Tyre History: The Key Developments Over Time [Infographic]

Tyre history plays a very important role in the today’s tyre market. This blog post looks at the history of tyres, monitoring why inventors such as Charles Goodyear and John Dunlop have played such a major role in the history of tyres.

Date Tyre History Fact
1839 Charles Goodyear invents vulcanised runner and Robert William Thomson patents the vulcanised rubber tyre.
1888 John Dunlop invents pneumatic tyres for bicycles.
1891 CK Welsh patents the design of the wheel rim. Andre Michelin uses pneumatic tyres on an automobile.
1903 Paul Weeks Litchfield patents tubeless tyre.
1904 Mountable rims were introduced that allowed drivers to fix their own flat tyres.
1908 Frank Seiberling invents grooved tyres which improved road traction.
1910 B.F. Goodrich invents longer life tyres by adding carbon to the rubber.
1911 Phillip Strauss invents the first successful automobile tyre.
1948 Michelin patents the radial tyre
1954 The first tubeless tyre was fitted as Original Equipment by the now defunct Packard marque
1974 Pirelli introduce the wide radial tyre

The infographic below highlights the key points in tyre history.

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Development of Rubber Tyres

In 1839, Charles Goodyear invented vulcanised rubber. This was a major development in tyre history as it opened the door for the market of rubber goods. Goodyear discovered that to improve the durability of natural rubber, sulphur needed to be added.

Pneumatic Tyres

In 1846, Robert William Thomson patented the vulcanised rubber pneumatic tyre. However, this invention did not take off as Thompson would have hoped. This was due to the lack of demand as motor vehicles were not yet invented. It was over 40 years until the next development of the pneumatic tyres.

The year of 1888 was a key moment in tyre history. John Dunlop was trying to improve the comfort of his son’s bicycle. From here, Dunlop managed to invent the pneumatic tyre which he noticed drastically heightened comfort levels. Unbeknown to Dunlop, Thomson had already patented the pneumatic tyre back in 1846. From this, the Dunlop Rubber Company was established after winning a legal battle against Thomson. John Dunlop went on to sell the company and never really benefited financially from the invention.

In 1891, detachable pneumatic tyres were invented by the Michelin brothers; Edouard and Andre. This tyre formation consisted of a tube bolted on to the rim.

Radial Tyres

The first radial tyres were developed by Michelin in 1948. Steel-belted radial tyres were used to improve durability. The advantages of this meant longer life and increased mileage for the vehicle.

In 1975, Pirelli produced the wide radial tyre. This provided the ability to drive for an increased number of miles. The durability was improved to ensure even tread wear. This rigid construction extended the tyre-life dramatically.

The future of Tyres

Overall, we have seen heavy tyre development, especially in Formula One. Through research and development, tyre brands such as Pirelli are constantly looking to develop their tyres. At this moment in time, we are yet to see anything as revolutionary as previous key points in history. However, there have been concepts, with a major one being the Michelin Tweel announced in 2005.