The great tyre controversy

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Sir,

It seems to me that the Michelin versus Dunlop “battle” appearing in your columns has been very one-sided to say the least. The only letters I can recall defending the Dunlop product have come from Messrs. Dunlops themselves, and a great deal of utter nonsense has been written, and to my mind it’s high time we had a change of subject.

I think I am in a position to clear this matter up once and for all, being a really hard high mileage driver, and I would like to relate my experiences over the past 100,000 miles.

In April 1960 I took delivery of a new Vauxhall Victor fitted with Firestone “gunn dipped” (whatever that may mean!). The dry weather cornering was reasonably good, but in the wet it was atrocious, both front end and rear breaking away unpredictably even when cornering very moderately. The tyres were bald at 8,000 miles, and at 10,000 I changed to Michelin “X” with the ribbed tread pattern. The steering became heavy at low speeds, and every bump in the road became harder. The body roll also increased very noticeably. But these faults were unimportant to me. What did matter was the performance at higher speeds, and in this respect the “X”s were superb. The ride became smooth and the wet weather cornering was almost beyond belief, being better than “ordinary” tyres ever were in the dry. These “X”s lasted until the car was swapped at 44,000 miles, except for the last 500 miles when the spare Firestone was matched with a new one, both being put on the front—talk about understeer!

My new Wolseley 1500 (Sept. ’61) was fitted with Dunlop Gold Seal tyres. The odd cornering characteristics of the 1500 took some getting used to, but the Gold Seals behaved very well indeed, wet or dry, but only lasted 8,000 miles. I made them hang on until 10,000 and replaced with Michelin “X” with the “stop” tread pattern. The low speed characteristics were the same as the ribbed “X”s on the Vauxhall, but at high speed on wet roads the cornering was no better than on the Gold Seals. After around 5,000 miles the outside shoulders on both front tyres had worn away. This led to front end breakaway when cornering quickly in the wet, so I quickly had the tyres removed and turned round on the rim. This cured the trouble for around 3,000 miles, when I changed front to back, the same process then started again. On the whole the wet weather cornering was disappointing. This set lasted only 20,000 miles, at which time they were replaced with another set of “stop” tread “X “s (no “ribbed” pattern “X”s being available for this model). I have now covered 20,000 on the second set of “X”s and they are good for another three or four thousand. The wet road cornering seems better on this set than the last, but the same “shoulder” trouble has been experienced to a slightly lesser degree.

Over the years I have driven on all makes of “ordinary” tyres, and I have always found Dunlops as good as any and better than most. Hard fast motoring with economy calls for “X”s (Michelin tubes are a “must,” by the way) but a more moderate family motorist will be well pleased with Dunlop Gold Seal.

Sorry to keep on so, but I must mention that I am aware of the fact that there are a number of braced tread tyres available today, many of which are claimed by their makers to overcome the sudden breakaway associated with this type of tyre. They must, of course, be referring to “X”s. I can only add that the breakaway on “X”s seemed no worse to me than with “ordinary” tyres, and I have always (so far!) been able to control it quickly and safely. The only difference being that you have to go more quickly to make it happen, the added speed no doubt requiring quicker action on the part of the driver.

To sum up, the “ribbed” “X” is better than the “stop,” and the Gold Seal is better than most conventional tyres.

A.R. Ruskell.
Churchdown.

[This correspondence is now closed.—Ed.]

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