<VV> Corvair Tire History
wblanning at comcast.net
Sun May 10 17:55:49 EDT 2015
Regarding the discussion about the original low profile Corvair tire, below is the history of the Corvair tire development written by Dave Newell for the Corvair Museum tire exhibit.
Corvair Tire Development
Over fifty percent of original equipment Corvair tires were supplied by the U. S. Rubber Company (US Royal). Their traditional relationship with GM continued with development of a special, low-profile, low cord angle tire for the Corvair. Ed Cole insisted that the Corvair not make do with existing tires as did Volkswagen and Renault. U.S. Rubber was given the largest responsibility for developing the new "Holden" tire beginning in 1957.
It wasn't until September of that year that U.S. Rubber realized, and were later told, that the new tire would be for a very unusual application; a rear engine car. This was becoming evident to them by the types of failures and rejections they were receiving back from Chevrolet R&D engineers! Piles of worn out tires, mostly worn through to the sidewall cord, were being stacked up every week by the engineers at GM's Milford Proving Grounds.
Initially the tires were lower in height than those on production cars. Height was increased in June of 1958 and again in March 1959, when the size was actually upgraded from the original 6.40 x 13 to 6.50 x 13. The design was always 4 full plies, until the 2-ply "4-ply rated" tires were introduced midway through the 1961 model year.
Firestone also played a role, though much smaller, in developing the new tires and ended up with 30 to 40% of the Corvair tire business. B.F. Goodrich and General also supplied prototype tires for Chevrolet testing, but both brands were initially rejected as OEM Corvair tires, although Goodrich later did get part of the production business.
Low profile tires quickly caught on for all US cars, and everyone benefited from their better handling qualities. The key to making them work on the Corvair was the new softer rubber compounds which were being coincidentally developed helping to give the Corvair it's remarkable ride and handling.
While we may look at these tires and take them for granted today, they were a revolutionary new shape for 1960, just like the Corvair!
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