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What is the difference between the two?
The main difference lies in the tire's construction. The basic carcass of all tires is made up of layers of rubber permeated fabric. These layers are referred to as plies, and the most common fabric used today is polyester. The method or the “direction” these plies are applied, with relations to each other and to the center line of the tread, differentiates between a “bias” and a “radial” tire. The plies on a bias tire run approximately 45 degrees to the center line of the tread, alternating in direction with each layer; thus, they crisscross or run in 90 degree angles to each other. This design or style of construction was common on all tires provided as original equipment, on U.S. built cars, until the early 1970’s. The plies on a radial tire run 90 degrees to the center line of the tire and basically overlap instead of crisscrossing. This new design, actually developed during the Second World War , allows the side walls of the tire to be more “flexible” which provides less rolling resistance, providing better gas mileage, and longer tread life. This “flex” also promotes better adherence to the road, thus better handling on both wet and dry surfaces. The radial tire found early acceptance in Europe, and finally became standard equipment on most U.S. passenger cars by 1974.
Physical comparison of the older style “bias ply” tire and the modern style “radial ply” tire also reflects a change in “aspect ratio”, seen in the relationship of the height and width of the tire cavity. The cavity of the earliest tires was basically round, 100 aspect ratio (inflate an inner tube outside of the tire and its’ cavity is basically round; the height and the width of the cavity are the same). Through the years, most bias ply tires had an 82 aspect ratio; the height of the cavity was 82% of the width, wider than the earliest tires but still some what tall and skinny. Profiles changed in the mid 1960’s to 78 and even70 aspect ratios providing lower profile tires with more tread face on the road and shorter side walls, a little “firmer” ride but more “responsive” handling. When the Radial tires came on the scene they were built with the lower aspect ratios, therefore we generally acquaint bias ply tires as tall and skinny, while the radial tires are considered short and wide.
As the aspect ratios decreased (tires became shorter and wider), tire engineers determined that “belts” could be layered under the tread to provide better tread face integrity. These belts were originally constructed of rubber permeated fiberglass mesh; we referred to them as “fiberglass belts”, then later steel mesh; which we refer to today as “steel belts”. Bias ply tires were “belted” during the 1960’s, particularly on the lower aspect ratio “performance tires”, but for the most part, in our minds, we only correlate belted tires, more specifically “steel belted” tire with modern radials.
So what does all this mean to you as an antique or collector car owner?
It actually means a lot. The bias ply tire offers originality, a concept that is foundational to our hobby whether you have a completely original car or a customized street rod. The bias ply tire has, and continues to provide utility service and esthetic appeal for folks who desire a period look and originality. They are as safe and reliable, even more so today with modern materials, as they ever were, and let’s face it; we drove on bias ply tires for over 70 years on much worse roads they we have today.
Is the radial tire better?
Of course it is. It’s the “new improved” tire. In fact, it’s a better tire today than it was when it was first introduced as Original Equipment in 1973. Its design is better for road and hwy use. It is safer; it provides higher gas mileage, longer tread life, and better handling. How much safer, how much higher, how much longer, and how much better? It depends on the specific vehicle, how much it is driven and most importantly, how it is driven. Should you install radial tires instead of the original bias ply? This question ultimately has to be answered by the owner of the vehicle. It comes down to form over function; is it worth what you gain by installing radial tires compared to what you give up by not installing original style tires.
Bias Ply to Radial Conversion Chart
Coker Bias/Radial Conversion
Ref: Coker Tire
Quick Tip: If your building a 1955 Chevy and are going to run the stock drums; replace your master cylinder with a 1968 Chevelle drum/drum master cylinder. This will give you a dual output for independent control for front and rear drums. Adds a surety of safety to your Hot Rod.
Look for VM Tech Article on this installation.
Note: Sample Photo of Chevy master cylinder
I left off with the removal of the existing rusty metal. This piece, which acts as a 'drip rail' to keep moisture from the fan and fresh air vents. It had to be removed to get access to the bad metal. Here it is removed on the VM welding bench.
Once the old rusty metal is removed, take a pattern off the existing piece(s) using cardbboard. If the old sheetmetal overlaps, try to drill out the spotwelds. When you install the new metal, [like you see here] it should be installed in the same way it was taken out.
After the new sheetmetal has been installed, the firewall had to be patterned and installed.
Here you can see the piece being installed. When welding, be sure to weld in short runs. This will limit the warping. You can see each run from each of the heat marks. Of Course, during the install, I did hammer and dolly the weld seams to keep the metal straight.
Now the piece is installed. I did not weld in the holes to show you. After welded in, it will give the effect of a spot-weld like original.
Install your old driprail if its usable. I opted to weld in the larger holes. Since you wont see the piece, asthetics wasnt a worry for me. When this piece is installed as you see it, each seam will need to be sealed so water/moisture wont pass through to the fan and fresh air vent. If done properly, it should work as new.
Now that all the pieces are back in place, coat the inside with POR-15 to seal it tightly from moisture and remove the thread of rust in the future. This will add another 10 - 15 years to your Chevy.
Let the POR-15 dry, then replace the outer tank skin. Good as new.
I did find a replacement skin from Danchuck, but each side was $175.00 each. Pricey. Total cost of this work; $20 worth of 18 ga. sheetmetal, and about 8 total hours to complete.
Now get out there and build!
Today I want to feature a few pictures of some of my favorite Gassers; old and new. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.
If you have a picture of one of your cars and would like it to flash on Vintage Metal, Please email a few and a brief or detailed description on it; and VM will post it here for everyone to enjoy.
Thanks for looking and part II to 55 Chevy drain tank repair coming next!
I decided tonight to go work on the car and decided to start on the firewall. It had some 'crispy' areas on it. I opened the inspection cover on top of the cowl (under the front fender) and noticed some dirt and debris inside. I knew what caused the rust build up, this was a sad confirmation. Look at the build up of dirt and debris like old leaves, pine needles and cotton from little critters that I pushed out. Water gets trapped in this stuff and eats away the bare metal.
I started to scrape at the rust and it kept flaking off piece by piece. I started to Poke at it more to get it loose and noticed the inside had some major problems as well. So, I ground off the face of the firewall where the problem is at and I cut the outside of the drain tank ... well, take a look at what I found. Nasty, but typical (sigh). Time to get to work and get it fixed. Don't want to get water on my wifes feet.
If you look inside, there is a 'drip rail' that directs water around the vent openings and fan inlet. It was in rough shape as well, but still usable. In order to get to the rusty metal, it has to be removed. Look what I found behind it. EEK!
I cut out the firewall section next so I can get better access inside the drain area. This would have had to been replaced anyways; so...get it out of the way.
To make this process a little eaiser, I like to keep the factory curves or edges. Welding to these areas are much better than flat panel spots, which can cause 'oil canning'. In areas like this, you dont have the luxury to use a hammer and dolly to straighten it out.
Always try to cut your pieces out cleanly so you can use them to make your patterns. I make my patterns from thick 'chip board'. It can be picked up at your local upholstery supply store.
Stay tuned for more on this project.
Although all Fords looked nearly identical during the 1949-1951 model years the cars themselves were dramatically changed underneath. The reason was that the '49 was a dog of a machine that rode poorly, rattled and shook, and was fraught with defects. During its 17-month production run it caused nothing but trouble for the company, but well over a million of them were sold to a public starved for new cars.
By the 1950 model year's fall of '49 introduction, Ford engineers had solved most of the major problems with the cars. The loosy-goosey '49's frame and body were stiffened and thickened in many areas, body sealer was pumped into weld joints, door weatherstrip was redesigned and the front end was re-engineered. The old one, Ford's first fully independent front suspension, was impossible to align so the '50 model was given the addition of a redesigned torsional stabilizer and a bunch of other tweaks. The rear springs were relocated as well in a response to customer complaints about bouncy ride.
The gas filler neck was removed from the body and put behind a little flap door and the bumpers were strengthened to allow the cars to be jacked up. Many earlier '49 Fords were attempted to be jacked up at the side of the road, only to find the bumpers and brackets bending hopelessly out of place and the wheel still on the ground.
Many other refinements were put into the 1950 models in an attempt to keep customers from going over to Chevrolet and, for the most part, the result was quite acceptable. The base engine was the same flathead inline 6 from earlier years. It was a very good engine that put out 95 horsepower. The venerable flathead V8 was optional. It put out 100 horsepower and didn't suffer the piston-slap and timing gear problems of earlier engines.
Sedans and business coupes were upholstered in striped gray fabric or broadcloth, but customers could opt to get the same thing in tan. Vinyl was used on the sides and tops of seats and the door panels were done in the same material as the seats. Headliners too were done in broadcloth and the stamped-steel instrument panels were done in either gray or tan. These were the days of rubber floor mats, by the way, and only the very top-end models offered carpet. "Magic-Air" heaters were optional too.
The 1950 model lineup included 2-door and four-door sedans, business coupes, convertibles and station wagons. The top of the line was the Crestliner, a gussied-up and heavily trimmed model that very few people bought because Ford didn't advertise it in any noticeable way, and it was about $200 more expensive than the other models. That was a lot of money in 1950.
1950 Fords were basic cars. Transmission offerings were limited to the 3-speed manual (three on the tree!) with an optional overdrive that was touted as "automatic," in the sense that it would cut in at speeds above 27 mph and return to normal below about 20 mph. Tires were 6.00 X 16, which was typical of the day. Whitewalls were a big deal back then, but tire life was pitiful by today's standards. Ten-thousand miles was a long, long life for a tire.