No one can deny there's a certain magic about owning and driving an older Pontiac. The large and powerful engine, muscular-looking body, and overall character that is bred into the DNA of these vehicles has fueled their popularity. It's a marriage of simplicity and brute strength. But there is at least one area that needs to be advanced from its roots of more than 40 years ago. That is, where the rubber meets the road.
Tire technology has improved so much over the years that the only things a modern tire has in common with the old factory-installed rubber is they are black and hold air. The then-current bias-ply tires handled poorly, rode hard, and didn't offer the necessary emergency maneuverability that a modern radial tire inherently provides.
Until recently, this posed a problem for the Pontiac owner. Does one choose to stick with old-technology tires so the proper sidewall with a red or white stripe or wide whitewall makes their vehicle appear era-correct? Or do you allow function to be addressed and install a modern tire design and forfeit the original look? Often this decision is the most trying aspect of a project since the tires and wheels define the character of the car.
Thanks to the efforts of Bill Chapman and his family owned company, Diamond Back Classics (DBC), the decision is now simple. DBC has the ability to alter the sidewall of a modern tire to look like an old classic. This process is what brought HPP to the small town of Conway, South Carolina, to visit the DBC plant and explain this interesting technology to our readers.
The Chapman family is no stranger to tires. In 1915, Bill's grandfather started a tire-recapping plant. That business was passed on to the succeeding family members and was eventually sold by Bill in 1980. Due to his love for muscle and classic cars, Bill worked with his sons Cliff and Tab, and daughter Cooper, to develop a process that allows the sidewall of a new tire to be modified to achieve a classic look without compromising the integrity of the design. The DBC process is not to be confused with a recap or a tire made in an old mold that was discarded by the original manufacturer. DBC purchases new, modern, first-quality, state-of-the-art production tires and, through the company's proprietary process, makes them into a red line, a white stripe, or a wide whitewall that would look appropriate on any older Pontiac.
When Bill Chapman isn't in...
When Bill Chapman isn't in the plant, he's at his desk handling customer's questions. The sales office is manned by professionals who know not only tires, but also the Pontiac market's needs and concerns.
New, modern tires from manufacturers...
New, modern tires from manufacturers such as Goodyear, Firestone/Bridgestone, Michelin, Cooper, Federal, and others are stored in the warehouse area next to the production-shop floor.
The colored polymer is made...
The colored polymer is made to order in Ohio for DBC and is offered in white, red, blue, and gold stripes. It arrives on large rolls and is then processed before application.
A slitter/rewinder machine...
A slitter/rewinder machine takes the polymer and cuts it into different widths, from 31/48 inch to 4 inches for whitewalls. The red-stripe material is normally cut into a 31/48-inch wide section.
As the machine cuts the material...
As the machine cuts the material (whitewall shown), it then rewinds it onto smaller spools that are kept in the tire build area. At each work station, specific widths and colors of polymer are stored on a shelf at the operator's disposal.
When a customer order is put...
When a customer order is put into the system and is ready for production, the proper tires are removed from inventory and placed on a rack that is delivered to the tire build area. The Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 shown here is the most popular for modification with a red stripe. The DBC process places the red line in the appropriate location to allow this modern tire to resemble a classic but perform with 2007 technology.
Rubber must be in the blood of the Chapmans since Bill and his children work in the factory alongside a crew of dedicated employees. Each DBC tire is hand-modified and reworked in the company's 17,000-square-foot facility. New tires are kept in stock, but each DBC product is custom made to order by the hands of a skilled professional.
DBC has the ability to modify almost any tire in any size, even though the company's standard offerings fill a 30-page catalog. In addition, the company invites special or "one-off" orders for those who want a unique but quality tire on their Pontiac.
Since this ingenious process is best described with photos, follow along as we show you how a new tire is made into a classic.