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Celebrating 50 Years, Climbing Up an Icon

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ladderclimbStanding at the bottom of a metal ladder that’s slightly rusted and visibly curved, I wonder why am I doing this again? Then the Uniroyal representative manning the tire tells the small group clustered around him that more people have been struck by lightning than have climbed the iconic 80-foot Uniroyal tire. I may or may not be a sucker, but he’s sealed the deal; I’ve made up my mind to scale the ladder.

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Climbing the ladder in heels is more than slightly terrifying, but I make it roughly 25 feet up to the first platform (and the highest platform we’re allowed to ascend). While I was beyond nervous the entire time, and contemplated turning around, I can’t help thinking, “what an experience.”

This is how I, and several other brave media from the Detroit Automotive Press Association, celebrated the 50th anniversary of Michelin’s giant Uniroyal tire.

Earlier this week, Michelin and the APA, hosted a celebratory lunch for the giant icon that’s towered over I-94 in Allen Park, Mich. for several years.

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Originally constructed as a Ferris wheel for the 1964-1965 World’s Fair in New York, the giant Uniroyal tire was designed by the same firm that designed the Empire State Building, Shreve, Lamb and Harmon. Following the fair the tire was relocated to Uniroyal’s sales office in Allen Park where it’s remained.

Over the years the tire has received several renovations and facelifts. In 1994 the tire received neon lighting in its hubcap and in 1998 a nail was implanted in the tire.

It’s most expensive renovation came in 2003 when Michelin spent $1million to refresh the landmark. The tiremaker replaced 30 steel beams inside the tire, installed asphalt and storm drains, painted the exterior, removed the nail and more.uniroyal_tire_worldfair

Some fun facts about the largest tire in the world:

– At 80 feet tall the tire weighs 12 tons
– If the tire was used on an actual car the car would have to stand at more than 200 feet
– The tire’s tread is a half a foot deep
– The interior of the tire is 120,576 cubic feet
– It would take 960 Uniroyal passenger tires to make the Giant Uniroyal Tire.

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In a quest to uncover more historic data about the tire in Tire Review’s archives I uncovered this written in 1998 (I’m still searching 1965 magazines):

Changing an Icon
Millions of Detroit motorists have passed the giant Uniroyal tire over the past 30 years. But now, the tire has a new look. In August, the company temporarily altered the landmark to resemble its Tiger Paw NailGard tire—complete with a giant nail protruding from the tread. The look is designed to demonstrate the self-sealing tires ability to withstand most tread punctures. uniroyalnail“The introduction of Tiger Paw NailGard is one of the most important initiatives in the history of the Uniroyal brand,” said Joe Herget, brand manager.” What better way to showcase it than by involving one of our best known symbols…”

Check out Tire Review’s Facebook page for more pictures from inside the tire.

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