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Thread: Making stock-looking whitewalls from white lettering tires

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    GMN = life johnunit's Avatar
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    Default Making stock-looking whitewalls from white lettering tires

    Had some interest when I mentioned I was doing this in another thread. Here's the shoddily made how-to video with a before and after near the end. This was done with 295/50/15 Mickey Thompson Sportsman ST tires. I see no reason this couldn't be done with any white lettering tire, though.

    Yes, people have ground down the sidewall to make whitewalls before. However, I'm not aware of anyone doing it in a controlled way to create narrow whitewalls. Most hotrodders just grind the whole sidewall, leaving a 3+ inch whitewall like you saw in the 40s and 50s. There are also companies like Coker and Diamondback that make whitewall tires, but sizing is very limited, and most of the larger sizes are only available as the ancient, mediocre BF Goodrich Radial T/A. They also cost around 100 more than normal looking tires.

    This is time consuming, but it opens up a HUGE number of options for those of us looking to retain the factory whitewall look while upgrading performance. I'll type up a more formal how-to tonight if there is interest.

    Oh and as for safety concerns, I took off maybe 1 3rd of the total depth of white rubber from the sidewall, even in the deep outer grooves. I'll find out 100% for sure when they're on the car, but none of the fellow techs at my shop are worried about the sidewall being compromised.


    85 4 door 351 Civi Crown Victoria - Summer daily driver, sleeper in the making, and wildly inappropriate autocross machine
    160KMs 600cfm holley, shorty headers, 2.5" catted exhaust, 255/295 tires, cop shocks, cop swaybars, underdrive pulley, 2.73L gears.
    waiting for install: 3.27's, Poly bushings, boxed rear arms, 2500 stall converter, ported e7's, etc

    06 Mazda 3 hatch 2.3L 5AT (winter beater that cost more than my summer car)

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    Just a ?.
    Had you considered the actual disk brake cutting head from the brake lathe?
    I don't know how it would work compared to the scrubby pad.

    It has been at least 35 years since I ran a brake lathe. Can you just use the inner cutter?
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    The Brown Blob 87gtVIC's Avatar
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    Went a hell of a lot better than I expected!
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    The GMN Cowboy™ MrMarquis's Avatar
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    Very impressive! Turned out pretty clean!



    - 2004 Ford Thunderbird - 2006 Ford F150 XLT - 2018 Ford Explorer Limited - 1958 Mercury Medalist

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    Stow It! GM_Guy's Avatar
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    Will view the video at work, but I would not be concerned about it at all, the white wall/letter is just a strip of added white rubber to get the effect. And, the classic car crowd has been grinding tires for years to get as wide a white as possible before coker was a bigger player in the classic tire field.

    Alex.

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    I post a lot... pantera77's Avatar
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    That actually came out really good.

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    GMN = life johnunit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jaywish View Post
    Just a ?.
    Had you considered the actual disk brake cutting head from the brake lathe?
    I don't know how it would work compared to the scrubby pad.

    It has been at least 35 years since I ran a brake lathe. Can you just use the inner cutter?
    There may be some way to do that, though I suspect you'd have issues with cutting too deep in the parts of the tire that stick out more. Keep in mind that a tire can easily be out of round more than the thickness of the sidewall. I'm also not sure I could have controlled the width and angle of the cut well enough. It's possible, but this machine is barely touched anymore and I've never worked with that particular type so I wasn't willing to experiment with my own tires and safety.

    85 4 door 351 Civi Crown Victoria - Summer daily driver, sleeper in the making, and wildly inappropriate autocross machine
    160KMs 600cfm holley, shorty headers, 2.5" catted exhaust, 255/295 tires, cop shocks, cop swaybars, underdrive pulley, 2.73L gears.
    waiting for install: 3.27's, Poly bushings, boxed rear arms, 2500 stall converter, ported e7's, etc

    06 Mazda 3 hatch 2.3L 5AT (winter beater that cost more than my summer car)

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    GMN = life johnunit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GM_Guy View Post
    Will view the video at work, but I would not be concerned about it at all, the white wall/letter is just a strip of added white rubber to get the effect. And, the classic car crowd has been grinding tires for years to get as wide a white as possible before coker was a bigger player in the classic tire field.

    Alex.
    Yep, that's the original inspiration. I saw videos of people doing the wide whites, where they'd basically grind the whole sidewall and let the white end wherever it ended. This generally left a ragged edge to the white, and something much wider than I'd run on a panther. So I thought about why these people didn't do something to not go all the way to the edge of the white, so that they could get a nicer finish. From there, the logical end point was that you could choose your whitewall width from just barely enough to erase the old lettering to a wide white with a crisp edge.

    85 4 door 351 Civi Crown Victoria - Summer daily driver, sleeper in the making, and wildly inappropriate autocross machine
    160KMs 600cfm holley, shorty headers, 2.5" catted exhaust, 255/295 tires, cop shocks, cop swaybars, underdrive pulley, 2.73L gears.
    waiting for install: 3.27's, Poly bushings, boxed rear arms, 2500 stall converter, ported e7's, etc

    06 Mazda 3 hatch 2.3L 5AT (winter beater that cost more than my summer car)

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    Stow It! GM_Guy's Avatar
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    Its a great sleeper mod.

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    Member lincolnlarry's Avatar
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    If I still had the wire rims on the car, I would want a set of those!!!

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    GMN = life johnunit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lincolnlarry View Post
    If I still had the wire rims on the car, I would want a set of those!!!
    I like how you think. The exact setup you see there will have wire wheel covers put over it.

    85 4 door 351 Civi Crown Victoria - Summer daily driver, sleeper in the making, and wildly inappropriate autocross machine
    160KMs 600cfm holley, shorty headers, 2.5" catted exhaust, 255/295 tires, cop shocks, cop swaybars, underdrive pulley, 2.73L gears.
    waiting for install: 3.27's, Poly bushings, boxed rear arms, 2500 stall converter, ported e7's, etc

    06 Mazda 3 hatch 2.3L 5AT (winter beater that cost more than my summer car)

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    Proud Owner Of A 1987 Mercury Grand Marquis! miamibob's Avatar
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    Still got WW's on my '87 GM. Finding some good ones when these wear out will be fun!


    "Hope and dignity are two things NO ONE can take away from you - you have to relinquish them on your own" Miamibob

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    Play me something funky! marquisman's Avatar
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    I have always wondered about this. I have yet to have the balls to do this though lol.

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    Member Louis's Avatar
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    Nice job on the whitewalls! That will look very cool with the wire hubcaps.

    Quote Originally Posted by miamibob View Post
    Still got WW's on my '87 GM. Finding some good ones when these wear out will be fun!
    The seller discounttiredirect on eBay is always listing a set of 4 Hankook 225/75/15 WW's for $364 including shipping....sometimes they are on sale for $343. Been eyeing these for awhile for my Towncar.

    I've seen these Hankooks on a few cars last year at car shows...nice looking tire.
    Last edited by Louis; 02-26-2014 at 01:19 AM.

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    Member purplebomb302's Avatar
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    I never knew that people have been doing this. Turned out good!


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    Proud Owner Of A 1987 Mercury Grand Marquis! miamibob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Louis View Post
    Nice job on the whitewalls! That will look very cool with the wire hubcaps.



    The seller discounttiredirect on eBay is always listing a set of 4 Hankook 225/75/15 WW's for $364 including shipping....sometimes they are on sale for $343. Been eyeing these for awhile for my Towncar.

    I've seen these Hankooks on a few cars last year at car shows...nice looking tire.
    Thanks for the info - I'll keep it in mind!! I think PEPBOYS (not my favorite place) carries them but may be a special order.


    "Hope and dignity are two things NO ONE can take away from you - you have to relinquish them on your own" Miamibob

    "NEVER trade your passion for glory"!! Sal "the Bard" (Dear Old Dad!)

    "Cars are for driving - PERIOD! I DON'T TEXT, TWEET OR TWERK!!!!"

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    GMN = life johnunit's Avatar
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    Found some time tonight to make a written how-to. Watching the video first will help orient you a bit.


    To start with, disclaimers:

    I've done this once. This is all very experimental. If you do it wrong, you can ruin a perfectly good tire. I cannot 100% guarantee all white lettering tires work for this, but can see no reason that they wouldn't. Furthermore, I'm just a young enthusiast dicking around in my spare time, and can't guarantee that there aren't way better ways to do this

    Use safety gear. Goggles, tie back loose clothing and hair, all that fun stuff. You're going to be using stuff that can cut skin and break bones and all that fun stuff without even slowing down. Don't let your interest in getting the tire right jeopardize your safety.


    What you need:
    brake lathe (a car with it's drive axle raised, and put in reverse may be a substitute but for god's sake be careful)
    tire machine (or brake lathe capable of going at >30RPM)
    angle grinder
    assorted sanding and prep pads for angle grinder
    clean rags
    your favourite rubber cleaner


    Step 1:
    You need a smooth surface everywhere you intend to grind on the tire. Knock down the raised white lettering and any significant other raised portions that it lines up with. DOT markings, tire size, etc.

    Getting it perfect isn't important here, just down to more or less flat with the rest of the tire.

    With the tire at 5-10 PSI, to hold a shape but not blow up lethally if you compromise it, go around with a fairly aggressive sanding pad on your grinder and sand off everything where you want your whitewalls to be. Once you're satisfied that nothing will 'catch' on the grinder when you have the tire spinning on the lathe, it's time for step two.


    Step 2:
    Mount your wheel on the brake lathe. I was able to get it centered using a cone shaped attachment, but you'll have to see what works for you, just like mounting a brake disc or drum. Don't turn it on until you're sure the wheel is secure, as you're dealing with serious torque.

    If there is a convenient pad on the brake lathe to rest your arm or tool, mount the tire with the white side facing that way. If not, you want the white sidewall facing out, and to find a bench, chair, whatever to brace your arm against. Keeping your hand still is key.


    Step 3:
    Turn the lathe on/start the car. With your arm well braced, start to grind using the edge of the grinding disc on the outer edge of where you want your whitewall to be. To start with, I just made this the upper tip of the existing white letters. This is to establish a clean, smooth edge of the whitewall.

    Using just enough pressure to keep the angle grinder on the tire all the way around, hold the grinder on there until you see the a solid white line form where you're grinding. You may have to stop a couple times to check how deep you've gone. When you're done, you should have a neat white line all the way around the tire where you want the outer edge of your whitewall to be.

    Below is my tire at that stage. You can see I made one groove too close to the wheel rim, and had to make another right at the outer edge of the white lettering. You'll never turn the white lettering to black, so any smooth whitewalls must be at least the width of the white lettering.



    Repeat the above for the inner (close to the rim) extreme of where you want your whitewall to be. Go until it's all white all the way around the tire in that groove, but not any farther. Stopping to check if you're deep enough is better than going too deep

    You should now have two very narrow white grooves around the tire. If you're going for very narrow whitewalls, they'll be at the upper and lower tips of the white lettering the tires came with. If you're satisfied that the distance between these two narrow grooves/lines is the size of whitewall you want, it's time for the next step

    Step 4:

    Now you've got to 'fill in' the spot between your two narrow grooves with more white. Spin the tire up again on the lathe. This time, use the main flat face of the angle grinder pad, not the edge. Just grind down in between the two grooves until you see fairly consistent white. Be sure that you aren't touching anything outside the grooves, as white in the wrong place isn't reversible. Patience is key here, this is not a fast process. Expect to spend at least 10-15 minutes per tire grinding like this. Stop frequently to see your progress.

    Attack one side of the area at a time. Have the edge of your grinding disc just touching one groove, and the other lifted a bit above the other groove. Use enough pressure that the grinder isn't bouncing off the tire, but not much more.

    If you now have a whitewall with lots of black spots, lines, etc. but two fairly crisp edges, you're ready for the next step. Here's how mine looked at this point



    Step 5

    Now is where the tire machine (or slow lathe setting) comes in.

    You'll have noticed by this point that the quick spinning tire hides all the small spots of black still showing. This is where you clean all of those up.

    Start by vacuuming or using an air blower to get all the rubber dust off, and cleaning the whitewall thoroughly so you can see what still needs more grinding and what just has black smeared on it

    If you have a tire machine, move the finger/arm that you pry against to remove tires into place a couple inches above the wheel, roughly one inch inwards from the wheel lip. This is where you can brace yourself for good control of the angle grinder.

    Spin the wheel. With very light pressure on the grinder, aim forthe spots that are still black as you go around. If you're getting more black smearing, clean off the whitewall again and also clean the grinding pad. You may also want to go to a less aggressive pad at this point.

    Final touchup can be done with a firm scrubbing with a clean shop rag, and then cleaning the whitewall with any nice rubber cleaner and another clean rag. You can even use the rags and some elbow grease to get the very last of the black spots off. Make sure there's no rubber dust or other debris in the grooves (if they're still deeper than the inner parts of the whitewall) making stuff look uneven.

    You should now have whitewalls of the size and placement of your choosing (within some limitations) on whatever white lettering tire you chose. And assuming you already had all the tools, all you've spent is time and a couple grinder pads. Sweet, right?


    85 4 door 351 Civi Crown Victoria - Summer daily driver, sleeper in the making, and wildly inappropriate autocross machine
    160KMs 600cfm holley, shorty headers, 2.5" catted exhaust, 255/295 tires, cop shocks, cop swaybars, underdrive pulley, 2.73L gears.
    waiting for install: 3.27's, Poly bushings, boxed rear arms, 2500 stall converter, ported e7's, etc

    06 Mazda 3 hatch 2.3L 5AT (winter beater that cost more than my summer car)

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