Most Vintage racing organizations require D.O.T. (Dept. of Transportation) approved racing tires to be used. DOT approved tires are treaded instead of being slicks, and are therefore street legal. The reasons for the rule are twofold: 1) these tires keep to the theme of vintage production car racing by imitating what was used “back in the day”, and 2) treaded tires provide less grip than slicks, thereby putting less stress on the older race cars’ suspension and steering components. The problem with the second theory is that modern DOT racing tires provide far more traction than even the slicks of forty years ago due to the far superior rubber compounds available today. The treads on current DOT race tires range from a full-tread street tire style design, to just two circumferential grooves (what we used to call cheater slicks). Examples are the Toyo Proxes RA1 on the left, and the Kumho Ecsta V710 on the right.
DOT race tires come in both bias ply and radial design. I used to race on bias ply tires and while they provide a little less grip, they release their maximum grip in a smoother manner. The gradual slides they produce are easier on the cars, make for a lot of fun to drive, and again, more closely imitate the racing of “days gone by”. This is why some Vintage organizations even require the use of bias ply tires. The Hoosier Vintage TD is an example of this type of bias ply race tire.
Maximum tire size requirements vary with each club. Some Vintage organizations require the same size tire as came with the vehicle when manufactured, some use a “plus 1” rule, where the diameter and width may be one inch larger than originally used. And some clubs just have a max tire size rule regardless of OEM specifications. However, most all Vintage race groups do not allow tire sidewalls shorter than a 50 series so as to prevent the high loads and modern looks of today’s super-low profile race tires. Follow this link to a conversion table between old alph-numeric tire sizes (C60-13) and modern metric sizing (215/60-13).
There are essentially three ways to shod your race car with tires. The first is to use your trackside tire provider. The cost is sometimes a bit more, but the convenience and help available from a trackside vendor can be worth it. Second, you can use a local tire shop. Your tire choices might be more limited, but you will be working with a business that you may have already built a relationship with. And third, you can order your tires online, having them shipped directly to you, and then find your own way to have them mounted. I am currently using this third method, and using Discount Tires Direct as my vendor. They provide the least expensive pricing for the tires I use, they provide free shipping, and they usually seem to have fresh tires in stock (yes, some race tires have been sitting in a warehouse for years, so don’t be afraid to ask). I then have them mounted by my local tire shop, Phil’s Tires in Half Moon Bay, as they help sponsor my racing habit through a discount on their services and have a former racer on staff that understands my needs.
Over the past ten seasons I have used several brands of tires on my race cars. All of the modern DOT race tires provide incredible traction, and if you have a brand that you are loyal to, you can’t go wrong. However, if cost is not an issue, the superior tire that I have used is the Hoosier R6. It provides the highest level of grip, warms up quickly, and has good wear characteristics. But while they provide the most grip initially, they seem to fall off a little quicker as well. As a budget conscious racer, I try to get a few weekends out of a set of tires, and while the Hoosiers may be faster the first weekend, they do not seem to be that way the second and third weekends. The Toyo, Kumho, and BFG race tires I have used were all good tires as well. But the tire I have used more than any other is the Hankook Z214 C51. In my opinion, it is by far the biggest ‘bang for the buck’ in DOT racing tires. A set of R6s cost me well over $1000, while the Z214s are about $700. And while they might be a second a lap slower the first weekend, they seem to hold that same level for a couple weekends before falling off. If I was in a points battle for the last race of the season, I might pony up for some Hoosier R6s, but for great racing season after season, I’m sticking with the Hankooks.
Read another post about race tires.