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Modern Tires on a Vintage Jeep is Sacrilege

Retro Rubber

Christian HazelPhotographer, Writer

Sometimes it just hurts to put a modern tire under a vintage rig. Take our ’59 CJ-6: Other than a Pertronix electronic ignition conversion inside the factory distributor, it was all factory spec. Why on earth would we bolt a set of radial tires mounted on fancy aluminum wheels to the Dana 25 front and Dana 44 rear? Exactly! We wouldn’t!

Coker Tire offers vintage reproduction rubber for all sorts of antique vehicles going back to the turn of the century (that’s the 20th century for all you millennial brats). From wide whitewalls to fat cheater slicks, it’s got the vintage enthusiast covered. And one of its coolest 4x4 offerings in our opinion is the Firestone ANS Knob. Known simply as “knobbies” for short, the “all-non-skid” tread is as dirt simple as you can get, aside from a set of military NDTs. These tube-type bias-ply tires are proudly made in the USA with all the original markings for those looking for a concourse-perfect resto. For us, we were just looking for absurdly cool.

Although Coker offers its own vintage aluminum and steel wheels and you can order your tires mounted and balanced to your door, it unfortunately doesn’t have a 5-on-5.5 bolt pattern 16-inch wheel with a center hole large enough to clear the Jeep’s hub, so we put in a call to Omix ADA. The company does, in fact, have the correct 16x4.5-inch steel wheels that are exact reproductions of the factory steelies. We sprayed them down with some almond-colored Rustolem and then mounted our tubes and tires up at our local tire store. The results are pretty stunning, if we do say so ourselves.

It’s been about 50 years or more since Jeeps came from the factory with 16x4.5-inch wheels. If you can even find a set of vintage skinny steelies, the lugnut holes are often cracked, wallowed, and worn. Omix offers these wheels (PN 16725.01) brand new, although most websites list the 16x5.75 measurement taken from the outside of the wheel lip, not the tire bead like most wheels.

Although Coker carries the factory 6.00-16 size, we stepped up to the 6.50-16s for our longer CJ-6. The 29.40-inch advertised diameter actually provides a static load radius of 14.25 inches when mounted on the Jeep and there’s plenty of clearance under the fenders.

Although we wouldn’t take them rockcrawling (at least not on this old Jeep), the knobbies offer up impressive bite off-road. They’ll chew and claw at will, but they also dig readily, so you have to be careful with the throttle.

We love that the tread wear indicator bars actually have “TWI” stamped in them, but let’s be honest: by the time you get down to the indicators, the tires is pretty much a slick.

Even with our tires balanced for street use, like most bias-ply tires, the ANS Knob are a little lively for the first several miles of street driving until the carcasses come up to operating temperature and get round. You don’t really test cornering or braking performance with a setup like this, so be prepared to just poke along and savor the sweet vintage hum from the knobs slapping pavement and all the thumbs-ups you’ll get from passing motorists.

Tire: Firestone ANS Knob
Size: 6.50-16
Type: Bias
Load range: B
Max load (lb): 1,580
Approved rim width (in): 4.5-5.0
Tread depth (in): 1/2
Tread width (in): 5
Section width (in): 7.5
Overall diameter (in): 29.40
Maximum psi: 32
Weight (lb): 42 (mounted on steel wheel w/ tube)