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Media post: History of Tyres for Vintage Motor Racing

Many vintage sports cars are still in a very drivable condition; even more so, historic motorsport events such as Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK or Monterey Historic in the USA regularly bring those glorious cars back on the track. Of course, original tyres for the classic machinery are no longer produced, and the tyre choice for these kinds of competitions was a really hard task until major tyre manufacturers (Dunlop, Michelin, Avon etc.) started releasing their classic tyre products featuring authentic vintage construction and modern compounds.

So, the online shop of tyres and accessories, tells about the milestones of the tyre history for the classic motor race.

Early tyre era. Bias-ply tyres and radials

1845 – first air-filled (pneumatic) tyre patented.

1895 – first road race on pneumatic tyres pioneered by 2 brothers André and Édouard whose last name, Michelin, soon becomes the top European pneumatic tyre brand. During the next 5 decades, tyres are designed with an inner tube filled with compressed air and an outer treaded tube that served for better protection and traction. Made out of rubber reinforced by layers of fabric cords running across the tyre at a 55-degree angle to the rim, these products were known as bias-ply tyres. All sports cars produced before 1848 had bias-ply tyres as their ‘native’ rubber.

The 1910s and later – the golden era of motoring with iconic all-white tyres started. Firestone’s Smooth and Firestone non-skids with white sidewalls are the classics of that period.

1848 – Michelin presented their groundbreaking radial tyres that totally changed the industry in 20 years. Bias-ply tyres became a vintage thing.

The era of slicks Among all classic race tread patterns of the 1950s and 1960s, Dunlop CR65 is probably the most popular. It dominated the niche until the arrival of slick tyres in motor racing. They are still produced using the original moulds, but out of Dunlop’s a modern 204 compound perfectly meeting the steering and suspension peculiarities of vintage cars of the 1960s. 

The 1950s – racing slicks (race tyres with a smooth tread) were introduced by Marvin & Harry tyres to be used basically in the drag racing. The invention maximized the contact patch with the tarmac, and, therefore, traction. Slicks minimized deformation making it possible to use ultra-soft compounds without risks of blistering or overheating.

The 1960s – ‘cheater slicks’ for hot rods were invented. They had a minimal amount of tread just to cope with wet pavements and get an approval of the DOT. They are still produced today to meet the need in authentic street car look of those times and for the competition purpose where DOT-approved tires are required. Later on, grooved slicks (also referred to as R-compound tyres) were developed for other racing competitions. Initially similar to street tyres with minimal tread and soft compound, they soon evolved into a separate tyre type.

Muscle car tyres The 1970s – muscle cars (2-door high-performance sports cars featuring powerful V8 engines) won the market and became a popular option for the drag racing competitions. Authentic tires of those times featured red, blue and gold lines (BF Goodrich, Firestone, US Royal) as well as white letters (Firestone Wide Oval) and were made in both bias-ply and radial construction.

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