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Cross-ply or Radial Tyres: Which One is Better for Your Retro Car?


Owners of classic cars who want to keep their head turners on the road often face a dilemma: where to take both high-performance and authentic looking tyres if the tyre standards and fashion evolve inexorably leaving vintage cars without a tyre supply? Most retro cars were produced with cross-ply (bias-ply) tyres in mind. So today their owners are forced either to move against the time and stay faithful to the bias-ply authentic look or to switch over to safer modern radial tyres.

Which type of tyres is the most winning for enthusiast cars in terms of handling? Specialists from online shops specializing in tyres and other automotive parts and explain the pros and cons of each choice.

old chevy truck on dirt road through wheat fields

Cross-ply and radial tyres: differences in construction and handling

One thing that hasn’t changed about tyres is that they are still made of multiple layers of rubber fabric. The difference between radials and bias-ply tyres lies in the way manufacturers applied these layers in relation to the tread’s centre line and to each other. Cars that left factories in the 1950s or 1960s were equipped with cross-ply tyres where layers of rubber crisscrossed and ran 45 degrees to the centre line of the tyre’s tread. Tyres produced in the 1970s and later have a radial construction: their plies run at right angles to the centre line overlapping.

Modern radials are considered to be safer because of a lower profile and a wider tread (a bigger footprint means a better traction). So if you don’t want to compromise your safety, especially on wet pavements, radials are your option. But in comparison with cross-ply tyres, radials are clumsier and rougher in handling.

Being thinner and taller, bias-ply tyres are adored by classic car enthusiasts for their soft and less noisy performance, which can be explained by additional flexes of taller sidewalls when cornering, especially at higher speeds. So if superior suspension and handling are your priorities, you should stick to the original bias-ply tyres. The manufacturer of your car relied on the bias-ply construction of tyres when developing the suspension system (shock absorbers, springs etc.), So when you switch over to radials, you can no longer expect the intended softness of a ride from your car.

When cross-ply tyre look is crucial

You will agree that a retro car is valued not only for its driving performance, but also for the classic look. If you keep it for your own delight, you can choose tyres according to your driving needs, giving preference to what is more reliable and practical. But when a collection car takes part in a show or an exhibition, it must have an impeccable and authentic air. How its tyres look in the wheel wells is an integral part of this air, and therefore, the owner should take care of sticking to the car manufacturer’s recommendations concerning the type of tyres.

The good news is that tyre companies try not to overlook the retro car segment and bring old original tread patterns and authentic tyre looks back to life by adjusting modern radial technologies to the historical appearance.