This is the go-to company for vintage car tires
Apologies to the writers of the jingle in the old TV commercial, but when you think of classic car tires, the household name isn’t Firestone, it’s Coker.
Now one of the recently renamed legendary companies, Coker Tire has long been the leader in producing new tires for vintage cars. Yet, with the exception of Coker Classic, Coker is not a tire brand in its own right, but the producer of tires bearing historical brand names, albeit with modern tire technology in composition and construction. .
The late Harold Coker earned chemical engineering degrees at Tennessee Wesleyan College and Tennessee Tech, and went to work after graduating from BFGoodrich. But he left in 1958 to open his own tire shop, first in Athens, Tennessee, which the store overtook and so was moved about 60 miles southwest to Chattanooga.
In Chattanooga, the company has 200,000 square feet of facilities with an additional 100,000 square feet of store and warehouse space near Los Angeles.
Coker was also a car collector and got frustrated trying to find tires for his cars, so he started making them himself. Along with his son, Corky, he traveled the world in search of old tire molds that had been shipped to aftermarket factories in South America and Asia. When the original molds were unavailable, the Cokers obtained original engineering plans and ordered new molds.
Not only did they secure agreements to produce tires bearing brands such as BFGoodrich, Firestone, Michelin and others, but they brought modern radial tire technology to tires with vintage designs, giving customers a look of era, including white sidewalls, with contemporary tire technology.
Coker has an inventory of tire moulds, some quite old, others created from original plans
A tire is inspected when it comes out of the mold
Following in his father’s footsteps, although perhaps at an accelerated pace, Joseph “Corky” Coker grew the vintage tire segment from 5% of Coker Tire’s business to 95%. He spent 40 years in the family business before retiring in 2014. He also added wheel manufacturing, as well as launching The Great Race, an annual cross-country rally for vintage vehicles.
corky coker | Photo by Brenda Priddy
Corky Coker became not only the face of the tire business, but one of the leading proponents of the collector car hobby and the automotive aftermarket industry, helping to establish the effort of industry political lobbying by working with state and national legislatures to keep the hobby alive. viable.
Wade Kawasaki succeeded Corky Coker, who grew up working at his father’s gas station in Los Angeles during the muscle car days. He then worked at a speed shop, noted the number of foreign visitors buying parts, and together with his wife, Rose, started Exports International in 1987.
Wade Kawasaki | Photo by Larry Edsall
Kawasaki met Corky Coker through SEMA, the trade association for aftermarket producers, became executive vice president, and in 2018 led a management group that bought the company from the Coker family. Since then the company has acquired a major tire distributor in Europe and expanded into the Legendary Companies group.
Coker offers 42 brands of tires and wheels for classic and collectible vehicles, including motorcycles, from the brass era to imports, racing and military vehicles, and in radial and bias-radial construction, looking bias.
For more information, visit the Coker Tire website.
This article, written by Larry Edsall, originally appeared on ClassicCars.com, an editorial partner of Motor Authority.