1969 Wheels and Tires

January 11, 2022
by Peter Disher
with some help from Vinny Liska and Mr. Bob Gaines

1969 Shelby Wheel Recall Campaign U-01

For 1969, Carroll Shelby wanted a special wheel to compliment the most unique Shelby ever designed. Plans for these new wheels started before 1968 production was completed.

The 1969 wheels were comprised of a steel rim and a die cast center section called a spider. The rim was produced by a Japanese company called Kamifuji Enterprises. The spider (aluminum center) was cast by Cal-Alloy for Keystone. Keystone was a popular 1960s wheel manufacturer with a great deal of experience building wheels. Originally, these two parts of the wheels were glued together with epoxy and an additional bead was rolled into the rim securing the center spider. Later, the spider was also riveted to the rim. The rivets created new problems, but none of any consequence. Before production, Ford Motor Company immediately began testing the new wheels. Several tests were conducted during the Grist Mill process. These included stressing the wheels until failure, roll tests, and pull-out testing. Several studies were also conducted to determine the proper lug nut for the wheel. These tests would continue after production of the cars was started. Shelby engineers understood that tightness (torque) on these lug nuts was critical. Specifications called for 100 pounds of torque.

In January 1969, soon after the cars began appearing at dealerships, it became apparent there was an issue with the wheel chamfers (lug holes) on the center spiders. The lug nuts could not be tightened down properly. Initially it was believed to be an assembly issue. AO Smith, Fords subcontractor, was ordered to inspect and provide proof that all wheels were being properly tightened. Ongoing evaluation quickly determined that some lug nuts only had four threads of contact.

The resultant loss of a wheel can jeopardize vehicle control
-Ford Field Campaign Review Committee

In April 1969, the problem became critical when several dealers reported wheels falling off cars. Minar Ford, in Minnesota, reported a customer had a rear wheel come off the car after accelerating from a stop sign. After checking the other Shelbys in the dealerships inventory, it was determined the lug nuts were not properly engaging the axle studs.

Sunny King Ford, in Alabama, reported a customer traveling at 60 mph lost a rear wheel causing extensive damage to the vehicle. The customer was not injured.

Shelby engineers identified several possible issues. These included wheel studs that were not properly pressed into the axles and rotors. Insufficient torque was also identified and improper chamfer on the lug nut holes in the wheel. One solution was to change to the S7MS-D lug nut. This lug nut would provide more contact with the axle studs, due to a longer collar shaft. In fact, Shelby knew about many of these issues, before the first reports came to them. Engineers used the test fleet of four dozen engineering vehicles, to perform various durability tests on the wheels.

Decals were placed on the windshields of all new cars. These decals instructed dealers to retorque all wheels to 100 pounds before delivery.

In May of 1969, Ford recommended that over 1,400 Shelbys built before May 1, 1969 be recalled immediately. About half of those cars had already been sold. This included 70 cars that had been shipped overseas and to Canada. The other remaining cars were still at dealerships or at the factory. Ford estimated this recall would cost the company over a quarter million dollars. (about 1.7 million dollars in 2020 dollars). Dealers were shipped and encouraged to use the Boss 429 / Magnum 500 wheel and replacement lug nuts in place of the Shelby wheel. AO Smith was requested to rework all the completed cars in their inventory with new, revised wheels. The revised wheel had a new chamfer in the spider to accept the lug nuts more adequately. Defective wheels were to be stamped defective and marked with red paint.

1969 Wheels Today- Should I be concerned? It is unlikely your vehicle still has the pre-recall wheels. Warranty records indicate most wheels were replaced. In the likely event your car still has these wheels, checking the torque on a regular basis is a good idea. Avoid wheels marked with red spray marking.

Factory fresh 1969 models at the AO Smith holding lot.

Let's take a look at 1969 Shelby wheels and tires. During the 1969-70 model year, there were some changes. I have tried to find as many vintage photographs as I could to illustrate the correct tires. This is 1969 # 1344.

This original period photo from is from the internet.

The first tire used was a carry-over from the 1968 model year. The Goodyear Polyglas Wide Tread tire was a black wall tire. This is the same tire used on the GT500 KRs and a few other 1968 models. The size was E70 x 15, just like the 1968s.

The black side walled tires were used until the supply ran out. It is believed these tires were also used on the Hertz cars.

The new larger "F60" series tires on a new 1969 Shelby.

The new, larger tires replaced the black side walled tires. These tires were used with the new beafier (bigger) suspensions. The size was F60 x 15. This tire has raised white letters. The tire size is not readily visible.

These larger sized tires were also used on the GT350 models.

This factory press photograph shows a 1970 with the F60 raised white lettered tires.

To the best of my knowledge, all 1969 and 1970 Shelbys used the BF Goodrich 7.35 x 14 space saver tire.

It's an interesting choice, since all the other tires are Goodyears.