By Harvey Zabel
Prairie du Chien
Over my past 77 years I have owned a lot of cars and trucks and noticed how tire size has changed over the years. They started out with larger diameter and narrow width.
I and my buddy John collected old cars for many years, and a number of Model T Fords were part of the collection. The Model Ts came out in 1909; the first one we had was a 1924 model. The T had 30-by-3 non-skid tires on the front and 30-by-3½ on the rear, non-demountable. This means if you changed a tire you did it without taking the whole wheel off.
The clincher rims were part of the wood spoke wheels, and there was a trick to changing them. The tools needed to change them usually came with the cars when they were new. A jack and some small, flat tire irons. Demountable rims were becoming standard by 1925 on the T, and the last two years, 1926 and 1927, wire-spoke 21-inch wheels were available.
Our 1924 Dodge had 6.00-20-inch tires and wheels on it, just a little bit smaller in diameter. Our 1929 Model A Ford Roadster still used 21-inch tires but eh 1930s and 1931s dropped down to 19-inch wheels and tires.
When the 1932 Ford V-8s came out, 5:25-18 tires were standard, then in 1933, 17 inch. The Ford cars in 1934 on up to 1948, 6.00-16 were standard. My 1937 Ford and Chevrolet coupe wre on 16-inch tires. The 15-inch tires were an option on the 1949 Fords and pretty much standard by 1952 until the 1960s.
When the car companies came out with the new compacts like the Ford Falcon and the Chevrolet Corvair, tire size dropped to 13 inch. My 1961 Mercury Comet had 13-inch tires and John’s Chevrolet Nova was on 13-inch tires. Some smaller compact cars were on 12-inch tires.
The import cars of the 1960s like my Renault and Volkswagen were back using 15-inch tires. In the next 40 years and after the turn of the century, the 15-inch tires seem to be standard on automobiles and light-duty trucks. The heavy-duty pickup trucks were on 16-inch tires starting in the 1940s. By 2010 I heard some pickup trucks were equipped with 18- and 20-inch tires. Now i have been looking at new cars and some come standard with 18- and 20-inch tires.
I am not sure when this upward trend will stop or how large they will get. I don’t know if 30-inch tires will make a comeback in a few more years. I guess I will just wait and see if what goes around comes around.