Buying tires for your antique car can be confusing, but it is worse when you talk about restoring a classic. What are the best tires for a Buick Roadmaster?

The car has been sitting in the barn for years, and you always loved looking at it., Now you have a chance to honor your grandfather by restoring his favorite car, the old Buick. You want to match the original equipment as much as possible, but where to find tires? They don’t make the kind of tire that came with the Buick anymore, so what kind of tires are best? And can you find the right tire that won’t cost you an arm and a leg? You know that you have other bodywork to do on the car, and if you can keep the cost of the tires down, you’ll have money for fixing other things. Most antique car enthusiasts feel radial tires provide the best ride for restorations. Before 1955, Buick tires consisted of an inner tube and surrounding rubber casing. In 1955, Buick adopted a tubeless tire. Buick decided to use radial tires on the 1991 - 96 models.

The best tires for a Buick Roadmaster are:

  • Firestone Vintage Bias-Ply | 4 Inch Whitewall | 700-16
  • Firestone | 4 1/8 Inch Whitewall | 700-15
  • BF Goodrich | 4 Inch Whitewall | 700-16
  • BF Goodrich | 4 1/8 Inch Whitewall | 700-15 (Silvertown Series)
  • Coker Classic | 700R16 (Look Alike Radial w/ Tube)
  • Coker Classic | 2 3/4 Inch Whitewall | 225/75R15
  • Diamondback Auburn Deluxe Radial 15” - 16”

While you don’t expect to drive the car daily, you want to restore it. Will a radial tire mean that you lose points at the car show? Should you buy as close to the original as possible, or do the tire companies make something that will hold up better than a tire with a tube? What tire manufacturer makes the best tire? Are there companies that specialize in vintage tires?

The Roadmaster is an iconic car that still wows fans of all generations, and with its rich heritage, it is a great car to restore. So let’s explore each year and model to see which tires are best and learn a bit of history as we go along.

Best Tires For Buick Roadmaster

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What Tires are Best for My Buick Roadmaster?

Several vintage car companies make tires for antique cars. The tire size for Buick vehicles has been fairly consistent throughout the model years.

Year Orig. Tire Size Bias Ply Size Radial Size Tube / Tubeless
‘36-37 Series 80 16.0 x 700 700 - 16 P225/70R16 Tube Type
‘40-41 Series 70 15.0 x 700 700 - 15 P225/70R15 Tube Type
1942 Series 70 15.0 x 7.0 700 - 15 P225/75R15 Tube Type
1946 - 1948 15.0 x 7.0 700 - 15 P225/70/R15 Tube Type
1949 Series 70 15.0 x 820 820 - 15 P225/75R15 Tubeless
1950 - 53 15.0 x 8.00 800 - 15 P225/75R15 Tubeless
1954 - 56 15.0 x 8.0 800 - 15 P225/75/R15 Tubeless
1957 - 58 15.0 x 8.0 800 - 15 P225/75/R15 Tubeless

1936 - 39 Roadmaster

The nameplate Roadmaster came out in 1936 when Buick decided it needed a more specific way to refer to its cars than just the word “Series” and a number (40, 60, 70, 80, etc.). New for the year was the Buick Roadmaster, with a newly modified straight inline eight-cylinder 320.2 cubic inch engine that produced 120 hp. The Buick advertising brochure claimed that the Roadmaster was “designed for a party, but powered for a thrill.” While this is more hype than reality, it was clear that Buick was on to something, as Roadmaster would become one of their top-selling models over the years.

Many of the following tire companies make tires that fit other Buick model years.

Check your tire size carefully by referring to a tire conversion chart.

Year Orig. Tire Size Bias Ply Size Radial Size Tube / Tubeless
‘36-37 Series 80 16.0 x 700 700 - 16 P225/70R16 Tube Type

These tires are designed to handle the weight of the early Roadmaster, but as a tubed tire, blowouts of the inner tube are very common. (A lot of enthusiasts are moving away from tubed tires in favor of bias look-alike radials).

Firestone Vintage Bias-Ply | 4 Inch Whitewall | 700-16

The Firestone 4-inch whitewall is authentic for 1934 - 39 Buicks. The tires have a zig-zag tread and pie-crust sidewall, which can help handle wet surfaces and cornering. The tires are hand-made and have a max load capacity of 1800 pounds at 36 psi. The Firestone Vintage Bias-Ply is designed to work with a rim width of 4.5 - 5.5 inches. These tires must be fitted with inner tube #85366 for proper fit.  The tire also comes in a black wall variety which is a tad cheaper than the whitewall counterpart.

Pros

  • Authentic Looking Tire -
  • Good warranty ( 5 years - 60k)

Cons

  • Fairly Expensive Tire

BF Goodrich | 4 Inch Whitewall | 700-16

This tire is designed with light antique trucks and also for 1936 - 37 Roadmaster. The bias-ply has six-ply poly and is built to handle 1900 lbs at 36 psi. The Rim width is 4.5 - 5.5 inches. The tires are best used with a tube insert.

Pros

  • Aftersive Tire ($1200 - 1600 for a set of four)
  • Good warranty
  • Been around for a long time
  • Whitewall involved in manufacturing, not added to the sidewall

Cons

  • It tends to form small cracks after 6k miles.
  • Tubes can be a hassle to replace

Coker Classic | 700R16 (Look Alike Radial w/ Tube)

Coker Tire Company specializes in authentic classic car tires, one of the most popular vintage tire companies. (They are the big boys in the vintage tire market - selling classic tires made by Firestone, Michelin, and BF Goodrich). This particular tire is a poly-steel bias look-alike radial that is a tube type. It is designed to handle 1875 lbs @ 41 psi. It is DOT approved and fits rim widths of 4 -5 inches. It is a tube-type tire that requires that you also buy the inner tubes.

Pros

  • Looks like a Bias Ply
  • Has the comfort of a Radial

Cons

  • More Expensive Than Other Brands.
  • Some complaints about the ride after switching - increasing psi seems to fix the issue.

1940 - 42, 1946 - 48 Roadmaster

The Series 70 was renamed Roadmaster in 1940 when the Buick folks decided to slap the Limited nameplate on the 80 series. The 1940 Roadmaster was more petite, shorter in wheelbase, and not as heavy. A two-door coupe was also introduced, and the addition of twin two-barrel carburetors was an innovative feature. The Roadmaster 76c Convertible Sedan touted a hydraulic top, powered windows, and electric seats that pushed back when the driver's side window lowered. The tire size was 15.0 x 7.

Year Orig. Tire Size Bias Ply Size Radial Size Tube / Tubeless
‘40-41 Series 70 15.0 x 700 700 - 15 P225/70R15 Tube Type
1942 Series 70 15.0 x 7.0 700 - 15 P225/75R15 Tube Type
1946 - 1948 15.0 x 7.0 700 - 15 P225/70/R15 Tube Type

The sales of passenger cars took a hit during the years of World War II since the factory was converted to help with the war. After the war, sales picked up as families began to embrace the positive energy many service members had to pursue the American dream.

Firestone | 4 1/8 Inch Whitewall | 700-15

This is a basic Firestone Tire with zig-zag tread and good longevity. The tire is designed to be used with a tube. The large white sidewall is constructed at the plant as part of the manufacturing process, not added to the side of the tire as an afterthought. Four-ply poly handles 1700 @ 32 psi as max load capacity.

Pros

  • Authentic Looking Tire -
  • Good warranty ( 5 years - 60k)

Cons

  • Fairly Expensive Tire

BF Goodrich | 4 1/8 Inch Whitewall | 700-15 (Silvertown Series)

The tire is designed for rim width of 5.0 - 5.5 and is capable of handling 1700 lbs. @ 32 psi. It has a sawtooth tread design that lends itself to good trealife.

Pros

  • Good warranty
  • Been around for a long time
  • Whitewall involved in manufacturing, not added to the sidewall

Cons

  • Relatively Expensive Tire

1949 Buick Roadmaster

The  Roadmaster went through a very sleek redesign in 1949, with rich luxury interior

The tire size was 8.2 x 15.

Year Orig. Tire Size Bias Ply Size Radial Size Tube / Tubeless
1949 Series 70 15.0 x 820 820 - 15 P225/75R15 Tubeless

Coker Classic | 2 3/4 Inch Whitewall | 225/75R15

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This radial tire requires no tube and fits many of the 1949 through 1961 Buicks. If the bead seals on the rim, you do not have to be constantly changing tubes. Coker makes a quality tire, and many Buick enthusiasts are delighted with their quality. They are DOT approved, have quality tread life, and perform well in all seasons.

Pros

  • No Tubes means to mount it on the rim and air it up
  • Life of the Tread warranty
  • Coker makes a lot of vintage tires

Cons

  • Company has had complaints about customer service

Diamondback Auburn Deluxe Radial 15” - 16”

The Diamondback brand is another major player in producing vintage car tires. The company is owned by Triangle Tire USA and is one of the country's top producers of whitewall vintage tires. For four generations, the plant has been producing bias-ply look-alikes and radials for any size or type of vintage car. The tires are generally cheaper than other brands. All sizes are available in Whitewall, Redline, Goldline, and more. Diamondback uses existing tire manufacturers like Michelin and others.

Pros

  • Auburn Deluxe Tires are the Best Bias look like
  • Good traction and handling.
  • Many reviews are replacing Cokers with Diamondbacks.
  • Great Look - very balanced tire

Cons.

  • None

BF Goodrich | 2 1/2 Inch Whitewall | 820-15

This tire is a pure radial, and it performs very well in all driving conditions. Built for vintage cars with a large white wall, the tire has an excellent rating. BF Goodrich has consistent ratings on their radials from the NHTSA with excellent tread wear and a temperature rating of B (which is lower than other competitors). The all-season tread is perfect for antique car restorations.

Pros

  • Radial - good handling and traction
  • All-season tire

Cons

  • Lower Temperature rating by NHTSA

1950 - 58 Roadmaster

The Roadmaster switched to an 8.0 x 15 tire - 4 ply. The introduction of the Riviera trim helped Buick set records for Roadmaster sales. The 1954 - 56 Roadmaster went through a major redesign, but the tire size remained the same. By 1957, sales for the Roadmaster were suffering as many young buyers began to seek sleeker, smaller cars. The recession of 1958 did little to motivate people to purchase larger, more fuel-guzzling vehicles. The tire size remained the same in ‘the 57’ - ‘58 model years.

Year Orig. Tire Size Bias Ply Size Radial Size Tube / Tubeless
1950 - 53 15.0 x 8.00 800 - 15 P225/75R15 Tubeless
1954 - 56 15.0 x 8.0 800 - 15 P225/75/R15 Tubeless
1957 - 58 15.0 x 8.0 800 - 15 P225/75/R15 Tubeless

Coker Classic - 2 ¾ Whitewall | 225/75R15

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This radial tire requires no tube and fits many of the 1949 through 1961 Buicks. If the bead seals on the rim, you do not have to be constantly changing tubes. Coker makes a quality tire, and many Buick enthusiasts are very pleased with their quality. They are DOT approved, have quality tread life, and perform well in all seasons.

Pros

  • No Tubes means to mount it on the rim and air it up
  • Life of the Tread warranty
  • Coker makes a lot of vintage tires.

Cons

  • Company has complained about customer service

Coker Tire - American Classic Radial | 2 3/4 Inch Whitewall | 225/75R15

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This Coker tire is extremely popular for custom builds or hot rods. Have excellent tread life and has a max load capacity of 1875 @ 35 psi. They are DOT approved for the road, and whitewalls are exceptionally durable. These tires are tubeless.

Pros

  • Life of Tread Warranty
  • Good Tread pattern
  • DOT approved

Cons

  • Sometimes customer service suffers

BF Goodrich Silvertown Radial | 2 3/4 Inch Whitewall | 225/75R15

This tire is excellent for hot rod and custom design work. The large white wall is vintage-looking, and with no tubes to mess with, this is a great tire. They are priced a bit more than average, but still, many enthusiasts use them with little to no problems.

Pros

  • Radial - good handling and traction
  • All-season tire

Cons

  • Lower Temperature rating by NHTSA

1991 - 1996 Roadmaster

The nameplate Roadmaster was resurrected for the Buick lineup in 1991. Under pressure to match the sales of the Chevrolet Caprice, Buick introduced the Roadmaster as a wagon and a sedan a year later. Sales peaked in the 1992 model year with 70,731 built (84% were sedans). Eventually, families decided that the wagon was not viable with the excitement that new SUVs brought to the market.

Year Orig. Tire Size Bias Ply Size Radial Size Tube / Tubeless
‘91 - 96 Base 15.0 x 8.00 800 - 15 P225/70R15 Tubeless
‘91 - 96 Base 15.0 x 8.0 800 - 15 P235/70/R15 Tubeless
1991 Wagon 15.0 x 8.0 800 - 15 P225/75/R15 Tubeless

Coker Tire - American Classic Radial | 1.6 Inch Whitewall | 225/75R15

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American car companies abandoned the large white walls in the 60s. These are great tires manufactured by Coker Tire and have excellent tread wear. The tries have a tall sidewall appearance and look great on the Roadmaster. Buick used radials for all models in 1991.

Pros

  • DOT approved
  • Holds up well - good longevity
  • Designed to handle max loads 1874 @ 35 psi

Cooper Tires Trendsetter SE

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The Trendsetter SE is a reasonably priced tire for individuals who simply need a good set of tires on their car. The tires were developed for older model cars, sedans requiring a 70-75 series size tire. Their dual-layer tread works in all seasons and provides enhanced driving capabilities on all road surfaces. The tire is a radial which lends itself to increased fuel economy. Pros

  • Reasonably priced
  • Good Basic Driving Tire
  • Good fuel economy

Cons

  • Not a vintage for early models
  • Lower Temp rating - excessive heat will cause breakdown

Hankook Kinergy ST

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This Hankook Kinergy tire is a performance tire that provides an excellent tread pattern and received excellent ratings for treadwear (860) and good marks for temperature and traction (both A). This tire comes with a 90k mile limited warranty which is exceptional. A more dense compound of polymers improves rigidity and extends the wear. The tire is also very reasonably priced. If you want a tire to last forever, this is a good tire. It won’t win you any awards at the show, but for a daily driver, this tire will work. Some reviews have been about the tire not doing well in winter-like conditions.

Pros

  • Reasonably Priced
  • 90k mile tread life

Cons

  • Not vintage
  • Good, but not great for handing, some rigidity due to tread thicknesAmericanndback

Auburn Deluxe Radial - Bias Look Radials

This is a tire that can work well. The tire received a perfect treadwear rating (440), scored lower on temperature than others (B), And a good rating for traction (A).

Pros

  • Auburn Deluxe Tires are the Best Bias look like
  • Good traction and handling.
  • Many reviews are replacing Cokers with Diamondbacks.
  • Great Look - very balanced tire

Cons.

  • None

What Do I Need to Know Before Choosing the Right Tire?

As a car restorer, you will need to know several things before choosing a tire. Let’s explore a couple of them.

Tubes

Before 1955, when Buick adopted tubeless tires for all models, all owners had tires that consisted of two essential parts; an inner tube and an outer casing of synthetic rubber and fabric bands mounted on a steel spoked rim. Because there were not many service stations or emergency roadside services, (owners had to be smart enough to change their tires. Good fathers always taught their children how to change and patch a tire in those days).

The reason that many enthusiasts still use inner tubes has to do with the wheel more than the tire itself. A tubeless tire has to create an air-tight seal with the rim or lip of the tire so that the tire does not go flat. There are many instances where the lip or rim of the tire has degraded over the years or how the spokes were made puncture the steel and create air leaks. The inner tube provides a layer of protection that allows the outer casing to be inflated and hold air pressure.

Tubers often use an inner flap, also called a rim flap, a thin layer of rubber that fits between the inner tube and the steel portion of the rim. Its purpose is to prevent abrasions or punctures from the steel spokes of the wheel.

Repairing an inner tube on a car is not much different from repairing an old bicycle's inner tube. A patch can be glued over the puncture after the area surrounding the hole is cleaned of debris. Be sure to inspect the rest of the tube for any abrasions or bubbles in the rubber, as these can be indications of weakened areas.

Care must be taken when installing tubed tires (many modern-day mechanics are not familiar with these kinds of vintage tires and do not take the care they need to when installing them).

The problem with inner tubes is that the whole inner tube goes when they go flat, and you have an immediately flat tire. A tubeless tire can pick up a nail or screw and lose air more slowly, giving you a chance to notice it and get it repaired without being stranded on the side of the road.  You should check to ensure that the rims on your car can use tubeless tires and form an adequate seal before ordering. Tubes should not be used in tubeless tires, as the inner tube tends to rub against the tire's inner wall, and the friction can produce a blowout.

Tubeless Tires

Despite the fact that the tubeless tire was patented in 1903 by P.W. Litchfield of the Goodyear Tire Company,  the first car to use it was the 1954 Packard. (Depending on which tire manufacturer you listen to - BF Goodrich claims to have patented their tubeless tire in 1947, although the patents were granted until 1952). Buick first adopted the tubeless tires for their 1955 model year.

Tubeless tires revolutionized car owners' frustration with constantly stopping on the side of the road and changing the flat on their cars.  Even though road surfaces were not very good in the mid-fifties, (Dwight D Eisenhower didn’t even get the Interstate Highway Act passed until 1956 - an effort that would take nearly a decade and 100 billion dollars to accomplish).

Over the years, as highway conditions have become better (despite the roughness of some highways) and rubber compounds have improved, the appeal of radials (tubeless tires) has exploded. Most enthusiasts prefer tubeless radials, but there are times when a radial is just not an option. In that case, purists can still find a bias-ply tire that will take a tube.

Bias Ply vs. Radials

Most of the time, the considerable tire debate between tubeless tires among early Buick owners is whether a bias-ply or radial tire is best. Up until the 1970s, Bias plys ruled the automotive world.

Understanding the Difference Between Bias and Radials and Bias Look Radials

In a bias-ply tire, cords (layers or called plies) are set at 45-degree angles across the tire's surface. Then, the next layer is set at a counter 45-degree angle to create rigidity and strength. The tires look like a slight bulge on the sidewall in the antique car environment. Bias tires were made for weight when cars were heavier, consumed more fuel, and were driven at slower speeds. The bias will not give you the same ride you have grown used to feeling on your regular car. It also does worse on wet surfaces, so expect this kind of tire to push with the contour of the pavement.

In a radial tire, the construction of the tire is very different. The plys run at 90 degrees to the bead of the tire. This design allows the tire to be more flexible than bias, and that softness allows the tire to cushion the ride, provide better handling, and are more fuel-efficient.

In 2013, manufacturers like Coker Tire Company created a hybrid of sorts. It was a radial tire that looked like a vintage bias. To be fair to the purist, it is not original equipment by a long shot, but it looks at a bias while providing the benefits of the radial.

Understanding the Benefits of Bias and Radials

While Radials tend to be more expensive than their Bias Ply cousins, they generally provide a better ride, handling, and improved fuel economy. Depending on how many miles you plan on putting on the car once it is restored and what purpose you are restoring it for, radials seem to be the consensus for looks and ride.

A word of note if you plan to take the car to antique car shows. Taking your early year Buick Roadmaster to a show to be judged will cost you a few points if you show up with radials rather than bias-ply. While the radials may help the car ride more smoothly, the closest to originals for Buick Roadmasters were bias-ply tires. If you just take your car to shows to interact with the people who also love to see vintage vehicles and not worry about your trophy case, radials are the way to go.

Radial tires are easier to find than older bias plies. In addition, as synthetic compounds for tires continue to become more improved, bias tires are becoming more and more obsolete. Most manufacturers can help find the correct size radial for your car to fit your budget.

So what year your car was made will make a difference in the tires that are right for the car.

Correct Tire Size

Most manufacturers have tire conversion charts like vintagecarconnection.com.

How to Read an Antique Tire Size

You may have noticed that the original tires were listed as a number x another number (8.0 x 15) which stood for the width of the tire tread from sidewall to sidewall by the tire's height. The modern conversion for this size tire would be P235/70R15 for the 70 series and P225/75R15 for the 75 series.

How to Read a Tire Size

Current tires have numbers on the sidewall. Here is how to decipher them. The first letter designates the tire as suitable for Passenger cars (P). The following three numbers indicate width, and the number before the “R” indicates the aspect ratio of the tire height divided by the width. R means radial, and the last two numbers indicate rim size. Be careful to make sure the tires you convert to do not rub the inner walls of the car, as sometimes conversion charts are approximations, and every car can have different needs.

What Should I Know About the Tire Warranty?

Almost every tire manufacturer has a limited warranty for their tires. While they may claim a certain number of miles on their warranty, the warranty is always pro-rated over time and treadwear. So, don’t expect to run a 60k mile tire to be replaced just because the company says it's suitable for 60k.

The same principle applies to road hazard policies often sold with these tires. The road hazard policy is designed to replace or repair a tire should it develop a nail or be punctured by debris, or have a gash in the sidewall from various stuff that litters our roads these days. But there’s a catch (there is always a catch). The fine print of your policy probably states that if the tread has less than 2/32 mm, the company reserves the right to deny the claim. Many companies have even more stringent guidelines).

About THE AUTHOR

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

Read More About Charles Redding