Modern Tire Dealer

MAY 2019

Magazine for the professional tire industry

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M T D M a y 2 0 1 9 22 I n the fall of 1969, John Kelsey purchased the first automobile tires for his fledgling vintage tire business, then called Kelsey Tire Co. "Being an antique automobile collector and raised with antique cars, tires were always a problem, the sizes in particular," he says. Fiy years later, Kelsey, 75, continues to buy old molds or have new ones made to meet the needs of antique or vintage vehicle owners. e main difference is in the tire brand: He used to sell Armstrong and Denman products. Now he is the exclusive distributor of Goodyear Collector Series tires from the 1920s to the 1980s. Oh, and he is member of the Tire Industry Hall of Fame. DEFINITIONS IN FLUX In general, vehicles at least 25 years old are oen referred to as being antique, vintage or classic. e descriptions are not inter- changeable, although their definitions vary depending on the company or organization. For example, the Antique Automobile Club of America defines antique as cars at least 25 years old. With some exceptions, the Classic Car Club of America considers cars produced between 1915 and 1948 to be classic, although members generically describe the vehicles on their "approved" list as vintage. "To us, 'antique' encompasses essentially automobiles from the late 1890s thru to 1925," says Kelsey. "'Classic' is from that point thru 1942, with vintage covering the period from the end of World War II to vehicles 25 years of age. Truthfully, as time has evolved, the slide rule of definition by various national clubs has moved 'the goal posts,' especially in the defining of classic and vintage. "I believe antique encompasses the Brass Era to the late Nickel Era, 1929. e heavy classics defined the time frame and naming of the age groups: the Cadillac, Duesenberg, Cord, Auburn, Stutz, Lincoln, Chrysler Imperial, Mercedes, Rolls Royce, ad infinitum. I consider the classic marques mentioned and not mentioned a category of vehicles as well. "e Model T and A, Chevrolet, Durant, etc., are another group of popular cars vastly outnumbering the classics, both in units produced and participating brands. is family of vehicles placed America on the road. ey are simply beautiful vintage automobiles. us, if you view the classic and vintage parameters within my layered definition, you will find ample examples coexisting. "is conversation has been continuing at length for decades, a tribute to malleable viewpoints," says Kelsey. "I encourage the debate to continue." When Kelsey started out, his main com- petitors were Lucas Automotive, which started in 1957, Coker Tire Co. (1958), Lincoln Highway Tire Co. (1966) and Uni- versal Vintage Tire Co. (1968). Lincoln Highway Tire later morphed into Lester Tire Co. ree free standing vintage tire companies remain in operation today: Kelsey Tire, Coker Tire and Lucas Automotive. TOURIST ATTRACTION Modern Tire Dealer may be 50 years older than Kelsey Tire, but the latter offers tires for cars almost as old as we are. John Kelsey's love of older vehicles was handed down to him by his father, Paul, who built a museum in 1949 near Albert Lea, Minn., to house his collection. A reporter writing about the opening of the museum in the Oct. 16, 1949, edition of the local Sunday Tribute defined the cars in the elder Kelsey's collection not as antique or vintage but "ancient." "e museum had two locations, Min- nesota and Missouri," says Kelsey. "We were in the museum business close to 50 years." e museum may be unofficially closed, but Kelsey's collection remains intact. His oldest car is an 1899 Mobile steamer, featur- ing a steam-powered engine. "During the Centennial year for Wiscon- sin in 1948, Dad drove this car on a circuitous route to Milwaukee for the celebration. Total mileage was 1,000. No breakdowns." Bob Ulrich By P a s t , P r e s e n t , F u t u r e : K e l s e y T i r e THAT'S KELSEY TIRE. OWNER JOHN KELSEY IS STILL GOLDEN TOO, HOWEVER Kelsey turns 50 ! Paul Kelsey, right, and his son, John, ride along with opera singer James Melton in Kelsey's 1910 White steam car.

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