White wall tyres, a masterpiece of the classical era of the 1900s to mid-1970’s, a period when cars had a unique white stripe painted on their sidewall. The natural colour of rubber is white, historically the rubber tyres were also white in colour.
The rubber used in its natural form had failed to provide a lasting endurance to the tyres over a longer run. This led to several research and studies, later it was found that using carbon black in rubber manufacturing improved the quality of rubber.
Later on, the use of white wall tyres diminished and was taken over, as all-black modern tyres came into the picture. However, white sidewall tyres are still preferred by the classic car enthusiasts who wish to retain the retro look in their garage and some of them opt for a luxurious and attractive look to their automotive by painting their car wheels white.
Why are old car tyres white?
Originally, tyres were off-white in colour, due to the natural colour of the rubber being white used by tyre companies. This was resultant of a reactive chemical Zinc oxide which was being used to give it a brighter white colour.
There was no specific reasoning behind the use of Whitewall tyres. It was more of a style enhancement and was constantly being used in luxury cars. Likes of Ford Chrysler and Chevrolet started adopting white sidewall tyres to fancy their classic American cars in the 1930s.
Later as the tyre manufacturing further scaled, black tyres took the main stage and started replacing the white wall tyres. It was believed that white rubber that was underlying most of the tyre technology those days, did not offer the required endurance and traction on road.
This led to the invention of carbon black tread which strengthened the tread and provided the much-required endurance, however, in the process the sidewalls remained in white colour as only the tread was designed in black, defining the retro look.
This was primarily the reason behind those highly attractive and fancy looking white stripes on wheels in the golden era.
Does Michelin make white wall tyres?
Michelin was pioneered as a leader in the design of tyre technology but they were also the beginning of the end to the white wall tyres. They acquired Uniroyal, a company that was known for the epic white wall design and brought a major evolution by replacing the classic white wall to the mere black wall or plain wall claiming the change as a new consumer culture.
However, this change pioneered by Michelin was supported by competitors as they continued to compete and catered to the consumer’s demand for performance tyres rather than gaudy looking luxury tyres.
How do you clean white wall tyres?
Generally, white wall tyres can be cleaned up using soap and water. Ensure products that contain strong cleansing agents such as bleach or acid are not used as they tend to cause cracks and de-colouring of the whitewalls.
Remember not to enforce scrubbing with sharp objects on whitewalls. Most of the products available in the market have some amount of acid and bleaching content, so be careful while you make use of such products. Keeping the tyres clean using regular wash with soap or detergents is more advisable.
Availability of Whitewall Tyres India
While manufacturers do not produce any white sidewall tyres directly in the Indian market as their use and demand are marginal or close to nil.
- However, Brands like MRF designs white walls under the ‘Legend’ brand, and are available in two sizes. One is for 15″ and the other is 14″. These may be put to use for Fiat-branded vehicles. Head to your nearest MRF shop and check them out
- CEAT, on the other hand, used to make ‘Twin tread’ 13″ whitewalls for the Herald, Gazel and the 118NE, all of which are difficult to procure. You may want to check out CEAT dealers in your vicinity for more information.
- Another way to have the wheels adorn white is to use Whitewall inserts. This process requires deflating the tyre and a white rubber ring, which is inserted between the tyre and the rim.
- The last option probably is to paint the tyre sidewalls white, from your nearest local dealer for somewhat less than INR 500.
Considering the lack of availability, there are a variety of consumers who fancy collectable cars and prefer the retro looking tyres. Yes, we still find the white wall tyres available for purchase. They’re made to fit classic cars to modern cars making them look better when compared to the all-black from the recent counterparts.
Certainly, White wall tyres today would make a lot of heads turn. But one needs to bear that they are meant for looks and aesthetics, not high performance or efficiency. They serve no purpose apart from adding the classic retro look to those visibly boring black tyres.
If you are someone who wants to drive at higher speeds, or preferably long drives or in unusual weather, conditions you should consider skipping white wall tyres. They may not desirably give you the required performance and feel like the modern road and condition-specific tyres.