1603 Sidemount tire sizes

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    Hello all, I need a bit of advice, as to what is the correct size tire for the side-mounts of my 1603.

    When I purchased the car, it was equipped with BFGoodrich Silvertown 750-17 on the road wheels, which all needed replacement due to age. I replaced with the same tire from Coker.

    The side-mount tires were literally rotting and appeared to be 40-50 years old, so I took them off, and then put the best two tires from the road wheels in their place. I then figured out, the ones I replaced must have been smaller, as my side-mount covers now no longer fit!

    I did not look to see what size the tires were that I removed from the side-mount positions, but I really would like to reinstall my side-mount covers, so any help is appreciated.

    Thank you,

    Chris Williams


    Depends…..on tire brand you are replacing them with, 700×17 will fit with no air in them,,,,,,,,tightly. I installed 650×17 on a car under covers yesterday…….all Firestone brand. PS- Firestone is currently out of the 700-17 tires.


    Thanks, Ed. It sounds like I should keep an eye out for some 650-17s to make sure they will fit. Was the side-mount tire originally sized differently than the road wheel tires, or had someone just fitted larger tires to my car at some point?


    I ran into the same problem on my ’36 Packard years ago. The sizes for 7:00-17 are not consistent. I originally bought Denmans that would not fit in the sidemount covers. I then bought a pair of 6.50:17, they were significantly smaller and I had to stuff foam rubber around them to keep the covers in place. I discovered that Lester’s 7.00:17 is slightly smaller and has a somewhat narrower tread width. I think the Lester’s dimensions correspond to the original OEM tires. The current Firestone 7.00:17’s are larger.

    A side benefit to the Lester’s – at least on my Packard – were the car handles significantly better with the narrower tread width – much less “tramping” kicking the wheel to follow ruts. There always seems to be a psychological bias that bigger is always better and 7.00-17’s get replaced with 7.50:17’s. Not always the case. Unfortunately I didn’t realize the Firestones were wider than the Lester’s and I replaced my tires last year with the Firestones. Now it is rut-following again like it did with the Denmans – I wish I had bought the Lesters. They are apparently still available at Universal, but no longer from Coker.

    Years ago Coker published a catalog that gave the diameter and tread width dimensions of all their tires. On the Universal site the diameter dimension isn’t given so it might be worthwhile to check with them to confirm the Lester is still smaller. It would be surprising if it isn’t from the same mold as before though.



    The tires on my ’29 are from the 70’s, and will need replacing when (if) I get my engine back. Coker is having a sale on the Firestones (7.00 by 19) in May. Any suggestions on brands? I have heard of issues with Lesters, but nothing good or bad about Firestones. Are the liners and tubes Coker sells any good? Other thoughts and/or comments?


    Just to join the comments,

    Indeed. I had a ’38 Packard several years ago and when I removed the sidemounts for engine work, I could not get the covers back on. It was a mystery at the time, but I agree with everyone here that tire dimensions even for the same size tire vary brand-to-brand. I suspect that tires are wider today. Would be interesting if you could get charts of dimensions from the 1930’s.

    As Ed mentioned, one solution is to have no air in them. Not great if you need a spare, but consider carrying one of those small electric air pumps, or compressed air cylinders (motorcycles use small versions a lot) or just a good working bicycle pump. Chances are you will never need it but like carrying an umbrella. . . .

    — Luke


    I have always had good luck with Firestones. They have a nice, authentic tread pattern.

    Concerning tubes — I hope someone else will chime in here too — my experience with brand new tubes is that they leak. Probably all made in China or some Godforsaken place. The leaks (in my experience) were around the valve stem itself. Not through the valve core but bad sealing between the rubber and the metal of the stem. I cured a few of these by wrapping wire around the stem to help the seal. A real shade-tree fix.

    My guess is new inner tubes are probably thinner rubber than older tubes. But that’s just a guess.

    Older inner tubes, like from the 70’s and back then, always held air perfectly well on my cars. When I replaced the tires on my ’32 Packard I used the tubes that were there — assumed to be 1970’s vintage. They appeared in good shape, no sign of dry rot, and held air remarkably well.

    I know that you are not supposed to run on old rubber, tires especially, but I figured that inner tubes are much more protected than the tire carcass. How old is too old? Wish I knew. Or perhaps, how lucky do you feel?

    And always use thick rubber tire flaps. But you knew that.

    — Luke


    I had no issues with the Lester’s, just wore them out. Tubes sold with 7.00-17 by Coker are too large – previous thread. Tubes sold with 7.00-19 may be okay.



    I have installed nine sets of Firestone tires in the last three years, from 17 to 20 inch, I have had two new defects before installing and three defects after installing. All the cars has six tires, about 10 percent failure/defect rate. They made good on all of them. One was two years old with less than 100 miles on it, easy to get a credit, pain in the axx to change. Lesters are currently out of production. Everything else makes noise going down the road. So we’re still installing Firestone’s, put a set on yesterday 759-17 on the ground, 650-17 under the covers.


    Above shoul read 750-17, NOT 759-17. Sorry.


    My experience with Lester tires is mixed at best. The tires tend to be out of round and have significant out of balance issues. BUT this is NOT consistent across all sizes, or between several different sets of tires.

    I have Lester tires on my ’33 836 Club Sedan, they are OLD tires, They do have some small ‘surface’ cracks’ in the rubber, but no deep, or ‘structural’ looking splits or cracks.

    BUT these tires have always been a bear to balance, to swap around on the car, it seems like the tires just are not the same degree of ’round’ or ‘straight’ from year to year.

    BUT the GOOD thing is that these tires are from probably the 1980’s, The rubber compounds used back when seem to hold up better than the tire rubber in use today.

    These tires are probably 30-40 years old and do not show any trouble-some looking cracks.

    But the Tires on my pickup truck which are 7 years old, show a LOT of sidewall cracks. This is extremely annoying to me, the tread is at probably 60-75 %, yet I may have to replace them due to the modern rubber compounds not aging well, and these are high-end tires.

    For our Pierce Arrow cars. I have had the best luck with BF Goodrich Silvertown’s on my ’20’s cars, 600-22’s, and s few other sizes. For the 17″, 18″ and 19″ tires I MUCH prefer the Bedford Custom Coach tires sold by Lucas Tire.

    in my experience these are VERY well made tires.

    The size of the Bedford tires does tend to run large. I too use a smaller size tire in order to have a working, inflated sidemount spare.

    Two experiences: On my ’25 series 80 7p Touring: it had 600-22 LESTER tires. They had likely been on the car for decades. Several tires were actually getting worn out. The tires had minimal cracking, but tread depth was getting thin. The driver’s side front tire had always been out of balance. i had balanced the tire/rim assembly on th car, and had about 12″ of lead weights on each side of the rim, and it still was not in balance. i thought that this could not be solely the tire and rim. So i shaped the rim and tire to the passenger side front, and found the the amount of imbalance w the same and in the same spot. The passenger side tire and rim put on the driver

    s side was in balance on both sides of the car.

    When i removed the Lester tires, I cold not see any defect, or and reason for the tire to be so far out of balance. BUT here is the important difference: the new BF Goodrich tires only took a half inch to one inch long weight to rind the tire/rim into perfect balance.. So the imbalance was the tire itself, not the wheel or rim.

    I had the ‘exciting experience to be driving Geoge Teebay’s ’34 Silver Arrow coupe through the desert near Borax California. IT was HOT, around 105* in the shade, but there was NO SHADE, anywhere. I felt the car weave a little , then a lot, I immediately pulled into a wide spot on the shoulder, thankfully it was available,and flat. By the time I had pulled over, the tire was running nearly flat. This was the right rear tire.

    in this heat, this was a record setting ‘pit-crew’ style tire swap, I had the cap off, ; HOT! and the lug nuts loose about the time George had dug the floor jack out from the back of his pickup truck. The axle was jacked up, the lug nuts removed:HOT! And I attempted to touch the tire to remove it from the brake drum/axle. it was TOO HOT to touch. I used some cloth rags to insulate my hands from the blistering hot tire tread.

    The nice cool spare from in the trunk of the Silver Arrow coupe, was wonderfully cool, if ambient temperature of 19=05* cold be considered ‘cool’. Tire back on, lugs tight, hub cap back on, and a police car pulls in between the Pierce and the Pickup. The window rolls down and a hand and two ice-dripping bottles of water appear. The officer was rather insistent about us drinking the water: all of it. He didn’t want to have to call in an ambulance for us when or if we collapsed. It was a welcome bottle of water.

    This same tire was run-flat a SECOND time when another of the new chinese tubes failed.. This SAME tire is on the road today, with no change in the balance, and it only has some scuffing on the white sidewall of the tired.

    So, my vote for a really good tire is the Bedford Custom Cosch. The tread is an authentic classic pattern, it looks very good, they are round, and straight, and are very tough.

    Like Luke suggested, the inner tubes inside a tire are not exposed to sunlight, and if the valve stem is a metal one, there is zero amount of the tube exposed to sunlight or even air. Only if a tube developed a slow leak, that means the tube gets frequent ‘airing up’. Then the inside of the tube gets exposure to fresh oxygen.

    Sunlight and oxygen are the items that damage rubber.

    i have had good luck with reusing meal stem old tubes. i carefully inflate the tube and use hands and magnifying glass to impose the tube’s surface, if it does not show cracking or abrasions it goes back into service.

    Greg Long


    Tom Lester was a good friend of mine. He was very sensitive about his tires, even after he had sold the company. In my thinking, these tires were plain junk. My ’36 weighs almost 6000 pounds. The Lesters were impossible to balance, tracked terribly, and wore out quickly. The BFGoodrich tires that I installed after the Lesters required not one wheel weight. They tracked beautifully, and wear evenly. As far as the sidemounts are concerned, I was lucky enough to find a set of 12 cylinder covers, and they still come no where near covering anything but original tires which are old and rotten.


    Just my two cents…………

    I always liked and ran Lester tires…….the last set I bought was in 1992……for a bunch of reasons.

    Most of what is commented above by several people , I tend to agree with most of it.

    There have been EPIC changes in the old car tire industry the last ten years……..none of them good.

    Quality, availability, service, warrantees, every thing that was once taken for granted is out the window. I probably have bought and installed more tires than just about any person or shop in the last five years when it comes to the BIG pre war CCCA type classic cars, as all of our cars but one have dual side mounts, and many of our cars have two sets of wheels………its a long story why but lets leave that one alone. I think the only good information is word of mouth from the last 18 months or less……..anything older will tend to not necessarily apply……GOOD or BAD.

    From my opinion, over the last 18 months, every tire I have installed is a Firestone. Yup, we have had too many issues, but for look, fit, finish, wear, and warranty service…….they have been the best.

    SPECIAL NOTE – Most tire are made in batches of 50 to 200, thus I have bought no less than five sets of 700-19 Double Wide White Firestones over almost 40 months…….they are ALL from the same batch gentlemen. They are sitting around for awhile before you install them…..fact of life………

    Alos…..there is currently another tube shortage again………how bad? Enough that a few of us are getting together an order of 250 tubes so we can get them before November.


    This is like a thread on motor oil !

    To prove that there is always an exception, I had Bedford Cord tires on the ’32 Packard. I could never get them to balance. I think one was out of round and no matter how many weights. . . Seemed to balance OK, but driving always gave vibration. But if Greg says they’re the best. . . ?

    Lesters do wear out very fast. I will attest to that, at least on heavy cars. I experimented a lot on inflation versus tire wear and finally got a decent wear pattern, but they still wore out fast.

    Last I checked, Bedfords were super expensive. That’s one reason why I chose Firestones, again. My only complaint: Firestones seemed to run small whereas Bedfords ran large. The effect switching brands was quite perceptible.

    I don’t like the tread pattern on Lesters. Doesn’t look authentic. Firestones look “right”. Bedfords look good, too. I also installed Silvertowns on a 1914 once. No complaints but I didn’t keep the car long enough to judge wear characteristics.

    As Greg said, if heat and oxygen are the greatest enemy of rubber, maybe there is something to nitrogen filled tires. For your everyday radials, I think it’s BS, but maybe for inner tubes there might be something to it??


    Very sorry for the many typos in my post above.

    I had been on the road since 0700 that morning, on a near-emergency run to Angola and the Pokagon State Park in Indiana. Some issues had come up regarding the Annual meet in June, and we HAD to solve them in person.

    Having returned home, and cross-eyed tired but way too jazzed up and probably residual caffeine, I could not sleep, so what a better time to type email messages? LOL

    Anyway, I think inspite of the many typos, that my post’s message is decipherable. I like BF Goodrich for the 20″ 21″ and 22″ tires and i have had excellent luck and experience with the Bedford Custom Coach tires, so far for myself and a few others, no issues at all with Bedfords.

    Regarding price, price is irrelevant for a car that is being driven. Price is relevant for a car that is parked in a collection and not likely to be driven more than once every few years.

    The difference in how a car FEELS with good round, straight and balanced tires compared to even ‘slightly’ off-kilter tires is quite amazing.

    When I installed the 4 new BF Goodrich Silvertown 600×22’s on my Series 80 Touring, I took it for a drive. It was like I had a new car. I usually drive a 4 mile ‘around the block’ circuit, but when it was time to turn a corner and return to the farm,, I just had to continue for several more miles, the car was just SO ENJOYABLE to drive with it’s new tires..

    My own experiences with Firestone tire is mixed, and not extensive enough to have an opinion or valid information to share..

    Best to all, and hope to see you in a few weeks in Indiana at the Annual Meet.

    Greg Long



    How about the TUBES?

    George Teebay says to go buy truck tubes.

    What about those?

    I lose air all of the time on my Series 80 tires in my BF Goodrich Silvertowns, and those tubes are made in the EU.

    Any suggestions?



    The only hope for inner tubes seems to be specifically Michelin tubes.

    Here is a quote from my friend Frank Wemple, a Packard man (erstwhile Franklin man) and quite involved in the CCCA:

    “I enjoyed your article in the “FSS” about tires. Regarding the inferior porous tubes we get today for our antique cars, the solution is to get Michelin tubes. Their quality is superior, they’re beefier and one does not have to add air every week. However they are quite a bit more expensive. A friend told me about these tubes when he became frustrated with having to constantly add air to the tires on his ’34 Packard. I bought a set and had Chris Charlton install them when he painted the car and had to dismount the tires anyway. Huge improvement!

    “However, one problem is that Michelin tubes don’t come in every tire size and on some (like the 21” tires on my 4-43 Runabout), they come only with offset stems. So, I had to get standard tubes when I put new Firestones on the 4-43 and I have to add air every week. Pain in the tail. I wish they still made standard tubes like those on my old 1937 Packard Twelve Club Sedan to which I had to add a little air only every year or two. “

    At least I can take heart that it’s not just me who has had problems with leaky inner tubes.

    — Luke


    It is possible that a dose of ‘tire slime’ might seal up the inner tube to make them more air-tight.

    Tractor supply has various different size containers of ‘tire slime’

    I DO NOT know if using this ‘slime’ is or is not recommended for automobile tires, aka: high speed revolving tires that must not have imbalances caused by the slime pooling in the low side of a tire .

    I have only used ‘tire slime’ on agricultural low speed tires..

    Anyone know?



    The green, tire slime is designed to be used in car tires, as well.

    I’ve used it in modern car tires with no issues but you do need to follow the directions so the slime doesn’t end up as one big lump in one location inside the tire.


    I use 36×4 1/2 high pressure Lesters on my Pierce-Arrow. I wouldn’t use

    any other brand. When I opened the new inner tubes they were so lighter

    and skinnier that I put the old Firestones, that looked like they could be

    used for body armour, back in. They’re probably older than some of our

    members. I had the pleasure of meeting Tom Lester at the Art Austria Auction

    (circa 1971). His tires were the best looking available and so was his wife.

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