We got the opportunity to talk with Tab Chapman of Diamond Back Tires. A family business that has been around for over 30 years, Diamond Back is a premier white wall tire producer for classic cars and hot rods.
1. Could you tell us a little bit of the history of Diamond Back Tires and how it got started?
This question is best answered two different ways. Generally Speaking, our family has been in the tire business for over a century. I feel this is an important detail as deep knowledge of an industry often comes from longevity in that industry. What started as a small repair/retread shop opened by my great grandmother around 1914 quickly grew during WWII as most, if not all, new tire production went toward the war effort. Civilians suddenly had to rely on tire repair or a complete retread to be able to continue using their vehicle. My grandfather, Tom Chapman, was instrumental in this quick growth. I have heard stories of him sleeping on a mat of curing tubes between curing rounds, instead of going home to get some rest. That’s what it took to keep up with demand. Basically working 1st, 2nd, and 3rd shift.
My dad, Bill Chapman, went into the business after graduating from Wake Forest in 64. He continued to grow the business to the point where we were moving 600-800 daily in the 80’s. As the 90’s rolled in, passenger retreading took a big hit from a sudden availability of cheap new tires coming from China. I always like to mention this detail because it helps to define our innate ability to search out and find new niche markets in the tire industry, or in other words, what led to the creation of Diamond Back Classic Radials.
The Diamond Back name originated with a foray into race tires(Diamond Back Race Treads) for various different classes. This portion of the business did quite well but it was only a seasonal thing. So the search continued to find another revenue stream. Circa 1992, my dad and my brother, Clif, modified some equipment to be able to cure rubber onto the sidewall of a tire. Essentially, that was the beginning of Diamond Back Classic Radials. The first year or so was spent just trying to figure it out and work out the bugs. Around 94 was when tires started being sold to customers. In the roughly quarter of a century since those beginnings, we continue to offer the very best vintage tire out there…by far.
2. You specialize in white wall and vintage tires, how did that come about?
As you can see in the brief history of our company(above), we certainly had the experience and equipment to effectively offer a vintage tire. But why Vintage tires? Well to put it simply, my dad is an old car nut. And that meant his mind often wandered in that direction. At that time, there was really no such thing as a wide white wall radial. So he set out to change that. To say that he and my brother did is an understatement.
3. What is one of your products that you’re excited about?
Definitely our new Auburn line of vintage styled Radials. For years we, along with countless others, asked why there was no such thing as a radial tire that looked like a bias. Well we quit asking that question and set out to answer it. After several years of painstaking design and research, we now have a complete line of radial tires that look just like the bias tires that came original on most vintage cars, complete with that infamous “pie crust” shoulder. You can see them for yourself at www.dbtires.com or you can call us at 1(888) 922 1642 to request a free catalog.
I can’t leave out our large diameter offerings though. The 18″-22″ market is a pretty solid market for us and, personally, I love the look. Show me an old Chevy 3100 or an early 60’s Continental with 20″ Mobsteels with whitewalls and I instantly fall in love. This is, of course, my own personal taste.
4. What have been some of your favorite projects or applications to work on?
How much room do I have here? I mean there are so many to list and my list may vary from someone else’s here at Diamond Back. So what I did is asked this question to our salesmen to get their input along with my own. For me, I was really excited to see a set of our redlines on Jay Leno’s 1966 Toronado, a car which the discovery channel devoted a whole hour to showcase. Another more memorable project for me was when we white walled a set of 21″ tires for Sylvester Stallone’s Bentley, a car that was featured in the “Rocky Balboa” movie. These are just a few of the many projects we have been a part of.
Our sales staff get even more stoked than me about special projects and applications for well known people in our industry. So I asked James Graves and Rusty Jacobites to weigh in on this and here is what they had to say:
Wow that is a tough one- Over the years we have worked with so many big names on some really amazing builds it is hard to narrow it down. It has been really exciting watching and being a part of what the team at Detroit Mobsteel has been able to grow and accomplish over the last decade. A couple notable vehicles that we were blessed to be a part of include the Hotwheels Vadermobile, the ’66 Batmobile, the “Double Bubble” impala with custom color tan-lines, NSRA giveaway cars, Dave Kindig’s Creations, some of Stoner Speed Shop’s awesome builds, John Coopers El Tiki featuring one off front to back proportionate triple gold lines with a custom etch as well as Gas Monkey’s Corvette just to name a few. Really what does it for us are the customers that send in photos of their pride and joys. These are the people with 50 year owned classics that love and trust Diamond Back Classic Radials time and time again.
My apologies to the ones we didn’t mention. There are just so many talented builders out there that we do business with.
5. Could you tell us a little about your tire making process?
Well I can’t go into too much detail on this one. Trade secrets you know. What I will say is that our process is very similar to the retreading process that has been around for decades, and of which we have decades of knowledge in. All we do is work with the sidewall area instead of the tread area, with some modifications to that process. As with anything, the right tools, the right material, and the right knowledge can make almost anything possible. We have all three nailed down.
I will leave you with a handwritten note that I found one day that was written to my dad from my grandfather, dated March 28, 1982: “To my son William Albert Chapman, tire retreading was good to my mother, it was good to me also: Be honest to your fellow man, use good material, and it will be good to you.” We very much live by this mentality every day.