The spirit of '76: Ford and Firestone were in the news 25 years ago
Twenty-five years ago, the United States celebrated its bicentennial, Gerald Ford was president and the nation was struggling to climb out of a long recession.
NASA's Viking I robot spacecraft touched down on Mars to transmit black and white photographs of the planet's surface back to Earth. The Cincinnati Reds swept the New York Yankees in four straight games to win the World Series.
Leisure suit-clad hipsters were "getting down" at discos throughout the country.
And the domestic tire industry saw its share of turmoil and activity, as a month-by-month trip through 1976, courtesy of Modern Tire Dealer's time machine, points out.
January: Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. (see photo) announced a voluntary recall of 10,000 Steel Radial 500 tires due to faulty compounding that caused cracks and eventual air loss.... Dayton Tire & Rubber Co. started recalling 1,500 "undercured" light truck tires.... The U.S. Bureau of Motor Carrier Safety made it illegal to run trucks and trailers on underinflated or overloaded tires.
February: B.F. Goodrich Tire Co. offered to sell 100 company-owned stores to its employees and dealers.... Custom wheel shipments reached an all-time high of more than five million units.
March: Kelly-Springfield Tire Co. recalled 150,000 radial passenger tires that suffered from tread separations in cold weather.... Tire dealers fought to replace cumbersome, government-mandated tire registration identification and record keeping systems with mail-back post cards.... Firestone raised tire prices, starting a year-long chain of price hikes that would eventually include Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Armstrong Rubber Co., General Tire & Rubber Co., B.F. Goodrich and other manufacturers.
April: Goodyear and Firestone were cleared of federal accusations that they planned to monopolize the U.S. replacement tire market by reducing prices to "predatory" levels and then buying out weakened competitors.... Approximately 60,000 United Rubber Workers (URW) union members at 47 Goodyear, Firestone, B.F. Goodrich and Uniroyal Inc. plants went on strike over wages, unemployment benefits and other issues.... Nearly 6,900 retreaders attended the 19th annual American Retreaders Association Conference and Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.
May: Heavy investment in radial tire building machinery created so much debt among tiremakers that "completion of the industry's shift to radial tires, particularly radial truck tires, will be delayed," the Rubber Manufacturers Association told Congress.
June: General's contract with the URW expired, putting 2,700 union workers at the company's Akron, Ohio, and Waco, Texas, plants on a day-to-day work deal.... As strike talks continued, dealers polled by MTD said they weren't "bad off" because of the dispute and were doing brisk business due to stockpiled inventories.
July: Workers at five Armstrong tire plants joined the URW strike.... Groupe Michelin announced the construction of a new truck tire plant in Spartanburg, S.C., which was expected to produce 10,000 units a day.... The Tire Retread Information Bureau (TRIB) swung into action to refute misleading statements about retreads made on popular TV shows "Chico and the Man" and "Harry O."
August: Talks broke off between the URW and tire manufacturers, while Goodyear and B.F. Goodrich announced they would file unfair labor practice charges against the union.... Pirelli Tire Corp. obtained OE fitments on several Chrysler cars.... MTD reported that auto manufacturers were considering the use of fiberglass-belted radials.
September: In a surprising turnaround, Goodyear and Firestone ratified new contracts with the URW, and Uniroyal and B.F. Goodrich followed suit.... The 56th annual National Tire Dealers and Retreaders Association Convention and Trade Show drew more than 9,000 attendees.... MTD suggested that dealers sell and service CB radios to boost profits.
October: Retreaders came close to getting a $200,000 tax break, but Congress adjourned before the proposed bill could be passed.... Firestone used a temporary restraining order to fight the recall of its 500 Steel Belted bias-ply car tires that passed highway safety tests but showed cord separations when examined by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) officials.
November: Firestone recalled more than 5,000 Steel Radial 500 tires sold under the names Firestone, Firestone TPC and Primero; the company feared the tires had been "undervulcanized," which it said leads to tread-chunking and eventual air loss.... The federal government began looking at rubber asphalt for road repairs, a technology that had been pioneered in Arizona 10 years earlier.... Uniroyal dropped its tread wear and road hazard warranties; Goodyear, Armstrong and Firestone announced similar decisions.
December: NHTSA reneged on an earlier demand that Firestone recall 300,000 bias-ply tires due to "conflicting test interpretations".... Goodyear upgraded its Gadsden, Ala., plant at a cost of $69 million.... Dealers in northern and Great Lakes states expected snow tire demand to outstrip supply.