the Wagon

Time for tires. As usual, Rossi at Orlando & Sons handled the job for us. Those are his legs behind the car.
Our new tires: the Cooper Trendsetter SE. They’re not race tires, but this line covers many classic-friendly sizes.
While the car was on the lift, we figured we’d redo the brakes. One of the front pads shed its friction material when freed from the caliper.
Despite what the books say, our Catalina Safari wagon features 12-inch rear drums, not 11s.
The new Coopers look the part and ride very nicely.

Have you tried to buy whitewalls lately? Yes, Coker offers their excellent period-correct whitewalls, but we were after something a bit more ’70s for our 1975 Pontiac Catalina Safari.

Let’s back up a minute. The tires on our car were about six years old. That’s not quite near the expiration date, but when we realized that the world wasn’t overrun with whitewalls in our size, we figured maybe we shouldn’t wait until they’re totally on the endangered list before placing an order.

Okay, what size? The owners manual says LR78x15. In modern tire-speak, that’s a 235/75R15. While a popular tire size today for light trucks, not too many passenger car tires come in that size. In fact, Tire Rack only shows four options—and none with whitewalls.

Cooper Tires had the answer for us. Or rather, they had a couple of answers.

If we were interested in doing a plus-zero upgrade—basically a shorter, fatter tire on the same rim—then the Cobra Radial G/T was very tempting. Raised white letters on a wagon? That could be very cool.

Then we realized something: We’re not that cool.

The Cooper Tires Trendsetter SE was probably more our speed. It came in our 235/75R15 size and featured that all-important whitewall—not a giant, ’50s whitewall either, but a nice, thin one that would look period-correct on our wagon. Summit Racing and others retail them for a little more than $100 each. While designed for mom-and-pop sedans, the Trendsetter comes in a range of sizes that are quite classic-friendly, including many 13-, 14- and 15-inch rim diameters.

So we ordered a set. As usual, Orlando & Sons handled the mounting and balancing. They don’t have much of a Web presence, but they’re in Ormond Beach, Florida, and you can reach them via telephone: (386) 677-9971. Rossi will take care of you.

While the car was on the lift, they also took a look at the brakes—glad they did. One of the front pads was cracked, and another had separated, with the friction materials coming off the backing plate.

The rears will have to wait, though, as no one locally had shoes for our 12-inch drums. A lot of books show an 11-inch drum for our application, but Rossi remembered these wagons getting larger rear brakes. Guess what? He was right.

We just got the tires mounted, and so far they’re stunning. Yes, we’re getting excited about some whitewalls. The Coopers ride very nicely, don’t generate any NVH, and look the part.

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