JK posted this fine shot of a ’65 Impala sedan at the Cohort and added some tilt-shift effect to make it look a bit more like an exceptionally accurate model in a diorama. I know there’s some here that would cry “heresy”, but it sure could use a bit bigger tires, and slightly wider wheels. These look pretty close to the grossly-undersized tires (7.35 x 14) that these came with when new. That that equates to a P185/80R14 tire. Some 6″ wide 15″ wheels with an appropriate tire size would help fill out those massive wheel well caves. Of course then the original wheel cover might not fit, but maybe there’s a way. Or put on dog dishes.
Like the ’65 Biscayne he also posted:
That’s just about right. Not too big, not too small. And it undoubtedly handles, brakes and rides better too.
Here’s a couple of related ’65 Chevrolet posts worth opening;
How GM Nickel and Dimed Americans (And Itself) To Death – Undersized Tires PN
CC 1965 Impala SS: The Peak Chevrolet Experience; The Peak Big Car Experience PN
As a kid, I didn’t understand why VW’s and Volvo’s had 15” wheels but most American full size cars had 14’s. Later, I understood the history but still questioned it. And then my friend’s parents’ Mercedes Fintail had 13’s. But the trend towards larger diameter low profile tires on modern cars seems way off in the other direction. I think 15’s look just right on this Chevy and similar sized cars. And even to this day, despite owning three late-model cars, of which two are light trucks, I’ve never owned a vehicle with larger than 16” rims.
One thing I love about CC, I always learn something new. Such as: I had been wondering what the photographic effect is that makes real life images look like models.
I agree it was a little ridiculous how full-size Chevys came standard with such small wheels/tires. They sold cars on the idea they gave you such a big car for a low price, then cut corners where ever they could. Smart buyers figured out they would be better off with a well-equipped intermediate than a stripper full-size. It’s a good thing that within several years, 15 inch wheels became universal on full-sizers. Disc brakes and radial tires, too, thank goodness.
Probably partly related to the small wheels, I’ve also noticed the 65 BelAir/Impala sometimes looks like the front is riding too high.
early ’65’s sat lower in the rear, dealers and customers complained, neighbors, the Greer’s bought a yellow/blk roof SS, rear springs were replaced, became a running chasnge, some still too low.
My Dad’s 65 Impala rode low in the back….used to bottom out in the rear on uneven road to driveway entrances.
I had the opposite issue on my 2005 Impala…..The front end used to bottom out easily due to the low subframe/engine cradle.
Back in those olden days people often put shocks with springs around them on to fix this kind of problem, and reduce the rear squashing down with loads of people or stuff in the car. My 40+ year old Lincoln Continental had them on it when I got it, eventual sagging being a thing with leaf springs and that being an easy fix.
Back in the Corsica days I drove two of them. One bottomed out on a dip in the pavement at 25 mph. Never ran into that on any car ever. The other one, with a couple thousand miles on it, obviously floated in front at highway speeds. So I’m thinking that GM put worthless shocks on them.
Overload shocks…..My Dad put a set of them on his ’65 Impala to attempt to alleviate the bottoming out issue….I cannot recall whether those shocks helped or not as I was quite young at the time.
The blur created an unfortunate illusion… the car is about to hit a blind man crossing the street. (Since the taillights are glowing, the real car is obviously stopped.)
I thought the first pic. was a diorama at first look .
Thanks for posting this great pic, my father had a car just like this, maroon with a black cloth interior powered by a 283 and the 2 speed Powerglide. It was a beautiful car with all that shiny chrome. One weekend, we went to an amusement park and a park employee went around and put bumper stickers on all the cars…my father was furious, he found the guy and made him remove it. My father loved his cars, that one in particular. He had us 3 kids and his cars…
My Dad had a ’65 Impala 4 door hardtop…Ermine white roof and crocus yellow body and the 283 V8 and 3 speed manual and one time on a long trip in the late 1960’s, the right rear tire blew out at 60mph, sending the hubcap flying into the air and down a steep enbankment where it was not found.
The force of the blowout also damaged and dislodged a portion of the chrome wheelwell moulding on that same right rear wheel.
I remember reading in On A Clear Day You Can See General Motors that John DeLorean perpetually battled with GM brass for larger standard-equipment tires. His main point was that larger tires made the car look better (never mind the performance benefits) but the money guys were always trying to cheap out with the smallest tires possible.
When I was in college I needed tires on my 71 Scamp and found a set of used C78-14s (from that short-lived size system). That car really needed Ds or Es to look right, because those Cs made the car look a lot like this Chevy does. I did not make that mistake again when I replaced them.
I can’t remember exactly, but my ’74 Dart Sport had something like D80-13’s on it when new. I think I went to F78-14’s when those wore out.
Love both photos, nice job!
Yes, those small tires and wheels, both for cost cutting and a quick way to put the “lower” in longer, lower, and wider. As I recall, 1957 was the model year when Detroit shifted en masse from 15-inch to 14-inch wheels (except for some makes like Buick, Cadillac, and Studebaker). Consumer Reports complained, rightly so, about the smaller tires and brakes as cars were getting more powerful and heavier. Disk brakes — what are those?
Our 1961 Chevy Bel Air had skinny 7.00 x 14 inch tires and my aunt’s ’61 Oldsmobile Dynamic 88 with the standard 394-cu. in. V8 had 7.50 x 14 inchers.
I remember when my father decided we would need a new car before the family moved from northern Pennsylvania to southern Alabama. When looking at the new 1960 Ford Country Sedans the salesman/dealer pointed out that the new 1960 model had switched to 14 inch wheels/tires from the older 15 inch wheels and tires.
My assumption was that wheels/tires dropped down a size in the 60s to make the cars look even longer and lower. Not that it quite worked on the Ford wagons…at least not my father’s 6 cylinder powered wagon. I thought that the rear end of that car always sat a bit high, even compared to the 60 Country Sedans owned by 2 other uncles.
I also thought that another reason for the small wheel/tire combo was to give plenty of room for cars of this era to allow for suspension travel/roll due to the very soft springing.
Guess I was too forgiving of car company bean counters?
I wondered why I would see ’61-’63 Lincoln Continentals (back when they were still not unicorns on the road) with the very different ’64-’65 wheel covers on them, which I thought ruined those years (along with all the other terrible changes they made). Then I got a ’62. I wanted to put radials on it and even the largest radials ran lower than the original bias ply tires. So I got a set of larger 15″ wheels and the widest highest profile radial tires available to equal the height of the originals. Turned out exactly right – the speedometer was right on the money.
But instead of putting the ’64-’65 wheel covers on I got some from the 1970’s that looked a lot like the originals once you removed the black plastic plate from under the Continental emblem. Yes, they were made of three parts screwed together.
Radials didn’t seem to hurt the ride much (5000 lbs and 123″ wheelbase took care of a lot that the fairly primitive suspension and unit body didn’t) and I’m sure brought the cornering and mpg up from terrible to only bad.
That’s the problem with replacing the original wheels with larger ones on cars like that – losing the original wheel covers. But just putting radials on (which I have seen a lot) lowers them and raises rpm’s.
Those 9.50 X 14 tires absurdly wide sidewalls were an effort to give a good ride while still lowering the overall height. Many 1958-1963 Lincoln owners replace those 14″ for one very good reason: the cost of original style and sie bias-ply tires are hideously costly unless its a show car.
One solution to the wheel cover problem when switching to !5″ is to acquire a set of those 1964-’69 standard wheel covers which are still plentiful, have a circle the diameter of the 1961–63 attachment grips cut out. Assemble by MIG welding to two at eight points around the circle, polish and snap them on. The slightly larger appearance is only noticed by the Lincoln knowledgeable.
When I started designing cars at Opel, the base wheel size on a Kadett E was 155/80/13 and the largest wheels on the Senator/Omega were 15″. Fast forward to 2006 when starting the 981 Boxster/Cayman that came out for the 2013 model year and the base wheel was an 18″ and the top option 20″. Now, 20″ wheels are pretty common, with some sedans running 21 or 22″ diameters. Of course, SUVs go even larger, quite apart from the aftermarket rolling stock offerings.
One of the reasons for this has been safety – the upgrading of brake systems, with larger rotors and calipers requiring more space inside the wheel to house them. Another is tire technology, with lower sidewalls offering more precise control.
Of course, we designers always sketch large wheels and fight to have those wheel wells filled out. Check this 981 Boxster sketch of mine – mea culpa!
Negatives of larger wheels are, of course, increased rotational mass which affects acceleration, decreased ride comfort (although not always) from stiffer sidewalls and ride and handling affected if unsprung weight is increased. This latter has been mitigated by advances in wheel and tire design (carbon wheels on Mustang, for example).
It’s important to note that the wheel diameter increases do not necessarily result in increased overall diameter as sidewall height has shrunk commensurately – as an example, the 215/50/17 rear tires for my KG are the same rolling circumference as the 165/80/15s they replace, to preserve the gear ratios.
To give an extreme example, I used to drive my original Minis on 10″ wheels – my Inno Cooper had wide 5 1/2J rims with 165SR10 tires! I drove one on 13″ rims and it was horrible – the body was just not stiff enough to cope and they ruined the handling…
Good insights, thanks!
I’ve always found it strange that the 65 Biscayne had Biscayne exclusive chrome trim on top of the rear fenders. This was the fleet queen stripper and they tooled up and made special chrome gingerbread for that one model. Weird!
The larger tires and dual exhausts on the Biscayne make it look like a decommissioned squad car.
Love that about it – a serious car for serious duty!
While many charts list 185-14 as the equivalent metric size tire they have a smaller diameter than the 7.35-14, 25.6″ vs 26″. Metric tires with no given profile are actually 80 series while the old tire sizes, with sizes ending in “5” such as x.x5 are 82 series tires. Most charts just multiply the old section width by 2.54 and round to the closest “5”. So in almost every case you end up with a smaller diameter tire than the original if you go by those charts because of that 2% discrepancy which actually gets doubled to 4% and the rounding.
A good modern choice would be a 205/75-14 or a 215/70-14 which are 26.1″ and 25.9″
Yes the 215/70 would prefer to be on a slightly wider rim 5-1/16″ but it will be just fine on a 5″. With ~1500lb capacities either have more than enough capacity but not too much.
The other option is to scrounge up some old 14×7 ralley wheels or steel aftermarket and run 235/60 for a big increase in width and the ability to keep the wheel covers.
Not only do the tires and wheels on the Biscayne look better, the significant decluttering of trim is substantial improvement as well. Its an attractive body, why distract from it with all that chrome and brightwork on the Impala?
I’m all for wheel and tire changes for the better. Keep the originals and their wheel covers along the wall in the garage for preservation, use what’s actually safe and good performing to actually drive the car.
Thanks PN. Looks like I’ll venture down the Impala rabbit hole via all the links starting with “undersized tires”, one of my all time favorites.
I had a ’65 Impala coupe with basic 6-cyl. Could have got an entire additional engine under the hood.
Few options & very lightweight.
Will never forget the 7.35-14’s.
But I thought the heavier ones with V-8’s had 15’s. Guess I was wrong.
I think this is the same Biscayne at https://www.curbsideclassic.com/blog/cc-cohort/cohort-classic-1965-chevrolet-biscayne-voluptuous-hips-for-cheapskates/. The bigger wheels/tires do indeed look better.
It doesn’t need bigger wheels. Certain late ’50’s cars looked like chromey caskets on castors for sure, but 14″ gives this lithe looker the right stance, only improvable (perhaps) by genuine cliff-sized sidewall crossplies from actual 1965.
With exceptions like the one aboove, I never have really got why it’s assumed that everybody must be in favor of bigger wheels. I’m the daggy type who’s favored originality since the (whatever) was original. “How exciting, look, it’s completely standard!” Other boys were looking at the hot rod – or the girls.
That first photo is your proper piece of art, the old in the new. Wondrous.
It really does need bigger wheels and tires, given its size and weight. And it got them, over the subsequent years, as GM started responding to the growing allegations that it was neglecting safety after Nader’s book came out.
The 14″ tires got bigger within a couple of years, and then by 1970, the last year of this body, it was up 15″ wheels (wider rims too) and pretty beefy 15″ tires. The difference was quite substantial in terms of handling, braking and load capacity.
These 7.35 x 14 tires were a pathetic joke. As I pointed out in my “Undersized Tires”. It was purely a cost-cutting thing. I recommend you read it. And I’m surprised that you would advocate for such an obviously unsafe choice:
Yes, it needs larger wheels and tires. And preferably not these. 😂
Our ’65 wagon at least had 8.25-14’s, which did not look too wimpy for the time, with dog dish hubcaps. Dad still only got about 10,000 miles on a set of tires, two ply Firestone Deluxe Champions, as I recall.
Although I’ve always been too cheap to change the wheels on any car I ever owned. I did always do two things with the tires when it came time for replacement on my ’50’s through ’80’s models. Moving up one size never did turn out to cost me more when I bought new tires ( I would check first) and I was always able to buy in pairs as things turned out. Got rewarded with better ground clearance and handling every time. Also always replaced with better quality. Not the most expensive though. Good rubber is the cheapest way to improve your ride.