The MGA With An Attitude

I get this question periodically, "Could you recommend a good whitewall tire for the MGA"?

Coker Classic whitewall tire
Coker Classic whitewall radial
I get the same question about least once a month. Whitewall tires are a neat period accessory, for appearance only of course. Unfortunately I don't know of any "good" ones currently available. If you search around you might find a few vintage style bias ply tires with wide whitewalls, but I have never known a bias ply tire to be "good" in comparison to modern radial tires. They work, but it is a bit like driving in sand if you try to do any frisky driving. That may be okay for mild mannered touring or for a show car, but if you like spirited driving, you really need radial tires.

In general, tires in the correct size for MGA are fairly slim pickings these days. Perhaps the only reason they are still available at all is because it is the correct tire size for a VW Beetle, so there is still enough demand to justify an occasional production run. If you can settle for blackwall and don't mind the brand name you can get pretty nice tires for a reasonable price.

If you insist on buying whitewall tires your choices are seriously diminished. About the best I can find would be from Coker Tire, shown above. I wouldn't install them on my car, but other people do.

In particular, pay attention to the UTOG ratings. This particular tire has UTOG rating "350 BB". This is Tread Wear 350, traction B and temperature B (in that order). Anything above 300 for tread wear is reasonable for a street tire, and the numbers sometimes go higher than 400. Higher number may imply harder rubber compound, which is not necessarily good for grip and handling. So don't worry too much about the tread wear number.

Temperature B is of little consequence as you will likely not be driving 100+ mph very often. This means the tire generates a certain amount of heat that can be detrimental to the tire at high speeds. Heat generated is also energy being lost, so it may have a small affect on fuel mileage. Not to belabor this point too much, as I have never seen an "A" temperature rating for a tire in this size.

Traction B, however, is seriously bad. It may be okay for casual touring and for car shows, but it is not good for any kind of frisky driving. I would recommend not to settle for anything less than traction A rating for your MG tires. If it doesn't stick to the road and handle well you may be kicking yourself every time you drive the car until you get to buy new tires again. For this reason I will never refer anyone to any tire that does not have traction A rating. If you don't mind paying such a premium price for a tire with less than optimal grip just to get whitewalls, then you might buy that tire from Coker.

It's a pity maybe, but such is the world. If you insist on whitewalls you have to forgo some grip and good handling. If anyone might ever find a 165-80-15 radial whitewall tire with traction rating A, please let me know.

On 2/7/2015, Pete Macwaters in Buckingham UK wrote:
"I've been using BF Goodrich Silvertown Radials (165 x 15) for a number of years and they are 300AC rating".

Addendum 5/29/2016
Just a note on the history of white wall tires. Natural rubber is white in color. Very early tires contained zinc-oxide and were grayish white all over. Many years later carbon black was added to the tread area only to improve tread wear, and the tread only became black. Same today, when you want white on tires (raised white letters or stripes) they simple leave out the carbon black. So in times past (way past), white tires were the cheap tires, and black all over was more expensive.

Post War in Europe white tires are almost never seen. It is a distinctly American thing, mostly a hangover from the 1940s running into the 50's. Wide whites are a personal preference style statement, sort of like "I cruise, but not fast". You can still get them if you like. Coker is big on white walls, but primarily because they are big on vintage style tires.

If you have tires with narrow white stripes or raised white letters, you may be able to modify them to be wide white wall tires. You do this by grinding away the overlying black rubber to expose the underlying white rubber. See a few YouTube videos here:
v=d0jlWB_C1MQ - v=YN2y0XIbW8Y - v=xkcm3rh60p0

Also see Photos

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