Making The Purchase

When we learned that reproduction Steelgards were available, we were immediately interested. Familiar with the quality of Kelsey’s Polyglas GT reproductions, we expected nothing less than perfection. While perusing the Kelsey Tire booth at SEMA 2012, we found the new Steelgard prominently displayed and took the opportunity to look it over and visit with John at length. Amazed at the tire’s accuracy and confident in John’s word, we purchased a set for our ’74 Trans Am. The tires retail for $350 each directly from Kelsey Tire and were delivered to our doorstep in just a few days.

We briefly considered removing our Trans Am’s original Steelgards from the original Honeycomb wheels, but ultimately decided against it for fear of tearing the 40-year-old tires’ brittle rim seating grooves during the dismounting process. We also reasoned that since the reproduction Steelgards were new tires, constructed of modern rubber compound and meeting all current safety standards, there wasn’t any reason we couldn’t treat them as any other radial tire commonly available today.

We decided to shelf the modern BFGoodrich tires for another project and install the new Steelgards on our restored rims. On a lazy Saturday morning, we securely supported the Firebird on sturdy jack stands and removed all four wheels and tires, loaded them and the new Steelgards into our pickup truck, and headed for Midwest Tire in Omaha, Nebraska, to perform the swap. Within an hour we were on our way back home to install the new rubber.

With the wheels and tires fully installed, the lug nuts tightened to 65 ft-lb, and the tires pressurized to 30 psi, we first backed the Trans Am out of the garage to marvel at how the GR70-15 reproduction tires completely restored the T/A’s original appearance. Elated with the visual effect, we ventured out onto the streets to determine how they might differ from the modern 255/60 radials in various conditions.

We found the Trans Am to ride smoother and softer when compared to the wider BFGoodrich tires, and that’s something we expected to see. What we didn’t expect to find, however, was no noticeable loss in handling ability. While we admit that we didn’t push our unrestored Super-Duty–powered car to its limits, in normal turns at higher-than-normal speeds we realized that Pontiac engineers perfectly combined the suspension and tire combination to let each independent system work in concert to maximize the effect.

Conclusion

If giving your Pontiac a vintage look and feel is important, reproduction Goodyear Steelgard tires from Kelsey Tire will certainly let you accomplish those goals. While they may not be correct for all years, they’re absolutely correct for the ’74 Firebird Trans Am, and will look period-correct for Firebirds in following years, at least until more accurate reproductions arrive. Considering they’re made with modern materials and comply with today’s strict safety standards, there’s no reason they couldn’t be considered anywhere new radials are desired!

SOURCE
Kelsey Tire
1190 East Highway 54
Camdenton
MO  65020
573-346-2506
www.kelseytire.com