A landmark tire: The Uniroyal giant tire is 50

May 21, 2015

A landmark of a Detroit suburb celebrated its 50th anniversary this week. The giant Uniroyal tire located adjacent to I-94 in Allen Park, Mich., is billed as the largest tire model ever built.

The tire has stood as an important symbol of Uniroyal’s 123-year heritage for half a century, Ray Fischenich, Uniroyal brand manager and country operations marketing manager, told members of the Automotive Press Association (APA) at a luncheon held underneath the tire.

Fischenich also took time to explain Uniroyal’s position in the marketplace now, as one of the brands currently being sold by Michelin North America Inc.

Uniroyal now competes in the third tier tire segment, according to Fischenich. He said this segment is the largest segment of the tire market and also is the fastest-growing segment. Fischenich told APA members that this segment is for the budget-minded consumer who looks for a specific price point.

He added that Uniroyal looks to partner with dealers on three things – pricing, supply and coverage. On a positive note for tire dealers, Uniroyal tires will be at supply levels not seen in years, said Fischenich. Uniroyal will be expanding its Tiger Paw GTZ tire line with six new sizes this December and will launch ten new sizes of its Tiger Paw Touring line in March 2016.

As for the giant Uniroyal tire, here are some fun facts, according to the company. The tire originally was constructed as a Ferris wheel for the 1964-1965 World’s Fair in New York. The 96-passenger Ferris wheel carried more than 2 million riders, including dignitaries and celebrities, including Jackie Kennedy and the Shah of Iran. The company also says that Pete Selleck, chairman and president of Michelin North America Inc., also rode the Ferris wheel.

The structure was designed by Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, the same architectural firm that designed the Empire State Building.

When the fair ended in 1965, the tire was shipped by rail in 188 sections to Detroit. It was reassembled in four months and anchored in concrete and steel off I-94 at the Uniroyal sales office.

It is the largest tire model ever built, standing 80 feet tall and weighing 12 tons.

The tire’s interior is 120,576 cubic feet, and the tread measures half-a-foot deep.

The Giant Uniroyal Tire was given its first update in 1994 with neon lighting and a new hubcap added to the tire’s body. In 1998 it was modified again, this time with a giant nail embedded to promote Uniroyal’s self-sealing NailGard passenger tire.

The biggest renovation occurred in 2003, when Uniroyal invested nearly $1 million to refresh the landmark as part of Detroit’s I-94 corridor revitalization effort. Those updates included replacing 30 steel beams inside the tire, installing asphalt and storm drains, painting the exterior, applying reflective lettering, and completing other structural improvements — all made to ensure the longevity of the tire.